Doug Stauffer had been out of the sandwich shop business a few years, mostly running a FedEx ground route, when he got a golden opportunity to get back in to the career he had for most of his adult life.

In his coverage area in Gilbert was a sub shop operating in the midst of the Great Recession.

“And he wasn't doing well,” Stauffer said. “He was a banker. He knows a lot of stuff, but he didn't know how to run a sub shop. ‘He's like, I'm going to close down. I go, why don’t I buy it from you?”

Stauffer offered him $5,000 for the shop and taking over the lease. The owner was more interested in Stauffer’s motorcycle so they settled on $2,500 and the bike. It was, Stauffer admits, the bargain of the century.

“Everything was there,” he said. “The slicer was $6,000. The ice machine was $4,000.”

Stauffer did have to drain his life savings into making a go of the newly rebranded Sidewinder Subs with licenses, fees, signage and just surviving until he was making it.

“I’d do $50 a day for a long time,” he said. “It took a long time to get it going, but it ended up going. I knew I could make it because I was doing it for so long.”

Indeed, he had been doing since graduating high school. He had a favorite Sub Factory he frequented down the street from Tempe High School, and after graduation the owner took him on.

Eventually, he partnered in a store in Ahwatukee and owned one wholly on Camelback Road in Phoenix. But unhappy with the franchise deal and unable to take it over as his own, Stauffer eventually sold out.

Sidewinder Subs’ opening in 2010 was his Stauffer’s re-entry to his career after an eight-year absence and a chance to do it his own way, including that Arizona-themed name.

Stauffer insisted on fresh ingredients, fresh bread. He conjured up some original sandwiches on top of traditional favorites for the menu and borrowed ideas from TV. He also made it into more than a sandwich shop, with four big-screen TVs showing sports and five beers on tap, along with a selection of local brews.

“It's a very neighborhood kind of restaurant,” he said. “Since we only do lunch, it's very neighborhood-ish. Saturdays, it's busier than heck, and just tons of families come in nonstop.”

Three sandwiches to try

The Bomb

Croissant Turkey Avocado

Hot Pastrami

Sidewinder Subs

1455 W. Elliot Road, Gilbert


Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun. closed