Dave Garey | For NJ Press Media | September 10, 2011
PARSIPPANY — A splash of pink has burst upon the scene at Jersey Mike’s Subs, appearing on everything from food counters and wrapping paper to take-out bags, cups and T-shirts.
The alteration in decor ties into a six-month commitment by the sub sandwich chain to raise at least $350,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the foundation dedicated to fighting breast cancer through research and public awareness.
For Lisa Dob, franchisee of Jersey Mike’s in Parsippany, the cause hits home.
“I took care of my mom when she battled through breast cancer,” Dob said. “I feel like I’m doing this fundraising specifically for her.”
Standing in line at Dob’s restaurant, customers see a rainbow arc of pink-emblazoned $1, $3 and $5 donation cards strung across the glass casing of the sandwich prep counter. The cards are sold at the register and then hung to mark the donation.
Patrons can also support the campaign by buying soft drinks in special 22-ounce reusable cups, or a “Pink Ribbon Combo” featuring the cup and chips — from which 70 cents of each purchase goes to Komen. The Manasquan-based chain says it will donate 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of limited edition “Mike’s Way to a Cure” T-Shirts.
Dob, 26, is one of the youngest owner-operators within Jersey Mike’s roster of 500-plus restaurants nationwide, and gets high marks from New Jersey Area Director Evan Mayer for exemplary customer service.
“Lisa is incredibly outgoing. She has a lot of energy — and a lot of fun with her customers,” Mayer said.
Given her passion for kibitzing with guests, Dob is not surprised that many have expressed appreciation to her for the fundraising effort — which runs through October — amid placing orders for such menu hits as The Original Italian and Big Kahuna Cheese Steak.
“A lot of customers are sharing stories about loved ones that they’ve seen struggle through the disease,” Dob said. “I’m hearing ‘Thank you for doing this’ a lot.”
Dob was a senior at Whippany Park High School when her mother, Kelly, was diagnosed with breast cancer. This followed a serious lupus condition that her mother had fought the previous two years.
“My brother and sister had already moved out, so I was my mom’s in-house nurse between when I was 16 and 21. We literally became attached at the hip,” Dob said.
Dob believes the experience provided an important reality check. “I’m going to high school listening to kids complain that their parents didn’t buy them a Lexus, and here I am giving my mom a bath after her lumpectomy,” Dob said. “I was just grateful that she was alive.”
The Jersey Mike’s connection began for Dob in 2002, when she applied for a job making subs at the Whippany store.
Owner John Hankinson recalls being in awe of Dob’s ability to shoulder an amazing amount of responsibility for a person her age. “Lisa was 16 years old when I hired her. She was nursing her mother, going to school fulltime and working in the shop,” Hankinson said.
“I remember her picking up the phone at work, and saying ‘Mom, you can’t take the green pill now,’ ” he added, as an example of Dob’s constant concern for her mother — and superb skills at multitasking.
Dob shined in her work at Jersey Mike’s — prompting Hankinson to promote her to general manager shortly after she graduated as an honor roll student from high school. “She was always effervescent at the job, building relationships with our customers,” Hankinson said. “She was the strongest team member.”
Dob took on the added role of mentoring future Jersey Mike’s owners and managers, while earning her degree in hospitality management at County College of Morris.
So when space became available at 317 Smith Road in Parsippany three years ago, it seemed only natural for Dob to operate her own shop, said Hankinson, who provided a portion of the financing.
Becoming a Jersey Mike’s owner-operator was a dream come true for Dob.
“I was ecstatic — almost in shock — when we signed the lease and construction began. I still can’t believe it,” she said.
Kelly Dob has relocated to Arizona, but says she enjoys dropping by her daughter’s eatery whenever she returns home, and takes pride in “watching the way Lisa interacts with customers.”
Reached by phone during a trip to the Jersey Shore, Kelly Dob found it poignant that Lisa was involved in the crusade against breast cancer, and said the restaurant’s campaign has spurred discussion between the two.
“Lisa wondered where we would be without all the research that has been done,” Kelly Dob said, noting that breast cancer is entrenched in the family. “Both of Lisa’s grandmothers have had breast cancer, as well as a great grandmother and aunt.”
Kelly Dob has reached the milestone of having her breast cancer in remission for more than six years and considers Lisa her inspiration.
“Without hesitation, without complaining, Lisa just helped me up, she cared for me and she encouraged me,” Kelly Dob said. “I’m just thankful that she’s my daughter.”
Dob’s father, Ron, who resides in North Carolina, was recently spotted at the restaurant wearing a Komen T-Shirt. “We’re getting together for my dad’s 90th birthday party, and Lisa’s catering it,” he said.
Although individual store breakdowns were unavailable, the Komen campaign has exceeded Jersey Mike’s minimum donation commitment.
“Nationwide, we’re already at about $600,000, so we’re really hoping to hit a million dollars,” area director Mayer said.
To help reach that goal, the Parsippany and Whippany locations will host two all-day fundraisers — on Sept. 22 and October 5 — with a percentage of total sales from both days going to Komen.
Tables will be set up with free literature addressing topics such as the importance of early breast cancer detection and mammograms, along with registration information for the 2012 Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure. Local sorority sisters from Zeta Tau Alpha, which has adopted Komen as its national charity, will visit.
Between exchanging greetings with customers who had shown up for subs and wraps just hours before Hurricane Irene, Dob shared the valuable lesson she’s learned from her mother’s bout with breast cancer.
“It made me appreciate how short life is, and it made me appreciate people — especially my family.”