Florence Subway franchise owner Matthew Baca to open new restaurant in downtown Northampton

Friday, October 10, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — A new Subway restaurant is planned for the 193 Main St. storefront downtown formerly occupied by Main Street Cleaners.

Matthew Baca, who already owns the Subway at 91 Main St. in Florence, tentatively plans to open the downtown restaurant on Oct. 1. “It’s fun being able to build it from the ground up,” said Baca, 34, who lives in Easthampton.

He said the Subway in Florence already was fully staffed and operating when he bought it in March 2007 after graduating from Holyoke Community College.

“I did a presentation on Subway for a seminar because we each had to do a presentation on a franchise,” he said. His advisers encouraged him to consider buying a franchise, he said. “I started thinking about it and I was like, I’m young, I’ll give it a shot.”

Baca said it has been a fantastic experience, and that by far his favorite part of owning his restaurant in Florence is interacting with great people. He said, “I like the back-and-forth with the customers. It’s a small town so you get to know everyone pretty well,” adding that he and the other businesses in Florence are a close community.

Now that he has repaid the approximately $200,000 loan he took to buy the Florence restaurant, Baca said he is ready to acquire a new franchise.

Main Street Cleaners moved July 23 to 221 Main St., the site of Skera gallery until it closed last December after 39 years of business in Hadley and Northampton. Chong Noh, who owns the cleaners, said the move — which resulted from concern over rent at the former location being too expensive — has not changed the business.

Meanwhile, Subway, whose headquarters are in Milford, Conn., then leased the space at 193 Main St. from landlord Matthew Pitoniak and awarded the franchise to Baca.

The downtown location is now being renovated and new floors are being installed, Baca said. “There is a lot of remodeling because it was an old cleaners, so they have racks and stuff everywhere, different waterlines going everywhere, it’s a complete renovation,” he explained.

He expects the renovation to cost slightly more than $100,000, and said he is financing it mostly with his own money as well as a small loan.

Once the renovation is finished, Baca will decorate the restaurant in Subway’s new “metro décor,” a more upscale decorating scheme that he thinks will fit downtown Northampton nicely. “It’s their high-end Subway décor package, it has a little lounge, big-screen TV and stuff like that,” he said.

Despite the fact that there is currently a Subway at 90 King St. and another inside the Wal-Mart at 180 North King St., Baca said he is not concerned that they will compete for business with his restaurant downtown. “Subway tested it and there is a completely different traffic flow,” he said.

The Subway survey showed that people downtown are unlikely to walk to the King Street restaurant, so the Main Street restaurant will serve different people. “I think this one will grab more from Smith College and downtown.”

However, Frank Patel, the owner of the Subway on King Street, said he is concerned about the new competition, despite the belief by corporate headquarters that potential customers on Main Street are not inclined to eat at his restaurant.

“It will affect sales, I just don’t know how much,” he said. “We will have to wait and watch how it affects it. I’m hoping it doesn’t affect it a lot and I can still manage to pay my rent and bills.”

Patel added, “For other companies like McDonald’s, they only have one location per town, but for Subway there is already one in Wal-Mart and one in Hatfield so this will be the fourth one so close.”

Subway has franchises at 10 West St. in West Hatfield and 337 Russell St. in Hadley.

One of Baca’s primary concerns is that Northampton residents will be upset about a chain restaurant moving onto Main Street. “What people need to understand, is that each Subway is independently owned and run, it’s not like it’s some huge corporation coming in, it’s me,” he said.

Baca said he plans to provide downtown Northampton with another food option. “There are a lot of businesses downtown, and it’ll be a quick lunch for them, in and out quickly at a reasonable price,” he said.