By Joseph Robertia
Chris Fallon remembers the day back in 1996 well. He was wading into the waters of becoming a local restaurateur, but he didn’t have a building, his supplies were minimal, and his location was far from the minor metropolises of Kenai or Soldotna. He was attempting to sell East Coast-style hoagie sandwiches out of a bus in Kasilof.
“There wasn’t a lot in the bus. Me, a small refrigerator, a manual meat slicer and the bread came from a bakery back then,” Fallon said.
There was a lot of room to fail, and it wasn’t always easy, but he didn’t give up.
“There were times in that first year when I made $30 a day — gross, not profit. The profit on $30 a day was like a couple of bucks,” Fallon said.
From this humble beginning, Fallon and partner Kathy Musick have been able to grow the successful food franchise known as Jersey Subs, where they make their own bread daily, have an expanded menu offering more than 20 different subs, and serve thousands of sandwiches annually.
There are three locations to the business, the year-round Kenai and Soldotna restaurants, and Fallon still opens the bus at the end of Cohoe Loop Road in Kasilof during the summer to sell sandwiches to fishermen and other folks frequenting the Kasilof River area.
While there are still slow days, the Kasilof bus sometimes grosses as much as $1,500 on a good day. As sales have grown over the years, Fallon has reinvested that profit back into the business, and has gotten to the point where he’s decided to abandon the old bus and build a real restaurant at the Kasilof location.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Fallon said. “The bus is a classic, but it’s progress that’s causing me to pull it out to build a real restaurant, with more room for cooks and customers, and everything up to code and DEC approved.”
The bus, while it served Fallon well in the beginning, gave him the feeling the walls were closing in on him in recent years. Making more subs meant hiring more employees to help him during lunch rushes, but there wasn’t much room for sandwich-making by more than one person at a time.
A lean-to was added onto the bus under which people could wait while their orders were made, and there were a few picnic tables placed outside for seating while eating, but on rainy days there wasn’t much Fallon could do for his customers.
“Now people won’t have to sit in their car to eat,” he said.
The new restaurant is roughly 28-by-32 feet, with a larger grill and more food preparation and storage areas so Fallon and his staff can fill orders faster. The customer area of the restaurant is as large as either of the two locations in town.
“There’s a lot more seating in the new building. We could seat 20 people comfortably now,” Fallon said.
Despite the upgrades, the Kasilof location will still only serve sandwiches seasonally. As for what will become of the bus once it gets pulled out this week, Fallon said he’s not sure, but he’d like to see it still serve a purpose, as well as food somewhere.
“It may just get tarped and go into retirement, but it may possibly go to the fairs or something, too,” he said.