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Friday Harbor could get its first food franchise soon; Subway considered on Spring Street

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It's been a doctor's home and office. It's been a mortuary. It's been the home of Ositos and Creme Brulee. Now, this heritage home on Spring Street could house a Subway sandwich franchise.
— image credit: Town of Friday Harbor

Here's what Pat O'Day's phone machine message might sound like soon.

"This is Pat O'Day, thanks for calling. If you're interested in real estate, press 1. If you feel like your life is spinning out of control, press 2. If you're interested in a low-fat club sandwich, a sunrise melt or a $5 footlong for lunch, press 3."

O'Day — real estate agent, pitchman for Schick Shadel Hospital, and rock radio pioneer — is considering branching into food.

O'Day, who is closing his John L. Scott Real Estate franchise and joining Windermere Real Estate down the street, and his attorney wife Stephanie are considering opening a Subway franchise at 310 Spring St., on the bottom floor of the historic yellow house once occupied by Ositos and, later, Creme Brulee. An attorney's office is located upstairs.

A franchise is a business which contracts to sell another business' product or service, operating under the franchisor's trade name in exchange for a fee. Franchises are usually independently owned.

If it happens, Subway would be one of several franchises in Friday Harbor: CarQuest Auto Parts, NAPA Auto Parts, Radio Shack and, in real estate, Coldwell Banker, Sotheby's and Windermere. John L. Scott was also a franchise of the national real estate company of the same name.

Randy Burgess, owner of the Ace Hardware in Friday Harbor and Anacortes, said Ace Hardware is not a franchise but an "independently owned cooperative. There is a huge difference in the two."

In the early 2000s, the Friday Harbor Town Council revised its sign ordinance with fast-food franchises in mind. Since the town can't discriminate against fast food franchises, council members at the time said they wanted to avoid the possibility of golden arches going up in town, a reference to McDonald's. The sign ordinance does that, regulating size and illumination.

Stephanie O'Day said she and her husband are in negotiation now. "I'm crunching the numbers," she said, emphasizing "if it happens" in talking about the possible venture.

She said the building exterior would not have to be altered, and that the signage could be "tasteful and non-neon" and would blend in with architectural elements common to the Downtown Historic District. She said the restaurant would have some indoor seating, but would mostly serve to-go customers and wouldn't impact "sit-down" restaurants in town.

The space is a condominium, one of seven in the Casa San Juan Condominium Owners Association. Treasurer Shryl Eaton said the building exterior is owned by the association and no alterations can be made — even painting or signage — without board approval. Eaton called it "another buffer" to protect the integrity of the building's appearance.

O'Day said she doesn't see any difference between a food franchise and other franchises in town. "It's just a sandwich shop. I think it would be a great addition to the community. People know what the product is — it's good, healthy food. Some people may grumble for a while, but ultimately they're going to come and eat here."

Friday Harbor Town Councilman Noel Monin said franchise restaurants in themed communities like Leavenworth blend in with common architectural elements. He described the McDonald's in Leavenworth as "semi-Bavarian."

Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher said a Subway in town could be done "tastefully" — she wasn't punning — and said it's not fair to pick and choose which franchises should be allowed to operate in town, particularly if they meet zoning requirements.

Of Subway, she said, "I think it could enhance business."

Town Historic Preservation Officer Sandy Strehlou said the proposed Subway would go before the Historic Preservation Review Board when the business permit application is filed, but that if there are no exterior changes planned to the building, there would be nothing to review. However, the board would likely make a recommendation to the Town Council regarding signage.

"It would be great for it to have a use," she said of the building. "It's been vacant for a long time. We need our buildings to be used to stay viable."

According to a town history, the two-story house was built by Dr. George S. Wright in 1892 for his family home and doctor’s office. The house was originally located next to what is now Friday Harbor Drug. In the 1920s or 1930s, a subsequent owner, Harry King, moved his mortuary business into the building. In 1972, the mortuary building was moved up the street to make room for Jeri’s Mall. The house was damaged by fire and only a few of the original historic features of the Wright home remain, the most distinctive being the bay window.

According to Subway's website, the company had as of Oct. 6 some 33,557 restaurants in 92 countries. It was founded in August 1965 in Bridgeport, Conn., by medical student Fred DeLuca and a friend, Dr. Peter Buck. By 1974, the duo owned and operated 16 submarine sandwich shops throughout Connecticut. They then launched the Subway brand and began franchising. Today, Subway is the world's largest submarine sandwich chain.

With Sheriff Bill Cumming as an example — he made coffee drinks when he and his wife, Maude, owned Uptown Espresso on Mullis and Spring streets — O'Day was asked if locals could expect to see her DJ/pitchman/real estate agent husband making footlong subs in the future.

"When pigs fly," she said. "But you might see our daughter working there."

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