If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city.
This week, we’re joined by Robert Leonhardt as he and his team have recently opened a brand-new Port of Subs shop inside of the equally new Sinclair station on West Idaho street. Anthony, you may be shouting at your computer screens, what gives? Port of Subs is a food chain; it’s not a locally originated small business. Why are you featuring this; did you sell out? Those are fair questions, my friends. I chose to highlight Robert this week because, although his brand may not have started in our area, Robert has the same drive, heart, and passion for succeeding as an Elko proud businessman just the same as the other business people I’ve interviewed in the past. After our talk, it was clear to me that Robert isn’t looking to serve some giant corporate overlords; he’s looking to serve Elko. However, I’ll let Robert tell you a little bit about what he told me. “Port of Subs originally started in Sparks, NV in 1972. They’ve grown to around one hundred and forty chains along the West Coast with a big presence in Nevada. Elko currently has two locations; however, I am only tied to this (W Idaho St.) location. Even though it is a “chain,” my roots are in Elko. Elko is home to us; Elko is my community. This is not a situation where somebody owns the restaurant from out of town and has somebody here running it for them. No, this is mine, and I’m here!”
“Community is our everything.” Robert continued to explain to me. “Anytime we, my wife and I, can be involved with anything going on, we try to be. Elko has been good to us; this is home for us. Everyone asked me when we left Port of Subs a while ago (continue reading to learn more about this statement) if we were going to move. No; Elko is home. It’s a great place to raise our kids and grow old. We had an unfortunate situation with my baby, as he had to have had surgery at almost seven months old. Many people stepped up and helped us out; this community is so awesome.”
Thank you for making that clear, Robert. We’re glad to have you highlighted here on AAT today. So, now that we know you love this town, why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself? How did you end up in Elko in the first place? “I grew up in Las Vegas; I was born and raised there. I started working at Port of Subs when I was seventeen. My aunt used to own a couple of them down in Vegas, so she was the one who brought me on the team before I switched over to a corporate store about a year and a half later. I just started as a team member but worked my way up to a store manager and then an area supervisor. As I moved up the ladder, I knew this job could turn into a lifelong career as my goal the entire time was to own my own store. Eventually, my family and I moved to Reno with Port of Subs. We lived in the Sparks area for about four years and then moved to Elko with Port of Subs about seven years ago. I was at the other Elko Port of Subs location for about a year and a half. We then decided to do our own little restaurant for a while, Chicago Dogs; that didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, so we moved on. I worked in property management for a little bit, and then I sold cars; that was fun! One day, I got a call from corporate management asking if I wanted to come back and be a partner in a store. For my family, that was an offer I just couldn’t pass up.”
Now that you’re back in the Port of Subs game, what’s got you excited when it comes to your new location? What are you all working on, Robert? “One cool thing that we’re doing, which is different from a lot of the other stores, is our crafted to-go program. We provide the Sinclair truck stop with pre-made sandwiches, salads, yogurts, parfaits, and wraps so they can provide these items to their customers whether Port of Subs is open or closed. We manage and make these products daily and throughout the day, so they are not just sitting in a refrigerator for ten days. We’re going to be starting our breakfast program, providing burritos to the truck stop as well for the miners who may be coming in a three in the morning. Our store itself opens at four in the morning which is a little different compared to most other locations. We also have kiosk ordering in our restaurant, which makes us the first store to have it in the entire chain! Nobody else is doing this; the location at UNR may test it out, but we’re the first to have it up and running; our online ordering system has improved so much since I’ve been back with Port of Subs, as well. Other than those things, we’re still working on some training and the development of my management team, but we’ve been very blessed to have the crew we have.”
Your crew is very talented, Robert! One of your employees, Sean, made me a sandwich after our interview and it was…amazing. I’m still thinking about it a couple of days later; however, what do you want the people of Elko to be thinking about as they may consider hopping in their cars and checking you all out? “We’re customer service driven. When we moved from Reno to Elko, poor customer service was one of our biggest pet peeves. We’re a small business, but no matter what, we do not let our customer service fail. If anybody does have a bad experience, I will encourage them to contact us at 775-738-1230, ask for me, and I will make it right. I will address their issues and have some training sessions with my employees to fix the issues. When most people do have a complaint, they won’t tell you (the business owner), you’ll hear about it on social media, but that won’t help me fix the situation and make my customer service better. For me, my employees are my first customers. If I can take care of my employees, they’ll take care of our customers.”
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See you around a local business, Elko