DOVER — When Michael Koman and his wife Michelle were looking for business opportunities a few years ago, they were also looking for something more than a typical franchise agreement.
Koman said that is what made Firehouse Subs different.
“The very first phone call was, ‘Welcome to the family,’ and that really stood out from them as a company,” Koman said last week at the newest Firehouse Subs franchise in the Granite State.
Koman and his 25-person crew opened an 1,800-square-foot location on Central Avenue in Dover on May 6. The restaurant can seat 39 people. In keeping with the theme of Firehouse Subs, which was founded by former firefighters, the interior features a hand-painted mural by company mural artist Joe Puskas depicting a local hero from the Dover Fire Department in front of the Cocheco Mills.
This is Koman’s second Firehouse Subs franchise. He opened a location in Biddeford, Maine, in 2016, and is looking to start a third restaurant next spring in Westbrook, Maine. He said he financed the business with an SBA loan secured through a regional bank and personal funds he and his wife had saved.
Koman hopes to someday expand into Portsmouth and Seabrook, and into South Portland, Maine. To him, being a Firehouse Subs franchisee is more than a business opportunity; it’s a chance to give back to the community.
In 2005, company founders Chris and Robin Sorensen created the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation to provide funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first responders and public safety organizations. The foundation has granted more than $49,000 in New Hampshire, $263,000 in Maine and a total of $42 million to hometown heroes in 49 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
“We’re already working with Dover Fire Department on their first grant,” Koman said.
That dedication to helping others is something that comes naturally to Koman, who served in the military for 23 years and spent 15 years working at the University of South Carolina as the director of sustainability.
“A lot of what we did there was developing young people to be future leaders,” said Koman, who continues to serve in the National Guard.
Koman said he now works side by side with his employees at Firehouse Subs, which helps him mentor them as they grow. He recalled a time when a young person needed help to move into a new residence, and fellow employees stepped up to provide basic furniture.
“We like to think that’s part of the culture,” Koman said.
Firehouse Subs has more than 1,160 restaurants in 46 states and Puerto Rico. The new location in Dover is the third in New Hampshire; the other locations are in Nashua and Manchester.
Firehouse Subs in Dover is open from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.