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Jimmy John’s to build new restaurant in RF

November 20, 2008

The sandwich delivery chain Jimmy John’s is expected to build a restaurant near UW-River Falls on the southeast corner of Cascade Avenue and Spruce Street. The project began when a new Jimmy John’s franchise operator leased the site from Martinsen Land and Investment Oct. 29.

The project is expected to receive city approval soon, and construction will likely begin in December, Martinsen associate John Garden said.

“We went through the preliminary meetings. We didn’t identify anything that looked like it was going to be a problem,” Garden said.

Garden is the development finance coordinator for Martinsen Land and Investment Co. as well as an investor in the project. Garden said he owns a separate company called Garden Superior Properties, which is not involved in the deal.

The new Jimmy John’s will bring a new level of service to the community, franchise owner Eric Olsen said. It will also be the first Jimmy John’s he has owned under his small business, Candy Lakes LLC. The business was founded in January, involving only two people so far: Olsen and his father-in-law, who is an investor, Olsen said.

With exterior and interior construction and the hiring of a staff, the restaurant will not open its doors until at least August, and more likely September, Olsen said. Aside from having the property built, Olsen said he would be closely involved with the restaurant after its opening.

“I’ll be the operator,” Olsen said. “I’ll be there on a daily basis. So many of these places, people just build them and hire out other people to operate them. We want to bring superior service.”

This service will include fresh ingredients sliced daily, a drive-thru and fast delivery to any location in River Falls within five minutes of the restaurant. River Falls High School and the River Falls Area Hospital will be key areas to serve, and the restaurant will also stay open until “2 or 3 a.m.” on Thursday through Sunday to accommodate local college students, Olsen said.

One of those students, sophomore theater major Karen Biedermann, said the new restaurant could benefit the community in another way.

“I think it’ll lead to more jobs for college students and high school students,” Biedermann said. “I think it will be a fine thing to have.”

Will Larson, a junior majoring in psychology, said it was good for River Falls to have more options, but he had a negative experience with the chain and would not eat at the new restaurant if it were built.

“I don’t like Jimmy John’s,” Larson said. “I got a BLT there and wanted the bacon put in the microwave, but they said ‘our bacon’s pretty cooked,’ so I ate it and got sick.”

Melissa Murphy, a senior English education major, said the restaurant would have a lot of competition from the Quiznos and two Subways already in River Falls. Murphy added that she did not think new businesses like the Jimmy John’s and Best Western hotel were necessary.

“Part of the reason I came here was because [River Falls] was a nice small town, with not very much commercial development.” Murphy said.

The land Olsen and Martinsen Co. plan to build on was once the site of the River Falls Medical Clinic. When River Falls Area Hospital was built in the early 1990s, the Clinic was no longer necessary and sat abandoned for years, City Planner Tony Steiner said.

“Nobody was interesting in buying. It finally was bought by a developer who just basically tore it down and was trying to market the property for a number of years. The city finally decided it was a very important piece within the downtown area and we wanted some control over how it got developed,” Steiner said. “So the city purchased it three or four years ago.”

Last year the city allowed Martinsen to step in and do something with the land. After finding the property with the help of Kraus-Anderson realtor Jim Stimmler, Olsen accepted Martinsen’s offer. Olsen also said he has been a chef for 15 years, but declined to say where he was currently working.

“My employer doesn’t know what I’m doing right now.” Olsen said, adding that he didn’t think his boss would approve of the Jimmy John’s project.

Martinsen is also having a new Best Western hotel built near campus on the lot next to the Mexican restaurant, Mariachi Loco.