“I always wanted to own a Subway since I got out of the military,” said Robert Pinero. “I was in negotiations with Subway when I first got out but that didn’t go through. Ever since then, I thought, ‘One day I’m going to own a sandwich shop’.”
And now he does. Pinero and his wife Jillian are the proud proprietors of the Blimpie sub shop at 1277 Paterson Plank Road in Secaucus. “My wife convinced me that Blimpie was better,” said Pinero. “She was a big fan. All our money was going there anyway so we might as well buy it.”
After purchasing the shop in September, they did some renovations to the interior and opened for business on Oct. 18. Chief among their improvements is that they bake their own bread rather than purchase from outside.
While Pinero, 31, was growing up in Union City, his mom worked in the food industry. “I guess that’s part of why I thought food was the way to go, because my mom brought us up with that income, from food,” he said. As a teen he worked in the kitchen at MSNBC in Secaucus.
Jillian, 28, moved to Secaucus in 2001 and went to high school here. Bright and friendly, she worked as a private nanny and at Harmony Early Learning Center in town for about eight years. “Food is new to me” as a profession she admitted, adding, “I like to collect the money. That’s my favorite part.”
Three tours of Iraq
Pinero is a disabled veteran who was deployed to Iraq three times. “I joined because of 9/11,” he said. Enlisting in October 2002, he served overseas from July to December 2003 and again for eight months in Fallujah beginning September 2004.
“I felt that the only way to protect my family was for one of us to go,” he said. “It was me instead of my brother, but that didn’t work out. My brother ended up joining the military, too.”
“I love Blimpie sandwiches and I was a regular customer here.” – Jillian Pinero
“There was always something to repair or fix,” he said. “You manage the building, build the budget how to maintain the building, do all the administrative work of hiring vendors for plumbing and electricians, sometimes oversee security, as well as the kitchen.”
But in the back of his mind, his goal was always to open his own business. “I love to problem solve,” he said. “And I know that’s what a business is all about. It’s never a straight day with a business, it’s always overcoming obstacles. I think I like that more than anything.”
He pursued several opportunities that didn’t pan out, including buying the Blimpie in Secaucus from the previous owners. The owners wound up simply walking away from the business, leaving the storefront vacant.
Food and kids
“I love Blimpie sandwiches and I was a regular customer here,” said the former Jillian DiBiaso. “Rob used to work in the city and I worked in town. I was a nanny and I had babies with me and the park was just across the street and it was convenient for me” to eat there, she recalled.
“She went to go buy a Blimpie sandwich and she saw a sign on the door that said, ‘We have permanently closed,’” said Pinero, so he reached out to the company directly and with the aid of a $15,000 Small Business Administration loan from the Union County Economic Development Corporation (UCEDC), they were in.
With two employees, the owners each do a bit of everything. “Rob is more into the administration, paperwork, making sure everything’s in order, because he has a background in management,” said Jillian. “I’m just kind of go-with-the-flow.”
“My future goals is to open up more Blimpies and other food shops,” said Pinero. “We have a couple of ideas for Secaucus. We eat in restaurants here and we always try to go to something different. We support all the businesses around here, and they all come here. That’s the way this community is.”
Then there are Jillian’s plans outside the food industry. “I’d like a children’s daycare to be the next thing we open,” she said. “I’ve probably babysat for half the town of Secaucus, between working at daycare and word of mouth. I love Secaucus, I really do. It’s so family-oriented.”
In fact, her other goal is to start her own family. “I’d like it to be sooner rather than later,” she said. “We’ll be married a year in April. Once we hit that one year mark…”
That would make a day care center awfully convenient. “This way my kids can just go there,” she laughed. “I could even have a little lunch program going on with Blimpie.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.