After 16 months, The Grand Sandwich closes its doors

By Hazel schaeffer

Local eatery The Grand Sandwich closed after 16 months of business last Monday, succumbing to the difficulties of making a new restaurant profitable. The latest of a string of shops to leave the area after the Aria Tea Bar and Homemade Pizza Co, The Grand Sandwich stuck out in one major way: it was opened the September after its owner Dan Esrig ’10 graduated Macalester. The Economics and Geography double major from Evanston, IL raised funds from private investors, even adding $16,000 of his own from winning an online poker tournament. “All of a sudden this guy comes in and says he wants to open a sandwich shop on Grand Avenue,” his advisor, Economics professor Paul Aslanian said in an interview with The Mac Weekly the month Esrig’s shop opened. “I think he’s the only student I’ve ever had whose had that entrepreneurial instinct, that he wanted to just graduate, walk across the stage, and start working on his restaurant.” However after just under a year and a half the restaurant was struggling to break even every month after funding supplies, labor and rent. “I basically lived off delivery tips for a year,” Esrig said. Esrig said he realized he would need to double the revenue from even his most successful months to make a profit on The Grand Sandwich. He came up with a few plans, like buying a fryer or grill to turn the business into a full-time restaurant, and hoped to sell shares of the business to pay for the them. Once he realized that taking his business to the next level might require soliciting upwards of $75,000, however, Esrig was forced to conclude that the plan was a not a good move for either his business or his career. “There is another piece of that, which is “What does my career look like and what am I trying to get out of this?” Esrig said. “From the very beginning [my aim] was to start something that will be good for the community, a fun place for people to be, serve the need of late night food in this area, but to do it in a way that helps me gain business experience.” “It did that,” he added. “I would have loved to keep it going two or three more years and be successful but you have to be realistic about these things. Very few restaurants end up being successful.” Esrig said that he undercapitalized before opening and thus didn’t have a buffer for slower periods or unforeseen costs. “I borrowed money from a bank, I maxed out credit cards,” Esrig said. “I wasn’t able to have a cushion to deal with the summer months. Big companies may have a bad quarter and share prices go down. When I had a bad day it was difficult to keep things afloat.” Yet Esrig said he has no regrets. “I’ve only had one person describe [Grand Sandwich] as a failure, Paul Aslanian, who is one of my very close friends,” Esrig said. “And he only said that in a way to see how I reacted. I think. Maybe the business didn’t work out but I don’t think it’s because we had bad management or bad food … you can go out on a good note versus trying to stay afloat and having the quality go down.” “How many people do you talk to who are a little older who say, ‘Oh, man, I want to start a coffee shop,’ or ‘I want to open my own business’?” Esrig added. “People want to do that, I wanted to do that, and you only have so many opportunities to do those kinds of things. I’m a strong believer in reaching for opportunity and making things happen for yourself.” Last Monday night, after closing for the last time, Esrig threw a going-away party for friends of The Grand Sandwich. One of The Grand Sandwich’s niches rested in providing late night food. Another enticement—the shop’s liquor license—attracted upperclassmen. “I’m still not quite over the fact that it closed,” Dan Allen ’12 said. “Mac really needs a nearby, friendly pub/bar setting for its 21+ aged students. As a fellow Chicago native, Dan carried Goose Island beer which is a personal favorite, so there were a lot of drinks and laughs had there.” Even with the shop closed, Esrig still gets some dividends from his time as a business owner. “I never got sick of [Grand Sandwich food],” Esrig said. “To tell you the truth, I have corn beef left over and the last four days I’ve made sandwiches in my house.” refresh –>