In It For the Long Run

Bill Humphries, Subway franchisee, celebrates 40 years of hard work and providing fresh eats to Indiana and Ohio.
Jun 6, 2022
Heather Herron
Jeffrey Crane

More than 40 years ago, a trip to Florida turned out to be serendipitous for Bill Humphries. Curiosity and a healthy appetite paved the way for a long, successful career in the restaurant industry.

“I saw this little yellow building on the beach and it was a Subway sandwich shop. The line was wrapped around the building so I was intrigued and said, ‘Let’s go try these sandwiches.’ I tried it out, came back and wrote the company. At that time, they weren’t licensed in the state of Indiana and they took my number and said, ‘When we’re ready to launch, we will call you.’ I was their first phone call three months later and I was the first franchise in the state of Indiana,” explains Humphries.

Working as the head of marketing for Lever Brothers in New York City, the Northrop High School grad wanted to return to his hometown of Fort Wayne. He leveraged everything and took out an 18% interest loan to buy his first franchise, a Subway shop on Coliseum Boulevard. 

“When we first opened, the sign out front said ‘famous footlong sandwiches,’ but most people didn’t read the sandwich part. They thought we were serving a famous footlong hot dog,” he recalls. “We would stay open until 3:30 a.m. and pick up all the bar traffic late at night. We sold so many double-meat sandwiches to people leaving the bars.”

In just nine months, Humphries grew his store to the number two restaurant in the chain. He then bought more than a dozen others and continued to expand. Moving up within the company, he acquired development rights and now oversees more than 750 Subway shops in this region. 

“Our peak was in 2019 when we had 852 units in northern Indiana and three quarters of the state of Ohio,” says Humphries. Over the years he’s also served on many of Subway’s corporate boards, including those that address long range planning and advertising. Even early on, he was keenly focused on innovative ways to build a loyal customer base. “I put the first C-store location in South Bend, which was inside a gas station. That was around 25 years ago when nobody ever thought about putting a sandwich business inside of a gas station convenience store. It led to massive development around the whole country.”

A nationwide rebranding is currently underway, taking the chain back to its roots.

“Locations and decor were getting old. The company is redeveloping the sandwich lines, calling it a refresh,” he says. “We’re testing a lot of new things across the country, even in prepping, so that people can see the freshness. It’s all about the freshness of the brand. That’s really where we started many years ago. We were known as the fresh alternative and so we’re back to reinforcing that.”

As he celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first Subway opening, Humphries says he’s learned a thing or two that he’s able to share with younger franchisees (like his son Justin) who are just getting started. 

“People in the restaurant business have this expectation that they’re going to make a lot of money very quickly. That’s not true. You have to learn the business. You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. There were times in my early years where I would leave the house at 7:00 a.m. and not get home until after 10:00 p.m. It was a lot of work,” he stresses. “But it’s been entirely worth it.” 

Humphries Development of Northern Indiana Inc.

Phone: (260) 434-0055

Years in Business: 40

Products & Services: Subway sandwich shops

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