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24-year-old hopes to grow Walrus Subs into a chain



Published: Fri, January 4, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.

photo

Nicole Brooks, left, prepares a gyro at Walrus Subs on Raccoon Road in Austintown. She and owner Alie Ruheim have worked together for a year, and she says the restaurant is a “home away from home” for her.

By SUSAN TEBBEN

stebben@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

The 24-year-old owner of Walrus Subs on Raccoon Road hopes it’s not just the giant walrus mascot or the oil painting of John Lennon greeting visitors at the door that keep people coming back.

“I bought the dream,” said Alie Ruheim, Walrus Subs’ owner who also cooks, cleans, preps, opens and closes his shop.

He takes orders by phone and in person, making sure to ask how the customer is doing, he said.

“The biggest thing is treating people well,” Ruheim said. “Consistency is key.”

He cooks the subs, cheesesteaks, gyros and other things on his menu, ranging from $5 to $10. Daily specials are listed on a dry-erase board at the front of the restaurant. He cuts the meat for the gyros off the spinning rotisserie — meat he buys from a business in Warren.

“I try to buy everything local,” he said, adding that ingredients are key for his food to taste authentic. “My cheese-steaks are straight out of Philadelphia, my gyros are straight out of Greece.”

Formerly of Brookfield, Ruheim was looking for a business when he stumbled upon the Austintown shop looking for a new owner after the former owners wanted to leave the business a year and a half ago.

He has only one other employee, but he gets a little help from someone even closer to him. His mother, Rose Mary, not only helps take in shipments and keep supplies ready for orders, she lets Ruheim use her marinara recipe.

“She’s a full-blooded Italian, so she knows how to make it,” Ruheim said.

Rose Mary Ruheim said she would help her son get started in the business and has been impressed with his work.

“I told him he’s going to put a lot of time into this place and [success] is not going to happen in one year,” she said. “He knows how that is because of the hours his dad put in at his stores.”

As the son of a convenience store owner, Ruheim had experience in that end of the retail business, but he wanted to move into the restaurant business and bring new life to the sub-shop domain, a dominant category in the food world.

But Ruheim doesn’t look to places such as Subway and Quiznos for his inspiration to become the next big chain. He only has to look across the road to Fernando’s Wedgewood Pizza.

“I look up to him,” Ruheim said. “He’s an institution over there, and he’s part of the community. That’s what I want to be.”

In his efforts to become a part of the community — arguably the most important part of owning a business, Ruheim said — he has reached out to the Austintown schools, feeding the football players his signature cheesesteaks and gyros. He has reached out to other local businesses as well, allowing many to keep their business cards on the front counter, within easy reach for customers.

The one other employee, Nicole Brooks, has been along for the ride for a year and said the restaurant is a “home away from home” for her.

“I love the environment,” Brooks said. “Alie works with me, and I enjoy the cooking. It’s just a nice place to be.”

Though he has only one shop right now, Ruheim’s goal is, of course, to expand. He said the only way to become a big-time chain is to believe it’s going to happen.

“When I have my franchise,” he said, “I want to find family-oriented people, that’s the biggest thing for me: people that want to have a family-owned business, who are dedicated to it.”

The hardest part of Ruheim’s time as the owner of Walrus Subs has been getting the customers back in and getting the word out that the shop is different, despite the name they might recognize.

“Before we bought it, there were inconsistencies,” Ruheim said. “Now we’re doing things differently, with a better product and so much to choose from.”


Comments

1youngstownsteve(75 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Why no mention of his partner Lee Rimple? He was putting in 12 hours everyday too.

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2ElPolloRetrasado(202 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm glad to see there are new owners. Went there for lunch once for work, ordered for 6 people, told us 45 minutes because they were busy, no problem, sent someone to pick it up, order wasn't ready for another hour and a half. We waited 2 hours and 15 minutes for our order and the fix from the management was half off our next order!! Next order?!?! Are you crazy, never went back! Good luck kid, don't keep the same values as the last owners.

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3excel(281 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I like SUBWAY best!

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4DwightK(1256 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The country needs more people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Lots of people complain about not having a job or not being able to find one and here is a guy doing it his own way. Good luck in your endeavors, I hope Walrus subs is a success.

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5Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Love to see this. A young adult actually trying to succeed. A productive member of society. Wish more would follow his example instead of just wanting handouts and complaining all the time.
Working hard and following his dream.
Good Luck Alie Ruheim

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6AtownParent(562 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Have ordered from there, some of the best cheese steaks around and the fries are awesome! Very friendly people. Haven't tried the gyros yet but after reading this we will. Good luck and I hope your business flourishes!

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7lovedrama(138 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

great food here! subway sucks--I mean, could they b more chintzy? Half a ppiece of cheese cost like a buck extra

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8Ramax22(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Yay Ali!!!! told you you were meant for good things kid! So proud of you. Will make a point to come check out your fabulous new digs!
Wishing you all the success.
-officer Rudolph.

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9Ytownnative(1036 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I was there a year ago and the food was terrible . I will have to give them a try again

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10blessing205(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

hey this place is great owner is very friendly and food is unbelievable and by the way Youngstown Steve Alie and lee parted a month ago Alie fully took over and him and lee are great friends almost brothers.lee had other interest he wanted to pursue

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11shutyourface(246 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I stopped in about a year ago and it was not good service and the food was average. BUT.... I will give Alie another chance.

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12ruby25(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I love this place.....food is excellent and the service is great! Good luck and conrats Alie....u deserve the best!

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13ruby25(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

@youngstownsteve Lee is no longer Alies partner...thats why he wasnt mentioned....to be acknowledged you have to want to work and put the time in and Alie is doing that.

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14papa1(662 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

i am not a big fan of subway. what the world needs is someone who knows the secrets of an awesome sub. i hope you are he kid. good luck. this is how sam covellie started panera breads. you go get 'em. by the way, the secret is lots of onions and oil and vinegar. you can't lose.

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15meandoctorx(14 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I will make a trip that way to give the guy a chance. I love his attitude and how he isn't just in it to get rich. It's hard to find someone who cares about the people. Cheers to you & may 2013 be a prosperous year for your young business! : )

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16excel(281 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

For gourmet subs on the way to Tionesta PA and the Kinzua Dam.

On Route 62 going to Tionesta, PA. They are located on the outskirts of town with plenty of parking.

Villa Italia Ristorante

904 E 2nd St, Oil City, PA 16301-2443

"The Villa is a staple. Their subs are so good, they're ruin you for any other sub shop. My only regret is I didn't eat there more!"

http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos...

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17judysue(3 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I love this place. I have never been unhappy with any of the food I ordered. I order dinner a couple of times a month and will always go there for as long as they are open. I initaly thought the prices were a little high, they I took my first bite! Well worth every penny. It's a happy night at our house when I bring home Walrus subs! Very nice young men and always very prompt! I hope they are very successful!

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18peggygurney(392 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Good luck to you young man. You have our best wishes for a successful future.

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1976Ytown(1242 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Good luck to you Alie, wish you much success!

Shop local, buy local and this area will flourish! Think twice before supporting the big box stores and chain restaurants.

Need lots more people like you with the guts to grow this economy and reverse the recent years' trend of small businesses closing their doors.

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