Local sandwich shop has two Corvallis locations, looks to expand
Togo’s sandwich shop in Corvallis turned 40 this year.
The first Corvallis location opened in the spring of 1971 on Monroe Avenue, next to Oregon State University.
Current owner Chris Martin bought the local franchise from Jennifer Lusch in 1986.
Martin made the move from Monroe Avenue to Northwest Ninth Street about seven years ago, when the strip of shops along campus was under heavy construction.
“This has turned out to be a very good location for us,” Martin said. “Now that we’re here and we have a parking lot, I’m doing volume in business that I’ve never had.”
In addition, the sandwich shop fills large orders for business meetings all over town, getting a boost from the lunch crowd of neighbors such as Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Corvallis Clinic, Hewlett-Packard and Allied Waste.
Martin also opening another franchise location two years ago in the Memorial Union at Oregon State University, giving the sandwich shop a presence on campus once again.
In Corvallis, the competition between sandwich shops can be fierce. Martin once had another shop open just two doors down on Monroe Avenue. But, you can never predict how such pressures will end up effecting the bottom line, he said. He actually saw an uptick in business after that.
“I kind of figured out just worry about myself,” Martin said. “Service is what we focus on.”
Martin employs about 28 part-timers, nearly all college students, between the two restaurants.
In addition, his daughter Nikki, 27, and son Tyler grew up working in the restaurant.
At 25, Tyler, was the longest tenured employee working at the Ninth Street location last week. He started working at the shop 10 years ago.
Tyler recalled making drinks and bringing them to customers as a kid at the Monroe location.
Martin’s said he used to pay his daughter Nikki in stickers and his son Tyler in pogs for helping out around the restaurant before they were old enough to be real employees.
“We’ve had regulars that have seen the kids grow up,” Martin said. His wife Betsey Martin has also pitched in over the years. She now works as an X-ray technician in Corvallis.
What keeps customers coming back?
“I think it’s the value of our sandwiches,” Martin said. Two local favorites are the Signature Pastrami (served hot) and the Turkey and Avocado.
Classic six-inch sandwiches range from $5.40 to $5.95. There’s also salad and salad wraps, desserts and drinks. On the catering menu, 3-foot-long party sandwiches are $40, boxed lunches are $6 to $8 each. Togo’s also catera food trays, salads and desserts.
“In the last year, we’ve been kind of flat,” Martin said of the restaurant’s profits. “In this economy, I hear that’s pretty good.”
Martin said that he’s looking to expand to another location in the near future. Son Tyler will likely manage the new shop, most likely in Bend.
Before taking over Togo’s, Martin was a mechanical engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.
After 25 years as a restaurant owner, Martin easily sees himself staying in another 10.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “The employees we have are great. It’s energetic.”
Although Togo’s is franchise, for many years Martin had the only Oregon locations. There are now 245 restaurants throughout California, Oregon and Nevada.
“For 25 years, I’ve been pretty isolated,” he said.
In fact, as more franchises popped up in Beaverton, Medford and up and down the West Coast, Martin said he’s had loyal customers who don’t realize that it is a franchise alert him that another business is “using his name.”
The original Togo’s was opened in Marquette, Mich., in 1964 by two Northern Michigan University students, Tom Neumann and Gordon Reed.
Around 1966 Neumann sold his part of the business to Reed, who moved to California and in about 1969 opened a Togo’s in downtown San Jose, Calif.
Togo’s Eateries Inc. is still headquartered in San Jose. The CEO is Tony Gioia.
To celebrate the anniversary, Togo’s is adding new toasted wraps to the menu and has partnered up with Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit with a “No Kid Hungry” strategy to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.
Since Sept. 1, for every dollar or more donated to Share our Strength, guests will receive a free 20 oz. fountain drink for their next visit.
There’s also a refillable 40th anniversary commemorative cup that has been available since the beginning of the summer for $2 with 50 cent refills for another week.
At A Glance
WHAT: Togo’s sandwiches
WHO: Owned by Chris Martin since 1986
WHERE: Two Corvallis locations: 2317 N.W. Ninth St. and in the Memorial Union Commons at Oregon State University.
WHEN: Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at the Ninth Street location; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at the campus location.
ON THE MENU: Classic six-inch sandwiches range from $5.40 to $5.95. Mini sandwiches are $3. Salads and salad wraps are $4.95 to $6.50. Soups and chili is $2.90 to $5.
CONTACT/CATERING: 541-753-1444 (Ninth Street); 541-737-2290 (campus).
COMPANY INFO: www.togos.com or 866-70-TOGOS.