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Downtown Subway not expected to reopen

February 13, 2019

The downtown Milford Subway sandwich shop has become a landmark in the nearly 50 years since it has been on River Street.

Katrina S. Rogers, president of Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., attended Milford High School in the late 1970s. She remembers lunch-time jaunts to the nearby Subway.

“We had 45 minutes for lunch and my friends and I would order the vegetarian sandwich,” Rogers said. “We always asked for extra black olives. Now, every time I see a Subway - and I’ve seen them in unexpected places like China and Ecuador — I always think of downtown Milford.”

Linwood Schulte remembers the downtown Subway as part of a weekend routine in the late 1980s for himself and his late wife, Dot.

“Dot and I used to get them on a Friday and watch the concerts when they had them on the green. Big date night,” Schulte said.

For many others, the eatery has been a directional landmark: How do you get to the Milford library? Go past Subway and it’s on the right.

The downtown Subway has now been closed since at least the beginning of the year, and as of this week it looks like the sandwich shop will not reopen there.

A Subway spokesman, who initially said the franchise location would close because the “demographic for the River Street restaurant has changed over the years,” later said the fate of the eatery was still being weighed. But this week, local attorney Winthrop Smith, who represents the building owner, said the downtown eatery will not reopen.

“It looks like they are not going to put [another Subway] in there,” Smith said.

Rich Smith, who owns the building at 1 River Street where the Subway shop was located, said the River Street Subway was the sixth Subway ever to open, although Subway officials did not confirm that.

It all started when the late Fred DeLuca and his business partner, Dr. Peter Buck, opened their first submarine sandwich shop in Bridgeport in 1965 when DeLuca was only 17 years old.

According to the company’s website, by 1974, the two men owned and operated 16 submarine sandwich shops throughout Connecticut. “Realizing they would not reach their 32 store goal in time, they began franchising, launching the SUBWAY brand into a period of remarkable growth…” the website states.

Subway World Headquarters is located on Sub Way in Milford, and there are more than 40,000 Subway sandwich shops worldwide, the company website states.

Those numbers, once higher, declined in recent years. A 2018 Washington Post article cited the planned closing of about 500 of its 26,000 locations nationwide in 2018, and more than 800 U.S. stores the year before as the company pursued an “aggressive revitalization plan.”

In downtown Milford, Rich Smith, who also owns the Seven Seas Restaurant, said last week that he had hoped Subway maintained its downtown store. He said the shop opened at 1 River Street around 1971 or 1972, and had been in that location ever since.

Subway has the lease on the building until 2020, but Smith’s attorney said the company is working amicably on an agreement regarding the lease.

Rich Smith thinks the location could be a good spot for retail, like the clothing shops down the street.

Smith is also losing Dan Patrick, who has run The Dan Patrick Show out of the space above Subway. Patrick is moving to bigger locations on Naugatuck Avenue in April or May.

“Big hit for next year,” Smith said.

He said he may convert Patrick’s studio space to two apartments.

But as far as the downtown Subway goes, he said, “There’s a lot of history. I hate to see it go.”

Milford Economic Development Director Julie Nash said Subway, with its headquarters here, is more to Milford than a sandwich shop.

“Subway is an iconic brand to many around the world, but to Milford it’s more than that,” Nash said. “It’s job, it’s community, it’s pride. Subway is always at the table whether it’s a non profit, business or a community event. We are incredibly proud to be the home of Subway and look forward to the future of this ever evolving company.”

A company spokesperson said there are two other Subway sandwich shop locations in Milford, at 1454 Boston Post Road and 365 Boston Post Road.

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