Subway’s first stop was St. John's

Tom Vokey looks back 30 years to opening country’s first outlet in St. John’s

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on November 3, 2016

The Water Street Subway location in 1986, the year it opened.

©Submitted

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Tom Vokey gets a little emotional when he passes the Subway restaurant at Water and Adelaide.

“It brings a tear to my eye, to be honest,” he tells me.

The bustling downtown corner started a lot of things for Vokey — and for Subway.

Thirty years ago, in June 1986, Vokey opened Canada’s first Subway there.

After shopping for a franchise, Vokey — along with brothers Peter and Paul — jumped on Subway after Tom travelled to the restaurant’s Connecticut headquarters and was blown away by the product.

It was love at first bite.

Tom Vokey at a Subway location in Tantallon, Nova Scotia. Today, Subway is donating a meal to Food Banks Canada with every sub and drink purchased today. Those who buy a sub also get one for free.
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“It was a no-brainer and we wanted in,” Vokey says.

Now, this may shock some of you, but there were skeptics in St. John’s.

“People would come in the restaurant and say, ‘You only sell subs?’ ” Vokey recalls.

A few others, apparently, just couldn’t grasp the concept, entering the shop “thinking they were going to get a ticket to get on the bus.”

The franchise turned out to be a ticket to great things for Vokey.

He now owns and operates numerous Subway restaurants in the Halifax area.

And he helps guide Subway’s 217 restaurants and estimated 3,000 employees in Atlantic Canada through the chain’s regional development office, also located in the Nova Scotia capital.

It’s turned out to be quite a Subway ride for Vokey.

Still, he remains quite proud of the location where it all started — “still in same spot and doing a great job”. (He no longer owns it).

He’s also thrilled with the franchise’s footprint in his hometown three decades later.

“We’ve come a long way,” he says. “We were the little yellow sandwich shop and now we’re up there competing with the big guys. Now we’ve got these beautiful restaurants.”

And what does this father of the footlong eat at Subway?

His current fav is the new carved turkey, but the cold-cut combo is his perennial sub.

It’s a good bet Vokey will be having one of them today, National Sandwich day.