Get It to Go

Take-Away Sandwiches Big Business for Local Shops

By Matt Prokopchuk



Superior Outdoors

Cover Story

Around lunch time, walk into any shop in Thunder Bay that prepares fresh sandwiches and you’re likely to see quite a lineup. The take-away sandwich has become a midday meal staple in many culinary cultures, and activity at local delis and restaurants shows that’s no exception here. In Victoriaville Centre, Crock-N-Dial Sandwiches has been in operation for 26 years and its sole proprietor, Kathy Scerba, says that simple, freshly made sandwiches, while not the only thing on the menu, is at the core of what her business does. “They don’t want fancy stuff in it,” she says of what people expect from her shop. “I’ve tried all different kinds of sandwiches because I see other businesses doing that, and that’s not what my customers want. […] This works, just simple.” Egg salad is a traditionally very popular option, she says, along with their club, and Cajun chicken sandwiches. The beef for roast beef sandwiches, Scerba says, she cooks at home, and slices fresh in the eatery. Even before starting up her own shop, Scerba was already a restaurant veteran, having managed Thunder Bay’s Grandma Lee’s locations for 13 years, eventually purchasing the one in Victoriaville and turning it into Crock-N-Dial. The shop, Scerba says, features 12 different core sandwiches, which can all be customized with a myriad of toppings, condiments, and seasonings. “It’s your comfort zone,” she says of why she thinks good, simple sandwiches still sell well. “When we have, like, a tomato soup, there’s five or six customers who will come in and have a grilled cheese with a tomato soup, because that’s your comfort stuff.” Across town, Maltese Grocery has also been in the fresh sandwich game for decades. Lisa Maltese, who co-owns the multi-generational business along with her brother Dave, says that the store’s 2016 expansion also saw their sandwich bar grow significantly (Dave’s idea, Lisa says). Nowadays, the sandwich options are expansive. “Honestly, it’s as big as people’s imaginations,” Maltese says. “It’s whatever you want, so it’s any combination. […] You can have people that fix a cold sandwich and a hot sandwich together.” Still, they do offer daily hot sandwich specials, she adds. That focus on the sandwich counter, Maltese says, has paid off. While Maltese Grocery offers a wide variety of products and services, she says that part of the business is “pivotal” to the operation. “People come in for a sandwich, but they also buy lunch meats or they’ll buy a steak or […] they’ll see the other things that we produce,” she says. “They’ll come in for a sandwich but they’ll leave with so much more.” And while sandwiches at Maltese are fully customizable, Maltese says she’s definitely noticed one ordering pattern develop. “[Our] biggest day has to be Thursday for our beef on a bun day, with the hot roast beef,” she says, adding that Wednesdays—featuring Italian sausage and tomato sauce—are also quite busy. “You can taste the love in food,” Maltese says. “You can tell if somebody loves what they’re doing; it shows in the product, it shows in the food.”