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MENOMONEE FALLS - Business partners Kurt Kloba and Bill Rowe hope to put the sub-sandwich market in southeastern Wisconsin ablaze; their first endeavor together is Firehouse Subs in Menomonee Falls.

The two set their sights on Menomonee Falls years ago because of its tremendous growth, but construction and development of the center it occupies at  N92 W16135 Falls Parkway took longer than anticipated.

"It was a very good location," Kloba said. "We found this lease almost two years ago, but we are very excited that we are finally opening.”

The restaurant first opened its doors to the Falls community Tuesday, Jan. 31, and it is one of three more to open in the Milwaukee suburbs in the near future.

Kloba's mother was born in the Falls, and many of his relatives are from Sussex, where they owned a large farm. While this is a major reason he was excited to open this location, there are several factors the national company looks for when deciding where to open.

"Daytime population is a factor, and the community needs about a $35,000 median household income, but most of our business comes from the daytime population of businesses around us; most of our business is the lunchtime crowd," Kloba said.

The duo will establish other locations in New Berlin, West Allis and Greenfield. Kloba also owns the Wauwatosa location on Mayfair Road.

While Firehouse has 1,045 locations nationwide, each store has hand-painted murals that are customized to the community.

When you walk into the new Falls location, an expansive mural hangs above the series of windows at the front of the store; this one depicts the Menomonee Falls Fire Department of the past and present while two firefighters watch a fireworks display over the Falls with a young boy.

These masterpieces are painted by Chief Mural Artist Joe Puskas and his team in his studio at the Firehouse Subs Headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. Since the opening of the first Firehouse Subs in 1994, Puskas has painted one mural for each of the 1,045 locations.

Executive Director of the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce Toni Gumina Yates said Firehouse Subs is the fifth sub shop in the Falls; it joins two Cousin's Subs and two Subway locations.

“It’s wonderful to welcome another restaurant option into the Falls, especially a first-time franchise," Yates said. "I did have an opportunity two weeks ago to meet Bill Rowe when he stopped into the Chamber. We sat down and discussed the history of Firehouse Subs as far as the two firefighters who opened it, and so I was struck by the mission that they give back and contribute to the local public service."

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has donated more than $24 million to public safety organizations across the country, of which $207,200 has gone to Wisconsin public safety departments to date.

“Any public safety entity can request a grant at firehousesubs.com/safety foundation," Kloba said. "It’s an online grant, just one or two pages. In talking with some of the fire chiefs, that’s a welcome sight for them because some of the grants they’ve applied for are 40 pages and really complicated, but ours is easy. They just tell the foundation what they want, why they want it, and how it’s going to help save lives, or help the community. The foundation approves or denies grants every quarter. The Germantown Fire Department has already received a portable water tank from us, the Wauwatosa Police Department received more then $20,000 so they can help with all the parades and patrol the parks."

Customers can donate to the foundation in one of three ways: in canisters at the register, by rounding up their bill to the nearest dollar, or by purchasing the company's signature five-gallon pickle buckets for $2 to reuse in their home.

"A lot of people use the five-gallon buckets in their garage," Kloba said. "We’ve had some people use them as toy boxes for their kids. They’re really colorful and they have our logo on them, so it’s fun.”

Even though this location has some competition from area sub places, Kloba said Firehouse Sub not only sets itself apart in its mission to give back to local public safety departments, but also, in the high quality of its food.

"We use premium quality meats, so our beef is a choice-quality beef, and we only use real cheeses from Great Lakes dairy, so not the processed stuff," Kloba said. "We steam the meat and cheese and toast the bread separately, then we dress the bread and put it all together and we have a nice, hot sub going out, so it doesn’t get soggy or dried out. It’s a taste explosion.”

As for his favorite sub on the menu, Kloba couldn't choose just one.

"I have two because I can’t eat there everyday, so I can’t eat the same thing; the Italian and the club," Kloba said. "I like the Italian because we use a honey ham and then salami and pepperoni, and when the pepperoni is steamed it gets a little grease on it like a pizza, and then we have the cheese on it and it all melts together. I call grease a flavor maker. That’s one of my favorites.”

Firehouse Subs is open daily in Menomonee Falls from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.firehousesubs.com.

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