From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

The Taste of Success

Enthusiasm is the yeast that raises the dough.

Paul J. Meyer

It was the summer of 1965. The music of the Beatles and the Beach Boys could be heard from the speakers of newly minted Mustangs and T-Birds. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, and the New York World’s Fair was offering a hope-filled but commercialized glance into the future.

It was that very future I was concerned about. I graduated from high school at age seventeen and had dreams of becoming a doctor. The problem was that I couldn’t afford my dream; my job at the local hardware store paid minimum wage, a mere $1.25 an hour. For me, a college education seemed as far-flung as the prospect of a man walking on the moon.

It was a typically hot and humid day at my family’s home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when the phone rang. Dr. Peter Buck, a family friend, called to announce that he had changed jobs and was moving his family to Armonk, New York, only forty miles away. It was time for celebration, indeed, for it had been almost a year since we had seen Dr. Buck and his family.

Plans were quickly made for a reunion. It was on that fateful Sunday afternoon in July 1965, during a barbeque at the Bucks’ new home, that Dr. Buck and I would forge a business relationship that would forever change the landscape of the fast-food industry.

The more I thought about college, the more I wondered about how I could find the money. As we pulled into the Bucks’ driveway, it occurred to me that perhaps I could ask Dr. Buck for some advice. Maybe he would loan me the money, I thought to myself. After all, Dr. Buck had known me for half my life. Knowing my parents couldn’t afford to pay for college, and once he heard how badly I wanted to go to college, there was a good chance that he would offer to help. So I asked him.

“I think you should open a submarine sandwich shop,” was his response.

What? What an odd thing to say to a seventeen-year-old kid, I thought. But before I could respond or express my surprise, I heard myself say, “How does it work?”

Dr. Buck explained the submarine sandwich business. He said that all one had to do was to rent a small store, build a counter, buy some food and open for business. Customers would come in, put money on the counter and then I would have enough to pay for college. To Dr. Buck, it was just as simple as that, and if I was willing to do it, he was willing to be my partner.

As my family was preparing to return home later that day, Dr. Buck pulled out his checkbook and wrote me a check for one thousand dollars, his investment in our new venture.

On the drive back home, little did I know that if I succeeded in opening a submarine sandwich shop, I would accomplish more than funding my college education. Success would mean adventure and excitement on a nonstop roller-coaster ride that would eventually be called SUBWAY restaurants. Success also meant hard work and perseverance that eventually would lead to financial independence and everything that comes with it, not just for me, but also for thousands of other people associated with the SUBWAY brand around the world.

Fred DeLuca

EPILOGUE: Fred DeLuca was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1947 to Carmela and Salvatore DeLuca. For the first several years of his life, they lived in the humble, low-rent, basement apartment of a two-family house—something newlyweds could afford. When he was five, the DeLuca family moved to the Bronx to a new development, which everyone called “the projects.” “It was public housing, and for us, it was a step up,” says DeLuca.

Carmela and Salvatore were a hard-working couple who instilled in Fred the value of an education. His mother not only told him how important it was to go to school, she also gave him the confidence to believe that he could graduate from high school, and college, too. “When we began SUBWAY in 1965, I had no money, no collateral and no business savvy. I was simply a seventeen-year-old kid who needed to find a way to pay for his college education,” reflects DeLuca.

Recently, the SUBWAY restaurant chain celebrated its fortieth anniversary and has achieved many milestones. It is the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain, with more than 25,000 restaurants in eighty-three countries. In fact, the SUBWAY® chain operates more locations in the United States, Canada and Australia than McDonald’s does.

Numerous awards and accolades have been bestowed upon Fred DeLuca, the SUBWAY chain and its thousands of franchisees. The SUBWAY chain has earned a reputation for offering a healthier alternative to traditionally fatty fast food, and its name and products have been featured in countless newspaper and magazine articles, and on television and radio news programs.

DeLuca is proud of the hard work and accomplishments of the many members of the SUBWAY family. “It is our mission to provide the tools and knowledge to empower entrepreneurs to successfully compete in the QSR (quick service restaurant) industry worldwide. We take pride in serving each other, our customers and our communities, and we know that our success depends on the initiatives we take individually and on our ability to work as a team.”

It has indeed been a roller-coaster ride for Fred DeLuca. He travels extensively to meet with SUBWAY franchisees around the world and went to Washington, D.C., to help launch the SUBWAY F.R.E.S.H. Steps Childhood Obesity Prevention initiative, a multimillion-dollar public awareness advertising campaign that highlights the importance of taking steps to make healthier choices and lead active lives. Most recently, DeLuca was inducted into the International Franchise Association’s Hall of Fame and was honored with an invitation to carry the Olympic Torch while it traveled through Brooklyn, New York, the city of his birth. Not bad for a seventeen-year-old kid from “the projects!”

Dahlynn McKowen

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