Reproduced courtesy of the Press Enterprise:
Sub Station is celebrating 40 years of serving UC Riverside and the surrounding community.
In honor of the anniversary for people who buy a sandwich at 2012 prices, owner Richard Munio will roll back prices to 1972 – “the days when you could just hand us four quarters” — for a second one.
For a large Big Dude, the Sub Station’s signature sandwich, the difference would be $9.45 now compared with $1.60 then.
“A drink was 15 cents, a chip was 15 cents,” Munio said during an interview in the Sub Station’s party room. “We have to remember that gas was 32 cents and you could buy a new Volkswagen for 2,000 bucks. Our employees were getting about a buck five, a dollar 10 an hour. If they were doing a really good job they made a buck and a quarter.”
Munio is a New Jersey native who went to college in Colorado and Chico State and served Vietnam before winding up in Riverside.
He first opened the Sub Station with a partner on campus in February, 1972, and moved to the Bannockburn commercial complex on Canyon Crest Drive the following year.
Except for prices, not much has changed, according to Munio.
“We’ve added five sandwiches in 40 years. Whatever I knew then, I’m surprised that I can’t change it, modify it, improve it. I’m often astounded that whatever I did at age 25 still works today.”
Sandwiches still come wrapped with carrot sticks and peppers in waxed butcher paper. They are made with “semi-crunchy, chewy rolls” from a Garden Grove bakery that uses a 1950s recipe and the “secret sauce,” an oil and vinegar dressing.
“I have an attention to detail,” Munio said. “Everything in here was hand-made by me in 1972. The tables we’re sitting at – but they certainly don’t look like they’re 40 years old. Everything is 40 years old. Those patio tables, we just refinished them two weeks ago. We teach the employees to paint them and refurbish everything.”
The walls of Sub Station are filled with photo montages of his employees, “Subbers.” Images over the years show smiling college kids at work in the store, at parties or on beach trips. Munio credits much of his success to them.
“The Sub Station is as much about people as food,” he said. “I’ve got great staff. We do a lot of team functions and bonding events with our crew.”
A combination of challenging responsibilities and rewards gives him a high retention rate, he said.
“We try to get them as freshmen and sophomores and keep them for three years so we don’t have to retrain. They get to have a personal relationship with our customers. When they walk in, they can tell the guy (wants) a turkey and cheese plain, no mustard, and that’s it.”
He expects many of them to return for a mini-reunion this weekend, some coming in groups from places such as San Diego.
Customers and former employees who contacted The Press-Enterprise via e-mail affirm what Munio says.
“It is almost miraculous that a small sandwich shop can weather the tough business climate for 40 years,” said Andy Leeka, who Munio said was his first male employee in 1972 and is now president and CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. “During the four decades, Richard has supported numerous community events, including donating meals to UCR events, and been successful due to a loyal following.”
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Small businesses like Sub Station are what contribute to Riverside’s small town feel and local business owners are especially important because they play a vital role in collaborating to build community.