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Jake and Alexis Peters are the owners of the new Detroit Lakes Jimmy John's, located in the new Downtown Crossing. Photo by Paula Quam

Jimmy John's opens in Detroit Lakes

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It's a name known all over the country -- Jimmy John's.

Now, the gourmet sub shop famous for its rock-n-roll atmosphere and "freaky fast" delivery has rolled into Detroit Lakes.

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The buzz and hype leading up to its opening has translated into a busy business for owners Jake and Alexis Peters, who have found themselves in a whirlwind of change.

The Park Rapids couple was high school sweethearts -- she worked at her parent's orthodontics laboratory doing marketing; he did the financing for them (after an eight-year stint building log homes). But the couple has always wanted something more ... something of their own.

"We talked about doing some sort of franchise for a long time and just kind of kept tabs on which ones were doing well," said Alexis, talking over the rock-n-roll music of their new, Jimmy John's, which is decorated with modern décor and humorous signs.

But talk quickly turned into action almost a year and a half ago when Alexis picked up a flyer for franchise opportunities while eating at another Jimmy John's. "And I called Jake and said, 'We're doing this -- we're going,'" she said.

The couple made the trip to the corporate headquarters in Champaign, Ill., where they spent the day getting the sales pitch and visiting different restaurants.

The idea was to see if they were Jimmy John's material and if Jimmy John's was something they really wanted to do.

They did. "We just took one little step, then another step, then another until it was happening," said Jake, "and I had absolutely no experience in the food business, but I think that was a good thing because it allowed me to go into it without any pre-conceived ideas. I was able to totally buy into it because I had no idea of how to do it any other way (other than the Jimmy John's way)."

As if it were meant to be, Jimmy John's, which had very few locations left available in Minnesota, did have an unclaimed opportunity in Detroit Lakes ... just 40 miles down the road from the Peters.

"And we've always liked DL," said Alexis, who started looking into the economic picture of the city, "and this was a place that even during harder economic times, was still thriving and growing ... it's so awesome."

Last fall, the Peters began scoping out a spot for their future Jimmy John's in Detroit Lakes and noticed a place around highway 10 where they were pushing some dirt -- a place they were calling "The Downtown Crossing."

"It's a great location, so I called (the developer) and just went from there," said Jake. Construction of the third of the three-building complex began once occupancy was strong enough, and the new Detroit Lakes Jimmy John's opened its doors last month. Since then, it's been non-stop for the Peters. "I haven't had a day off since," said Jake, smiling, knowing that that's a good problem to have.

Every morning, he and some of the other 30 Jimmy John's employees are busy chopping fresh vegetables, slicing meat and baking bread.

Nothing is pre-packaged and after only four hours, the bread is considered too old. "So if we bake too much, we sell it for 50 cents a loaf," said Jake, pointing to a small pile of French-style and seven-grain bread.

The Peters' 3-year-old daughter, Aubrey, ends up getting some seriously good PB&J's from those leftovers. "She thinks it's her Jimmy John's," laughed Alexis.

Aubrey isn't the only fan, though. The Peters say the community has really embraced their sub shop, with the drive-thru, catering and delivery "picking up speed."

Cars with little Jimmy John's signs can now be spotted around town, delivering the cold-cut, eight-inch, freshly made sandwiches in a "freaky-fast" manner, but it's also one area where the Peters have run into a few complaints.

"Because we want to make sure that it's fast and tight, we're only able to deliver out two to three miles," said Jake. "So we get people who don't understand why they're within city limits and we can't deliver to them, but we're trying to work with corporate to see if we can extend that out a little bit."

The Peters say the very fast mode that Jimmy John's is famous for can sometimes be misconstrued as rude to the slower-paced upper Minnesotans, but they say they're working on finding that right balance between keeping true to the Jimmy John's culture and the one Detroit Lakes residence are accustomed to.

"I do think they (customers) are really starting to get used to us now, though," said Jake.

And they're certainly getting used to those subs -- all 25 different kinds of them.

"And any of our subs can be made into a lettuce wrap for a low-carb option, too," said Alexis.

Jimmy John's is technically open from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., but the rule there is, if the bread is done, the store is open for business.

"And we usually get done baking the bread around 9:30 (in the morning)," said Jake.

To order up some of that freaky fast food, call 844-7800.

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