Locals weigh in on new downtown Subway restaurant

By Teaira Haynes | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Since early 2011, permits have been requested and approved to prepare downtown King Street for the latest addition to the neighborhood: a Subway restaurant. When a franchise moves into town, smaller businesses face the plight of losing clientele. But local restaurant owners like husband and wife team, Jane and Peter Kavanagh, said they have little to fear.

“I don’t think it will be a problem for business,” said Jane Kavanagh, owner of Flavors Eatery on King Street. “Our main targets are locals and we have a lot of local support.”

Kristoph Brumley, head chef at Carmelo’s Marketplace Pizzeria, expressed a similar response.

“The locals are happy with what they have and they’re willing to forego a few bucks for something better,” he said.

Smaller King Street businesses like Flavors Eatery argue that they have qualities to offer their customers that Subway cannot. Other than fresh, better-tasting food and friendlier service, they also have the atmosphere that suits the historic personality of the downtown area, whereas Subway does not.

“It definitely doesn’t belong,” said Kavanagh, who said she called the City of St. Augustine after noticing the Subway signs in the window, announcing the fast food chains arrival. “I was surprised and didn’t think it was allowed,” she said.

But she said she was told by the Building and Planning Department that because the location was not in a Historical Preservation Zone, which ends at Markland Place, a corporate franchise like Subway could occupy the available space.

Although it was pre-approved by the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB), there are those who believe adding the fast food chain to the downtown area is a waste.

Andrew Lorigo, manager and head chef of Georgie’s Diner said people come to the area to “get the feel of old St. Augustine.” He said he agrees that the chain just doesn’t fit in.

“I just don’t think it will work,” Lorigo, whose family owns two other restaurants, Cafe Alcazar and Athenas, said.

Bonnie Smith, a cashier and tour guide for the Oldest School House, agrees, despite being excited about Subway’s arrival.

“If [tourists] want to experience St. Augustine they’re not going to go to a chain,” Smith said. “Tourists usually asks what restaurant we recommend. Not ‘where’s the nearest McDonalds?'”

Like Smith, Flagler College junior, Danielle Boissonneault, said she is also excited about having her favorite restaurant so close to campus and home, but doesn’t believe it’ll do as well as the local restaurants in the area.

“Tourists are looking for something they can only have here. They’re looking for novelty,” Boissonneault said. “Not the things they can have at home.”

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