Firehouse Subs Helping Youth, Emergency Responders Through Sandwiches
New Orland Park sub shop serves sizable steamed-meat sandwiches, and helps youths gain work experience while raising money for firefighters, police and paramedics.
A chorus of “Welcome to Firehouse” carries through the new Orland Park restaurant when a customer walks in, even during a busy lunch rush.
“That’s part of the culture,” said co-owner William Vanderbilt. “We want people to feel at home.”
Firehouse Subs opened on Dec. 28 at 15892 LaGrange Road in the Lakeview Shopping Center. The restaurant serves a variety of sandwiches, several with steamed meat and cheese.
While customers pick through about 20 different sandwiches, as well as salads, soup and sides, staff members often offer their own favorite selections. But for Vanderbilt and his wife Christine, Firehouse’s style of assistance goes beyond helping people make the right choice for lunch or dinner.
“We’re very interested in helping the local community, and we’re talking with Orland Fire about getting them a grant through our Public Safety Foundation,” William Vanderbilt said. “Firehouse does it for fire departments all over the country. I’d really like to get some equipment and supplies for local firefighters.”
Firehouse Subs started their Public Safety Foundation in 2005 to donate a portion of their proceeds to emergency responders. Customers are asked if they would like to round up their purchase to the next dollar, and contribute that amount to the foundation, as one example of how the business raises money.
William Vanderbilt teaches sales and management around the world, including in Bangalore, Tokyo and Vietnam, and Christine Vanderbilt worked as a chaplain at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. Both also served as youth pastors in New Lenox. When their children moved away for school, they wanted to put their time into something that would continue their ministerial efforts.
“There’s a certain amount of returning to youth ministry in this work,” William Vanderbilt said. “We all love working with young people who want to do different things with their lives. We know one day they’ll go off and do other things, and so we ask them to tell us what we can do to help. References, guidance, time off, whatever they need, we want to help them get there.”
William Vanderbilt also identified with Firehouse because his father was a volunteer firefighter, and his son is studying fire sciences at the College of DuPage. Two of their staff members recently completed their Emergency Medical Technician exams.
“That was a big part in why we were interested in Firehouse Subs,” William Vanderbilt said. “We’re very interested not just in serving great food, but also in doing good things.”
The community has actively responded well to the restaurant in the weeks since they opened, William Vanderbilt said. While Orland Park already has a lot of restaurants, the combination of retail and local businesses has helped keep the restaurant busy beyond lunch, which is when most of Firehouse’s 565 locations do a majority of their business, he said.
“My feeling is nobody is going to eat at the same place every day anyway,” William Vanderbilt said. “I don’t see anything bad about competition. I think it’s actually a good thing.”
While walking a customer through the menu, William Vanderbilt said he’s partial to the pastrami and corned beef on the NY Steamer, while Christine said she prefers the turkey, roast beef and ham combination on the Firehouse Hero.
“They’re all very good,” Williams said to the man. “But I am a little biased.”
Firehouse Subs is open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Call 708-428-4125 to find out more about catering options.
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