The appreciations and memories are pouring in to 1851 for Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca, who died Monday. He had been battling leukemia for a couple of years.
founder and Chief Vibe Officer Jeff Sinelli recalls a very memorable meeting with DeLuca when he had just one Which Wich store. DeLuca gave him advice and wisdom that he uses to this day.
"We were getting a lot of buzz at the time and he wanted to meet 'The Bag Guy' as he called me. So he reached out to me. It was real humbling. Here’s the godfather, the grandfather, of sandwiches and here he wants to talk to this little guy with just one store. He was so generous and kind. His boat was in Fort Lauderdale, and my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, Courtney, and I were in Miami. The boat was called the Subconscious and it was gorgeous. I didn’t know at the time why he wanted to meet me, but he was gracious enough to send us a car and Courtney and I spent time with Fred and his wife for three hours. He called me ‘The Bag Guy’ kind of as a fun play on 'The Bad Guy' as I was technically the competition. Fred told me he thought we were onto something with the bag and the concept, and he just wanted to meet me and get to know me, which felt so great at the time to validate what we were doing. ... I remember just sitting on the couch next to him as he was describing his successes and where he felt he fell short, and giving me wisdom of the things to focus on as I developed the Which Wich brand. It was really nice to be on the receiving end of some of his wisdom that he imparted and shaped how I’m growing my businesses and my future with Which Wich now. He gave me some key nuggets on what he did throughout his career and his key principles, which I don’t share with anyone, but I still live by to this day. It’s paid dividends and I give credit for some of that to Fred."
He also remembers the funny side of DeLuca, especially at a dinner during a National Restaurant Association show.
"I had a table at Gibson’s Steakhouse and there were maybe four or five people with me at the Which Wich table. The table adjacent to us, however, had 20 or more people from Subway. So it was a real David and Goliath situation. Fred stood up and came over at one point and said to me, 'Catch any secrets over there?' I said, 'I think it’s the other way around.' We shared a laugh. We had kind and warm exchanges any time we saw each other."
Sinelli says he'll be honoring DeLuca in his own way.
"Every time I saw Fred, he was wearing his signature V-neck sweaters. So, I sometimes wear a V-neck because of him. As we get closer to fall and winter, I’m sure I’ll be wearing more of them to think of him and honor him."