Sunday, October 28, 2012
Established Dallas original, NY Sub succeeds in a tough market and competitive neighborhood
NY Sub is as Dallas as they come.
DALLAS A corner booth in New York (NY) Sub provides a clear view of the alley behind all the businesses on the Hillcrest Avenue. The Jimmy John’s a few lots down is arguably NY Sub's biggest competitor. Every day, NY Sub owner Ken Harkness sees its delivery guys drive down that alley.
“Speaking of Jimmy John’s there they go,” Harkness said. “Did they drive down the alley? They always do. They always drive down this way past NY Sub. Always.”
While his regulars are pretty loyal, Harkness feels he loses some of his potential business to Jimmy John’s because of their delivery service.
“These students, they lose their parking spots when they drive up here,” he said. “That’s probably why they call [Jimmy John’s] because he delivers. “
He said customers are getting what they pay for when they go to other restaurants. Harkness claimed one of his subs can make three of Jimmy John’s. He doesn’t agree with the Jimmy John’s method, but acknowledges that it’s not their fault. Each of the food joints running down Hillcrest have to pay 11 or 12 percent of their gross to the parent companies.
“When you’re paying 12 cents out of every dollar, what does that leave you to put on the sandwich?” Harkness said. “If I didn’t own my building, I don’t think that we’d be in business.”
NY Sub has been in business for almost 39 years, a feat that is hard to accomplish in a competitive industry. Since he has been here, Harkness has seen the Digg’s Taco Shop property change hands at least eight times. He said new owners will come in, spend money on renovations, only to sell and move on.
“People will put a place in thinking ‘Ah, I got a college across the street.’Well, it ain’t that big,” Harkness said. “These kids are only here 140 days a year. I appreciate their business, absolutely, but you got 365 days a year and it’s these families that support me year round.”
Harkness attempted to name a dozen restaurants in the area still with their original location and owner. He explained the histories of different restaurants popular among SMU students, including Burger House, which has been in the same location since 1952, and Bubba’s, which was originally a gas station and then a produce stand.
“You got Campisi’s, Dickey’s BBQ, Marco’s Pizza and Anderson's BBQ. I’m stumped, I’m hard-pressed to come up with a dozen,” Harkness said. “The restaurant business is tough and every one that comes in here is competing for the food dollar.”
Harkness has won enough of that dollar to keep his business going for all these years. So what’s his secret? Ask any one of his customers what brings them back to the place and you will get the same answer every time. Be it big or small, Harkness plays a major role in why people keep coming back.
He can be seen walking around talking with customers, cracking jokes and playing with children.
“Can they have some M&M’s?” he asked a woman sitting in a booth with four children.
“OK, a bag of M&M’s for everyone who eats their sandwich. Except this one, she doesn’t have to; you can wrap that one up and take it home,” he joked.
It’s also hard to miss all the pictures and license plates Harkness has lining his walls. Above the order line there are two golf bags that belonged to former US Amateur Open winner Kelly Keenan. Harkness’ shop even has a championship ring from NASCAR trucks. All but two of the booths in the shop are originals from when Harkness bought the place.
“If you sit in a different spot you’re going to notice something different,” he said. “If you take care of stuff, it lasts.”
Harkness has definitely taken care of his shop, his customers and the SMU community. Regular Abraham Davis has been coming to NY Sub since the doors opened in 1973, and he has been coming with his son Lance for at least 25 years. Harkness is the main reason he keeps coming back, Davis said.
“Ken Harkness will take care of you — whatever you need. I mean, he makes his cell phone number available, so if you ever need anything you can call him. He’s amazing,” Davis said.
With more than 10 eating spots in the area, Harkness appreciates every customer that walks in the door.
“For people to walk over here, or get in a car, drive over here and lose their parking spot, just to get a sandwich, that’s something special,” he said.
“I’m touched that they think so much of my product.”
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