At its upcoming meeting, the Red Bank Planning Board will discuss a proposal to build a new Subway restaurant right smack downtown. Though a previous Broad Street Subway failed, closing its doors more than a decade ago, a new corporate business model that advertises healthy food options and in-store Wi-Fi as you munch makes it unclear how it will fair this time around.
For a town that champions and promotes local businesses and takes a certain amount of pride in failure of its own downtown McDonald’s restaurant, which was also located on Broad Street, years ago the question that will undoubtedly be asked, even if not before the planning board, is if the national sub chain is a right fit for the borough.
Nancy Adams, executive director of the Red Bank RiverCenter, an organization dedicated to promoting the borough’s downtown and, in essence, preserving its character, was diplomatic about the possibility of a new Subway locating downtown.
“Chain stores are fine to a certain degree, but our goal is to have a diverse mix of businesses. I don’t think we should be a downtown that has all national brands, all chain stores, because the small, local businesses are what makes a downtown,” she said. “But, we have plenty of room for a mixture of both.”
According to the proposal, the Subway would be located at 60 Broad Street at, presumably, the site of a closed jewelry store. The owner, Ojas Patel, is seeking minor site plan approval and a variance to allow for interior restorations and a change in use from retail to food. The meeting is set for Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
A business search lists Ojas Patel as the owner of a Subway in Princeton Junction, though it’s unclear if it’s the same person interested in opening a sub shop in Red Bank.
With more than 35,000 restaurants around the world, Subway has become a neighborhood staple in nearly every neighborhood, regardless of competition or public perception. In Red Bank, Subway certainly has its work cut out for it. Almost directly across the street is Readies, which recently opened on Broad after moving from its longtime location on Monmouth Street. Then there are other sandwich joints like Elsie’s and Monmouth Meats, among others, to contend with, all Mom and Pop business, all independently owned and operated.
Whether or not Subway can succeed depends on the public’s willingness to eat there.