published Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Penn Station plans more restaurants in Chattanooga

  • photo
    Owner Ryan Lackey makes a sandwich as he works with his crew at the Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurant on Highway 153 across from Northgate. Working behind him is Sandy Buttermore.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Grilled sandwiches, fresh-cut fries and hand-squeezed lemonade are coming to Broad Street this summer.

Franchisee Ryan Lackey will open a Penn Station East Coast Subs by July in the first floor of Vision Hospitality Group’s new four-story headquarters at 411 Broad St. The restaurant will be the second of five locations Lackey expects to open in the Chattanooga region during the next two years.

He’s already got one restaurant up and running in Hixson, and now thinks he’s found the right place to open another restaurant downtown. Construction on the space will start in the next two weeks.

“The downtown area in Chattanooga is one of the coolest downtown areas I’ve been in,” he said. “Where Vision built their offices, to me that’s the perfect place downtown. You’ve got businesses, you’ve got the aquarium, you’ve got tourists. There’s so much foot traffic.”

Penn Station East Coast Subs features 14 sandwiches ranging from chicken cordon bleu to grilled vegetarian, and most meals cost around $8. Lackey will have room to seat about 55 people inside and another 15 outside in the fast-casual restaurant.

“We bake with fresh bread every day and we grill with all fresh ingredients,” he said. “Nothing is packaged.”

Lackey expects to hire about 20 people to staff the downtown restaurant, and will transfer his general manager in Hixson to downtown. He opened the Hixson Penn Station in 2012 and said Chattanooga has proven to be a strong market for the chain, which traditionally has been concentrated in the North and Midwest.

“There’s some 260 Penn Station locations, but most of them are Kentucky and north,” he said. “Chattanooga is the furthest south they’ve been, and Chattanooga has been really receptive.”

After the downtown location is open, Lackey is planning to open three more regional franchises, and is eyeing Ooltewah, Cleveland and Fort Oglethorpe,as possible locations.

In downtown, Lackey will fill up one of three spaces in the first floor of Vision Hospitality Group’s new headquarters. Vision Hospitality CEO Mitch Patel said he expects to add a retailer as a tenant as well. Patel said he’s also had interest from other restaurants for the remaining space.

“We’re happy with the deli,” he said. “There was another sandwich place that wanted to come as well, but I was hesitant to do two. I want to do everything we can to have [Penn Station] be successful.”

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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