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Mitchell Subway owners named national franchisees of the year

Ken and Mary Jane Giblin, center, stand with their sons, Eric, left, and Scott, right, during the grand opening of their new Subway store at 802 N. Sanborn St. in September. (Photo courtesy of L.O. Imijri)

Icing on a cake isn't what you'd expect to find at a sandwich shop. But Mary Jane Giblin said her family's Subway franchise recently received just that.

During the annual Subway Convention, held July 30-Aug. 1 in Las Vegas, Mary Jane and her husband, Ken Giblin, were named as the national relocation franchisees of the year. This honor was given because the Giblins had a 40 percent sales increase—the highest in the nation—after relocating their store from 501 S. Sanborn St. to their new building at 802 N. Sanborn St.

The Giblins, of Mitchell, have been franchise owners since 1997. They said that out of the more than 44,000 Subway franchisees, they weren't expecting to win. They were just happy in their new location.

"We thought, after this many years of business, just being able to build that kind of a store was a reward for us," Giblin said. "And to have our kids involved in it, that was the big thing. So this was just the icing on the cake."

Mary Jane and Ken, along with two of their four children, Scott and Eric, own and operate five Subway stores—Mitchell's Sanborn, Interstate 90 and Walmart locations, along with stores in Parkston and Chamberlain.

After fielding requests from their customers at the old Sanborn store, the Giblin's decided to build in a new location to accommodate for more seating, more parking and, most importantly, a drive-thru. But they didn't stop there.

"We built a top-notch building," Giblin said. "There's not another one like it."

The drive-thru features a Nextep touchscreen kiosk for placing orders, digital menu boards and a separate sandwich unit used for the drive-thru, online orders and catering preparations to help speed up the process for their customers, all factors which Giblin said contributed to their significant increase in sales. By entering a phone number or passcode at the drive-thru, a record of customers' last three orders is shown, which can also save time, she said.

"Say you always get the same breakfast sandwich, or you want to order your favorite flatbread with the same things on it, then you don't even have to go through the touch screen order process of building your sandwich," Giblin explained.

Because the franchise is operated as a private business, all of the building decisions and financial responsibility were in the hands of the Giblins. The Subway corporation designates the interior decor, Giblin said, but otherwise, the design and features of the building, such as extra ovens, extra refrigeration space, a basement and an office, were all features that the family wanted personally and thought would be sound business investments.

At the three-day annual convention in Vegas, with roughly 6,000 attendees from national and international stores, Giblin said she was caught off guard when their names were announced.

"All of a sudden your picture comes up on the four great big screens on stage and they start talking about your store," she said. "I've never been to a convention where I've recognized anybody that has gotten the award. It's never been anyone in South Dakota, Minnesota or Nebraska, because I know all those franchisees."

The Giblins will receive a trophy in September at a district conference in Grand Island, Neb.; the trophy is to be displayed at their store.