JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Firehouse Subs has major plans for international expansion in Mexico and Canada.
The wildly popular chain got its start in Jacksonville. Brothers and firefighters Robin and Chris Sorensen opened the first sub shop in 1994 in Mandarin.
It's now one of the fastest growing franchises in the nation with 583 stores in 35 states plus Puerto Rico.
Many of their longtime patrons consider the chain to be a source of pride for the River City.
"It's the only sub place I eat at," said customer Danielle Johnson.
According to the chief executive officer, they've been considering expanding overseas ever since they opened restaurants in Puerto Rico.
"We entered that market with great success. We have already opened seven restaurants in that market in about a 14 to 15 month period, sales volume are well above our performance in the U.S.," Don Fox, Chief Executive Officer.
Mexico and Canada are next on the list.
"We're still doing our due diligence. We're a little farther ahead in the planning for Mexico than we are in Canada," said Fox.
Before they thought of our neighbors to the north and south, they first had their sights on Brazil.
But on a business trip to the South American country, Fox noticed one cultural challenge. Brazilians don't like eating with their hands.
Another advantage of opening up in Mexico is that Firehouse Subs had already translated its documentation to Spanish when it first opened its stores in Puerto Rico more than a year ago.
Fox says their unprecedented growth only means more opportunities for the city of Jacksonville.
"As we look at opportunities to grow internationally, as well as continue domestic development, that's going to allow us to continue to expand the staff support and create job opportunities for people in Jacksonville," said Fox.
Firehouse Subs expects to be up and running in Mexico by the end of this year and by 2014 in Canada.