Talking about Stan's Sandwiches & Grill with Mike and Laura Phillips
1. Tell us about Stan's Sandwiches and Grill.
We're a local diner serving fresh, home made breakfasts and lunch. Stan's has been a fixture in the neighborhood for over 40 years now.
2. What makes Stan's special?
Stan's is, and has always been, family owned and operated. As a small, local restaurant we really concentrate on providing friendly customer service. We know most of our regular customers by first name. People feel welcome here and we provide a comfortable environment to start your day or to relax in for some really good food. Access is easy and so is parking. We even have free Wi-Fi if you need to get a little work done while taking it easy.
We also have a real focus on providing great tasting food that is home made and prepared fresh daily. Our recipes are a mix of time tested favorites and new items dreamed up by our dedicated kitchen staff.
3. What sort of food do you serve?
Classic diner food, but made fresh, in-house, every day. Our steak is bought and carved by us. Our burgers are hand-pattied by us. We focus on higher quality, leaner cuts of meat, because that makes better food and it's what our customers want.
We also serve some great desserts that are made daily by our own pastry chef.
4. What are your top 3 recommendations for someone new to Stan's?
1. Our hand-pattied-daily, made-fresh-daily burgers.
2. Our Philly steak or Steak-In-A-Sack. Our steak is cooked in the morning and marinades all day. It is served lean, tender and full of flavor.
3. One of our home made soups paired with a grilled ham and cheese.
I should also mention that we make an amazing Cherry Limeade. This is from the original recipe 42 years ago and we still make it in-house today. Our customers rave about it and we sell a LOT. It makes a great accompainment to any of the three recommendations above.
5. What can you recommend to someone looking for something a little different?
We have an Italian Trio sandwich, made with grilled salami, ham and pepperoni. We add grilled onions, cheese, lettuce and tomato. It all goes onto a fresh onion bun that we also grill before serving. This is paired with our home made fries or chips.
We've also re-introduced the Dan Paul Special. Dan was the original owner of Stan's (his son was named Stan) and this is his recipe, that we've re-introduced and named in his honor. It's hot, daily made roast beef and gravy, served on an onion roll with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It comes with our fries and home made gravy.
6. What's your most popular dish?
It's a toss up between our hand-pattied burgers and our grilled-to-order chicken pita.
7. What's your favorite dish?
I love the grilled chicken pita.
8. Can you tell us a little about your background?
Mike and I have been married for 22 years. Mike was in medical sales for 25 years and I was a classroom teacher. We started to look for a business opportunity that would take us beyond our regular careers and started to look at restaurants.
… did either of you have a background in the restaurant industry?
No! Interestingly enough, our only experience came from Mike working as a food preparer…in the original Stan's Sandwich! When Mike was 18 he worked with Dan Paul, the original owner. They became good friends.
… is that how you ended up owning Stan's?
No. We actually started looking at a Chick-Fil-A franchise. The process is very long and intense and we were nearly a year into it when the opportunity at Stan's came up. We were friendly with Ed Yari, the owner who took over from Dan Paul. Ed had built the business by carrying on the traditions started by Dan and after 17 years he was ready for retirement. There were many, many people interested in taking over from Ed. But one day, when Mike had dropped by and was talking with Ed, the topic of Ed's retirement came up. Mike asked if he had found a buyer for the restaurant. Ed's response was: "well how about you, young man?" It was really unexpected. Ed knew our family, knew about Mike's work ethic and wanted to make sure the restaurant would continue and grow from what he'd built. Mike told me about his talk with Ed and some serious soul searching ensued. I had already started teaching a school year and this would mean leaving my job to start a new adventure.
That was around Christmas of 2005. We were thrilled with the opportunity to own Stan's, so by February of 2006 we took over. Ed stayed with us for 6 months to ensure we were comfortable with the recipes, the processes and just everything needed to keep Stan's successful. When we finally took the reins ourselves the transition was very smooth and easy.
… did you make many changes when you took over?
The biggest change we made was to transition to all home made dishes, rather than buying pre-prepared items. This was a big commitment in terms of cost and preparation time, but we think it has really paid off. Other than that we tweaked the menu slightly to discontinue a few of the less popular items and bring in some new things. We're always talking to our customers about what they'd like. Our Italian Trio is an example of a new sandwich that people are really crazy about.
We also made a few other changes such as adding credit and debit cards. Previously Stan's was a cash-only business.
… what was your biggest surprise when you took over?
For me (Laura), the biggest surprise was how really established and entrenched the restaurant is in the community. When we started there were literally lineups outside the door nearly every day. That loyalty and support has been incredible.
… has the economy impacted your business?
Yes, like most businesses the economy has put a little dent in things. But customer loyalty is strong and we're seeing business pick up again, so that's a positive sign.
9. Who does the cooking?
We have an amazing team of two sisters. Our Manager and cook is Fran Norell. Fran comes in at 5am every morning to prepare the food fresh for the day. Her sister, Sara, is a pastry chef and prepares all our baked goods and desserts. They both come from Mobile, AL where they were cooking and baking for many years before re-locating to Jacksonville.
10. There are a number of Stan's Sandwiches in town. Are they related to your restaurant?
No. Dan Paul, the original owner, had opened a number of sandwich shops with his son Stan over the years. They were eventually sold to separate owners who now operate independently and with distinct menus. We added the "& Grill" to our name to differentiate ourselves a little. The "grill" goes beyond our name though, it also greatly expands what we offer.