Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pine Ridge Subway under construction

Pine Ridge Subway under construction
Proprietors tout healthful options
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal staff Thursday, May 22, 2008

Construction is scheduled to start this week on a new Subway restaurant in downtown Pine Ridge, and local residents can expect to be ordering sandwiches there before the first drumbeats sound at the Oglala Lakota Nation Fair in August.

"We want to have all our employees trained before the fair starts," said Darlene Nichols-Ecoffey, who is opening the business with her husband, Bob Ecoffey, the Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent for the Pine Ridge Agency. "People are pretty excited that we're opening."

They had hoped to open even sooner. The couple is originally from Pine Ridge but recently moved back from Aberdeen, where Bob worked for the BIA. They also owned a fast food restaurant there.

Nichols-Ecoffey said she had taken to bringing a sack lunch when she visited Pine Ridge because she didn't like the dining options. Inspired partly by that, she and her husband began working last fall on opening a Subway in Pine Ridge.

"It's taken us all this time because we did try a lot of banks," Nichols-Ecoffey said. With help from the Lakota Fund community development organization and First National Bank in Gordon, Neb., they were finally able to finance the project.

"We tried all the big banks, and it was very frustrating because we were turned down by a lot of people," she said.

Would-be entrepreneurs have often cited problems finding financing for reservation businesses as one of the main reasons there isn't more economic development in Pine Ridge. That turned out to be an obstacle even for the agency superintendent.

"People were saying, 'My gosh, if you can't get financing ...,'" Nichols-Ecoffey said.

But they did, and the project is underway. Mike Carlow Enterprises, a Pine Ridge company, is doing the construction. The building will be directly across from the tribal offices, just west of the four-way stoplight on Main Street.

It will also be within a block or two of Taco John's, Pizza Hut, and Big Bat's convenience store. Currently, those are the main options for eating out in Pine Ridge Village.

Nichols-Ecoffey said they're hoping that Subway -- which offers healthful sandwich options, including fresh vegetable toppings, and no fried foods -- will provide a more nutritious alternative for local residents.

"With the rate of diabetes, I think it's an excellent option for people," Nichols-Ecoffey said.

It's sure been an excellent option for her nephew, Lawrence Iron Cloud, who, like Subway's spokesman Jared Fogel, lost more than 100 pounds while regularly eating Subway sandwiches.

Iron Cloud, who grew up in Pine Ridge and Rapid City, has been managing Subway restaurants in Minnesota for six years and will move back to manage the Pine Ridge store. Nichols-Ecoffey said her nephew lost 110 pounds in less than a year by eating more healthful foods and working out daily.

The Pine Ridge restaurant will employ 12 to 15 people. Applications will be available sometime in June.

Meanwhile, Darlene and Bob will spend two weeks at a special class for franchise owners plus do a 40-hour online course. They are required to personally oversee the business operations.

"We'll really know about Subway by the time we actually open it," she said. If the Pine Ridge restaurant is successful, she said they plan to look at opening Subway restaurants elsewhere on the reservation.

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