Bring a firefighter appetite when you come to Firehouse Subs

Bring a firefighter appetite when you come to Firehouse Subs

Veteran Beaumont firefighter James Gillard said he never had any intention of running his own restaurant. After all, James, who has been a fireman with Beaumont Fire and Rescue for more than 23 years, says working as an engineer for Station 14 keeps him busy enough. That all changed, however, the first time he tasted a Firehouse Sub. James said he and his wife of 23 years, Keeya, were blown away by their Firehouse Subs experience in Baytown.

“When we ran across Firehouse, we just loved it so much,” James said. “The food was so good. The atmosphere kind of struck home with us. (Opening one of our own) was something we just decided we wanted to do.”

James said the story behind the franchise inspired him and Keeya to become franchisees. They opened their own 1,750-square-foot Firehouse Subs location Nov. 2 at the newly developed shopping center in front of Hobby Lobby in Port Arthur. The restaurant currently has 40 employees, according to James, and is still looking to hire more.

Firehouse Subs, a brand built on decades of fire service, was founded by brothers and former Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighters Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen.

Like the Sorensens, James said his knack for cooking developed while working at the fire station in Beaumont.

“We cook a lot at the fire station,” he said. “We take turn turns or designate someone who likes to cook. We cook pretty much anything, but always something big and hearty, kind of like these sandwiches.” Sandwiches like the Hook & Ladder, served with smoked turkey breast and Virginia honey ham and smothered with Monterey Jack cheese.

Other top sellers include the Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket, which is loaded with USDA choice beef brisket smoked for at least 16 hours in a Texas smokehouse and topped with melted cheddar cheese and a special combination of sauces, including Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce. James said the brisket is a personal favorite of his and seems to be the most popular with Southeast Texans.

“The quality of the food is what sets us apart. We slice our meats fresh every day. We prepare our salads fresh every day. We steam all the meats right here in these steamers, so they come out piping hot. Our breads are toasted, and we pile on the meat. It’s a firefighter-appetite kind of sandwich.”

An under 500 calories menu offers six subs and four chopped salads.

For those who like something with a kick, try Captain Sorensen’s Datil Pepper Hot Sauce, named in honor of the founding brothers’ father, Rob Sorensen, a 43-year retired fire captain. The sauce has a spicy-sweet flavor from the datil pepper, a hot pepper similar to the habanero, but with a sweeter taste. Additionally, the restaurant has an assortment of more than 50 complimentary hot sauces to add a little heat to your sandwich.

The atmosphere of the restaurant definitely fits its name. Fire gear from Port Neches and Port Arthur fire departments can be seen hanging from the walls, and there is even a large mural depicting Engine 8 from the Port Arthur Fire Department and Engine 4 from Nederland Fire and Rescue coming together on Pleasure Island. The MLK Bridge can be seen in the background.

Firehouse restaurants also feature the Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage dispenser, the touch-screen operated fountain offering more than 120 sparkling and still beverage brands with more than 70 regular and low-calorie options, including Cherry Lime-Aid and Cherry Lime-Aid Light, exclusive original Firehouse recipes.

Probably the deciding factor for James’ becoming a franchisee was Firehouse Subs’ commitment to first responders.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has given more than $15 million to hometown heroes in 44 states and Puerto Rico to date and $923,109 in Texas alone. In-restaurant fundraising initiatives include recycling empty five-gallon pickle buckets and selling them to guests for $2 each and a Round-Up Program allowing guests to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar, as well as spare change donation canisters.

Firehouse Subs has more than 930 restaurants in 43 states, but if James and Keeya have anything to do with it, there will be another new Firehouse Subs location in addition to the one the Gillards just opened at 2780 Highway 365 in Port Arthur.

“We’re hoping to open one in Beaumont,” James said. “Right now we’re looking for the perfect spot.”