- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

A new sandwich chain is hoping to take a bite out of the Washington area.

But something about this one is not like all the others. Firehouse Subs, which plans to open its first area store in April, steams its meat and cheese instead of toasting it as many hot-sandwich shops do.

The first Washington-area Firehouse Sub is planned for 5900 Kingstowne Towne Center off Van Dorn Street in Alexandria, said Dan Lowe, who, with his wife, Lindsay, is heading up the regional expansion.

Firehouse is based in Jacksonville, Fla., and has about 260 locations throughout the South. The chain is looking for franchisees to develop the next 30 to 40 shops it plans to open in the Washington region over the next five years.

“We’re slowly expanding from Jacksonville, progressing our way up the East Coast, and D.C. is the next stop on our expansion,” Mr. Lowe said.

The firefighter brothers who founded the chain, Robin and Chris Sorensen, wanted to open a sandwich shop back in 1994 but didn’t want to toast their sandwiches, Mr. Lowe said. So they experimented with different cooking methods. They settled on steaming the meat and cheese and placing it on toasted bread, giving Firehouse its own niche in a crowded field.

The shop interiors are adorned with firehouse decor, and miniature firetrucks are for sale.

Analysts say the region has room for more sandwich shops.

Sandwich sales, whether in convenience stores, sandwich shops or restaurants, accounted for one-quarter of all food-service sales in 2005, according to Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com of Rockville. It expects the $121 billion industry to grow “exponentially” this year.

That’s no baloney.

Retail rummage …

• Lebanese Taverna Group, Arlington owner of the Middle Eastern cuisine restaurants, is opening its first Baltimore location early next month. It is the local chain’s ninth location and is scheduled to open at 719 S. President St.

• C-Mart’s Landover store is scheduled to open Saturday. C-Mart, which developed a following for its low-priced goods in Harford County, Md., will follow the same format in the new store, at 8511 Landover Road. The Harford store introduces new deals on Thursdays, but the Landover store will introduce its new deals on Fridays.

• Rocket Bar, a spot to shoot pool or play darts in Chinatown, is scheduled to open later this month. It’s from Bedrock Management, the owners of Buffalo Billiards and Mackey’s Public House bars in Northwest. Rocket Bar is planned for 714 Seventh St. NW, in the basement beneath Ruby Tuesday and Legal Seafood.

• California Tortilla, the Rockville taco chain, opened its 23rd restaurant last week. The Lansdowne Town Center location is at 19345 Promenade Drive in Loudoun County.

• Pua Naturally, a clothing store that exclusively uses natural fabrics and eco-friendly manufacturing, has moved one block south to 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

• A 7-Eleven store opened last week on Connecticut Avenue Northwest. It’s the convenience store chain’s 22nd D.C. location.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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