Cousins Subs wants to open franchises in Duluth

It may seem like there are plenty of opportunities to get a sub sandwich in Duluth, but Milwaukee-based Cousins Subs thinks there's room for one more.

Cousins Subs
Cousins Subs wants to open four or five stores in the Twin Ports in the next three years. (Photo courtesy Cousins Subs)

It may seem like there are plenty of opportunities to get a sub sandwich in Duluth, but Milwaukee-based Cousins Subs thinks there's room for one more.

Make that four or five more.

That's how many stores Cousins Subs wants to open in Duluth in the next three years as the restaurant chain looks to expand to medium-sized markets.

"They've targeted the Duluth area for more growth, specifically Duluth and some areas in the Twin Cities," said Christine Picchietti, a media spokeswoman for the company.

Cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard opened the first Cousins Subs in Milwaukee in 1972, after Specht moved there from New Jersey and missed East Coast-style submarine sandwiches. Today, Cousins has 150 stores in six states. A hundred are in Wisconsin, but only five are in Minnesota, all in the Twin Cities area.


Mark Cairns, Cousins' director of franchise sales, said medium-size markets like Duluth, Rochester, Minn., and St. Cloud, Minn., are preferred.

"They have a pretty good population," he said. "We can put in multiple stores, get good market penetration and be part of the community. Unlike in Minneapolis, our stores don't get lost in mid-size markets, but they can be pretty good players. That's why we picked Duluth to open some stores."

His department has looked at Duluth's demographics and traffic patterns to identify desired areas of the city for their stores.

"We have a good idea what parts of town we would like to be in," Cairns said.

They include downtown Duluth, the Miller Hill Mall area, 21st Avenue East and London Road and West Duluth. They're also looking at putting a store in Superior, he said.

With 15 company-owned stores and 135 store franchises, Cousins is looking to expand through franchises.

"They're looking for partners," Picchietti said.

For those who sign up, a Cousins franchise will require an investment starting around $200,000, according to a company fact sheet.


"They're not necessarily looking for people with a franchise background," Picchietti said. "It can be people looking for a new career, especially in these times, or those just looking to expand their portfolio."

They should have retail experience, if not restaurant experience, and a good mind for operating a business, Cairns said.

But a business expansion in this economy?

Getting financing together can be difficult right now, Cairns acknowledged, but retail space in strip malls is available at bargain rates, and construction costs are down. Moreover, opening costs are less than with some comparable franchises. And Cousins offers a healthy alternative to burgers, which appeals to customers, he said.

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