Belmont group wants to keep Subway from tunneling into area

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 1:58am

A potential franchisee is allegedly attempting to open a Subway restaurant in Nashville’s Belmont neighborhood, near the corner of Portland and Belmont, creating a stir among nearby residents and business owners.

Some say a Subway would be out of character in the area, which is currently dominated by eclectic, independent businesses. Others believe the restaurant would do no harm to the neighborhood, and argue that owners of Subway franchises are typically local small businessmen and women.

The buzz began at the end of July, when Arnold Myint, owner of PM restaurant in Belmont and son of prominent area business owners Win and Patti Myint, began gathering signatures of individuals “in protest of any development of a Subway, fast food or any chain restaurant to be developed in the Belmont commercial area.”

Myint said Tuesday that he’s gathered close to 1,000 signatures, and that he began circulating the petition after hearing from staff members at Tabouli’s restaurant, located next door to PM at 2015 Belmont Blvd., that a deal was in place to open a Subway at the location.

Myint is also preparing to open, with partners, a restaurant on the other side of Tabouli’s. The new business will be called Cha-Chah, and Myint describes it as a global tapas and tea house.

Moe Titi, owner of Tabouli’s and member of the family that owns the building, confirmed that owners of the property have talked with a potential Subway franchisee, but said there’s no agreement in place. He added that Subway is one of a large number of entities interested in buying or leasing all or part of the Tabouli’s space.

“Everybody likes the location,” Titi said. “I have so many people calling, left and right, asking to buy the building.”

As of Tuesday, the Davidson County Register of Deeds had no new leases recorded for the property. The identity has not been confirmed by Subway, and Subway’s Nashville-based regional development managers Tom and Bob Nolan did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Prior to talking with the Titis, a potential Subway franchisee contacted Patti Myint about leasing at 2013 Belmont, where Mad Mod used to be located before moving downtown, and at 2010 Belmont, home of International Market and Restaurant. Arnold Myint said the franchisee was told that the Myints weren’t interested.

Myint said he circulated the petition, as well as a recent letter to community members, strictly to generate conversation and draw awareness to the matter.

“I think it will depreciate the value of what we’ve all built up here,” Myint said. “I’m fighting to preserve the integrity of what I feel the community wants in this area.”

Bledi Tahiri, the restaurant’s manager, emphasized that no deal has been made with Subway. But he said it isn’t fair to categorically oppose Subway restaurants, as each location is owned by individual franchisees. The individual attempting to open a Subway restaurant in the building is more of a small business owner, in Tahiri’s opinion, than members of the Myint family – who own 2010, 2012 and 2017 Belmont Ave., as well as numerous other properties in the neighborhood, according to Davidson County property records.

“[The potential franchisee] is an immigrant. He’s from India. He’s a mom-and-pop guy,” Tahiri said.

Tahiri believes a Subway would add “more choices and more options” to the neighborhood.

“What is wrong with $4 health sandwiches?” Tahiri said. “That doesn’t break the community. It doesn’t ruin what this street is. It gives it more options.”

Kevin Kane, a spokesperson for Subway, said all Subway restaurants are owned by franchisees, not the corporate entity.

“We provide a business model,” Kane said. “In most cases, it’s [franchisees] who decide they want to go into business for themselves.”

Most franchisees are local, though information on Subway’s Web site indicates that many franchisees own more than one location — more than 70 percent of new Subway franchises are purchased by an existing franchisee.

Myint said he doesn’t object to Subway restaurants in general, and does not oppose the right of small business owners to open franchises. His only point, he says, is that the business is branded as a corporate entity, and doesn’t fit with the rest of the neighborhood.

Bob Bernstein, owner of Bongo Java, said Tuesday that the situation in the Belmont neighborhood mirrors what’s taking place across the city. He agrees that a Subway would be out of character for the neighborhood, and is concerned that increasing rents across town are narrowing options for independent businesses — and opening the market to corporations and franchises.

“Every street’s starting to look the same. You don’t know you’re in Nashville anymore,” Bernstein said. “It has nothing to do with me being jealous of business loss. Why should Nashville look like every other city?”

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By: theplantsman on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I concur with Bob Bernstein’s statement concerning the disappearing of American neighborhoods and smalls town losing their local identity. The shocking and disappointing aspect of my travels through the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast is how much America has been developed/devolved into identical copies of one another. I call them “Franchise Towns” because when I sit at an intersection and close my eyes, I ask myself “what town am I in”. As I reopen them, sadly, with few exceptions it becomes more difficult to differentiate one from another. The geographic terrain may change but the mall, the office parks, the restaurants do not.

By: 37205Democrat on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Plant is totally right on this one.At least a Subway would be better than a McD's or Starbucks since Subway doesn't have a drive through. I miss Hills!

By: NewMater on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Funny....? Was it not Bob Bernstein who was instrumental in having the mom and pop stores in the Farmers Market removed!It seem that he along with the mayor's blessing are the very ones who are putting the squeeze on us little guys.I agree that we need to control corporate saturation. But be careful of those, Bob, who "flip-flop" for their own gain!

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The funny thing about local businesses is that they go out of business because they can't compete. Their prices are higher, their service is slower, and their product is almost always worse.It's no wonder local business owners want to keep Subway away and put the squeeze on the local consumer.To see what I'm talking about, has anyone been in Nola's on West End since Subway and Which Wich opened across the street?Are any consumers complaining? I don't know of any.

By: austinelrodray on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The funny thing about local businesses is that they make this city what it is. They can and do compete and win by offering products and services that aren't even on the radar, artistically, culinarily, and quality wise, of national corporate chains. Subway and Which Wich lovers belong in Cool Springs, not on Belmont Boulevard.

By: rlm on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am a consumer Mr. WickedTribe and here is my complaint: I have never been to a Which Wich and can't remember the last time I ate at a Subway. I can't stand the corporate oh wait franchise (as if there’s really a huge difference) find it on every corner in every city, over and over and over again, kind of business. If someone wants Subway there are 28005 in 87 countries. 9 of those reside in Nashville and there is a 10th on the way. If you want a sandwich there are more than 30 options in town. I think we can do without it and personally look forward to having some local variety.