First Waukesha location now open
As workers bustled around Waukesha's first Firehouse Subs on April 25, just minutes before the restaurant officially opened, new owner Scott Weidner outlined his goals for the business.
He said he wanted the Waukesha location, 180 E. Sunset Drive, which he owns with his wife Jennifer, to eventually become the one that donates the most money to Firehouse's non-profit Public Safety Foundation, and as a business that gives back to the community.
"We are passionate about that," Weidner said. "Firehouse Subs offered a unique opportunity for us grow an organization that cares as deeply for public service as it does the product they serve."
Those products will now be locally available to Waukesha residents from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The restaurant, staffed by about 34 total full- and part-time employees, celebrated its grand opening Tuesday. It's housed in an outbuilding at the Sunset Crossings development on the city's south side.
At least one more Waukesha location is planned, Weidner said, and the company is interested in expanding into Pewaukee and Delafield as well.
Firehouse is a U.S.-based fast casual chain originally founded in Florida in 1994.
Weidner said he was interested in becoming a Firehouse franchisee in part through his cousin, Brett Werdin, who is the vice president at the Milwaukee-based General Fire Equipment Co., which donated some of the vintage firefighter memorabilia on display at the restaurant.
Weidner also said he believes in the Public Safety Foundation's work, which since 2005 has given more than $25 million to public safety employees in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. It also provides funding for educational opportunities for first responders and other public safety organizations.
"It was just a good fit," he said.
Through the foundation, more than $207,200 in grants have been provided to public safety organizations in Wisconsin, a figure Weidner hopes to grow.
To help raise funds for the foundation, each Firehouse location recycles leftover, five-gallon pickle buckets and sells them to guests for $2. Donation canisters on register counters collect spare change, and the restaurants have a “Round-Up” program that invites diners to round up their bill to the nearest dollar, with all proceeds benefiting the foundation.
Nods to Waukesha
The Sunset Crossings location is teeming with nods to the city's history and culture.
A large mural decorates the northern portion of the restaurant's east wall and depicts some of Waukesha's historical landmarks, including the Rotunda building downtown and a well-known Les Paul guitar statue. It was painted by artist Joe Puskas and his team.
Historic local firefighter equipment and memorabilia, donated by local collector John Thomas, also adorn the restaurant's walls and counters. A functioning vintage light bar is among the more immediately noticeable pieces.
The restaurant's menu contains mostly sub sandwiches and salads. The meat and cheese on the subs are steamed.