When the sixth Jersey Mike’s Sub shop opens later this year in Valencia, it will have the same franchise owners as the previous five outlets in the Santa Clarita Valley, but with a twist.
Steve Youlios, franchisee for the other outlets, will have a stake in this one, but as a minority partner to Kyanna Isaacson.
Last year, when she was named Manager of the Year for the 1,200-store chain at its national conference in Orlando, Isaacson received a prize far more valuable than the customary trophy.
“I got called up on stage, and thought that maybe Steve was going to get an award,” Isaacson said. “I saw Peter Cancro whisper something in Steve’s ear, and then I found out that I was being given a franchise.”
Cancro, Jersey Mike’s founder and CEO, decided to give Isaacson the franchise for the chain’s new store at Magic Mountain and McBean parkways, now under construction.
Cancro waived the franchise fee, which Isaacson said is “a couple of hundred thousand dollars.” Such a gift is not usually part of the manager of the year award.
Her first reaction was shock. “I instantly started crying,” she said. “I was speechless.” She immediately decided to give Youlios a stake in the store.
Cancro may have seen some of his own story reflected in Isaacson, a 2009 graduate of Saugus High School. He bought the original Mike’s Sub shop in Point Pleasant on the Jersey Shore in 1971 when he was 17.
He’d worked at the store, which first opened in 1956, since he was 14. When the shop came up for sale, he enlisted his high school football coach, who was also a banker, to back the loan he needed to buy it.
Isaacson, then 16, was the first employee Youlios hired when he was staffing his first local Jersey Mike’s, in Saugus, in 2008.
Youlios was a veteran of radio sales at CBS Radio and KFWB 980 in Los Angeles. He made a career change amid the rapid consolidation of the radio business, looked at different opportunities and decided to buy a Jersey Mike’s franchise.
“Being from New Jersey, I knew this was the right franchise for me,” said Youlios. “It was our daughter’s first job and through her I got a first-hand view of the terrific things that Jersey Mike’s stands for. I knew this was a company with which I wanted to be associated.”
All cold subs are served “Mike’s Way,” on fresh-baked white or wheat bread, unless ordered otherwise. That means layers of onion, lettuce, tomatoes, plus a dousing of red wine vinegar/olive oil blend, and spices in conjunction with freshly sliced meat and cheese, all prepared to order in front of customers.
Youlios has since opened stores in Stevenson Ranch, Valencia, Golden Valley, and Canyon Country, and has been named Jersey Mike’s Franchisee of the Year.
Isaacson made her career choice five years ago, when she was working part-time at Jersey Mike’s and attending culinary school.
“I was working an event and met a line cook who had been working for six years,” she said. “I’d been at Jersey Mike’s for less than five years, but he was making less money in a job with less flexibility than mine. I could get some weekends and holidays off.”
Isaacson decided to stay at Jersey Mike’s with the goal of becoming a franchisee within five years. Youlios supported her goal and offered to bring her on as minority partner, but on the condition that she leave school and commit fully to the job.
“It was a big risk, and I spoke to my parents and to Steve, who’s like a second dad to me, about it,” she said.
The decision worked out better than she could have hoped. She’s worked at all five local Jersey Mike’s, and is currently manager of the Stevenson Ranch outlet. She and Youlios share a goal of eventually owning ten outlets in the SCV.
The new store, her store, will share a new building on the former site of Pier One Imports in the center anchored by Target with two restaurants new to Santa Clarita, 85°C Bakery Café and Zankou Chicken.
The neighboring outlets “represent a great change to the Santa Clarita food scene,” Isaacson said. “There’s nothing like them here.”
Started in Taiwan in 2004, 85°C takes its name from the ideal temperature for serving coffee, which translates to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The chain has expanded to mainland China, Australia and the United States. Since opening its first U.S. store in Irvine in 2008, it has added 14 more in greater Los Angeles, along with stores in Washington and Texas.
Zankou Chicken, named for a river in Armenia, features Mediterranean cuisine and is known for its spit-roasted chicken, shawarma, falafel, and tahini, and a thick garlic sauce. The Valencia outlet will be the chain’s 10th location. The first Zankou opened in East Hollywood in 1984.
In August, Isaacson will begin hiring a staff “of 15-20, maybe 25” employees for the new store, set to open by the end of the year. Her advice to those new employees: “Be humble, and be willing to work hard. The payoff can be amazing.”