September 10, 2013
A couple of soccer dads have brought a fast-sandwich chain to central Ohio. Which Wich opened in July at 5450 Westpointe Plaza Dr. in Hilliard.
“We saw this as an opportunity to do something fun with friends,” said Jeff Chilcoat. His business partners are Jim Szabo, who runs the day-to-day operations at Which Wich, and Jim Fountain and Tony Holtzman, two of Chilcoat’s friends in Indianapolis.
“We had been sitting on the sidelines of our kids’ soccer games for years and had become really good friends. We wanted to have a business together,” Chilcoat said.
“We had been looking for quite a few years at a number of different concepts, but we couldn’t find one that we thought was the right fit,” he said.
That’s when Chilcoat ran across a Which Wich in Indianapolis.
“It was the best sandwich I had ever tasted. It was fun, and the place had a good vibe.”
The partners inked a deal to open a Which Wich in Hilliard and have plans to open at least four more in the area soon. The two already are negotiating for two more spaces, although the deals are not final.
“We are looking all over, but we have our tunnel vision on Polaris, Upper Arlington and near campus,” Chilcoat said.
Which Wich is a sandwich shop that plays on the strength of the fast-casual concept, which lets customers choose their meal’s ingredients.
When customers enter the restaurant, they grab a printed sandwich bag, choose the sandwich they want, then mark on the outside of the bag the toppings and ingredients they prefer.
Sandwiches come in 7-, 10- and 14-inch sizes. Patrons can choose white or wheat bread and can make their meal “skinnier” by having the middle of the bread scooped out. Or they can opt for a Bowlwich, which is a sandwich with no bun served in a bowl, or a Lettucewich, in which ingredients are wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.
Sandwiches can be customized with a choice of double meat, bacon and sliced eggs. Ten cheeses are offered, plus Cheez Whiz. Sauce, condiment, spice and topping options abound, including mustard, mayo and onion varieties; hummus; veggies; sriracha (hot sauce); pesto; candied walnuts; and sauerkraut.
Prices for the sandwiches range from $5.50 to $11.
Response so far has been positive, Chilcoat said.
Hilliard wasn’t initially on the partners’ minds as a choice of location.
“I wasn’t as familiar as I should have been with the area, but when you look at the corridor along Hilliard-Rome Road, all the companies we feel most closely aligned with and have the same customers — Chipotle, Piada and Panera — are all there,” he said. “When we saw they were there and doing well, it made sense for us. We’re quick-casual but are also a destination people will be willing to drive out of their way for.”
The space began as a plain box.
“We had to build it out, and Which Wich has definite ideas on how a space has to look,” he said. They signed the lease in January and were open in July. They expect their next restaurants to have a faster turnaround time before opening.
Even though this is the partners’ first foray into the restaurant business, Chilcoat, who is the principal of Sterling Sports Management, isn’t worried.
“If I believe in something, I jump in with both feet,” Chilcoat said. “The response has been incredible, and at times we’ve had a line out the door. We’ve already run out of (loyalty) punch cards.”
Off the menu
• Hubbard Grille has launched its third annual cocktail-naming contest. The Short North restaurant has created four fall cocktails and is asking customers to log onto its Facebook page before Oct. 5 to suggest names and vote for their favorite.
• Moe’s Southwest Grill has opened at 2040 N. High St. and is marking the grand opening Thursday with $2 burritos all day. The Atlanta-based chain also plans to open a third central Ohio restaurant soon, in Dublin.
Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at email@example.com.