This Sunday saw the final day of Subway on Spring Street. The shop, which opened in 2009, rejoined Spring Street two years after a prior location burned down in 2007. Owner Brigesh Patel previously owned a Subway restaurant in North Adams and an additional two in Williamstown, but he sold the other Williamstown locations last year and the North Adams location last week.
Patel claimed that he closed the Spring Street location for both familial and economic reasons. “When we first opened, we used to stay open until 11 [p.m.] because there were so many students,” he said. “I remember the first few years, we actually had to push people out at 11. Right now, we would be lucky if we had people until 9.”
In addition to competition with other businesses on Spring Street, Patel believes that recent changes to the College’s meal plan also played a prominent role in lowering his business’ success with College students.
This past fall, the College made three changes in meal accessibility that Patel believes were relevant to his business: eliminating the 10-meal plan and five-meal plan options for students, allowing students to use two swipes for a single meal and opening Lee Snack Bar from 2 to 5 p.m. at lunch equivalency. These changes came in response to student research revealing food insecurity issues on campus.
Patel cited the end of the 10- and five-meal plans in particular as a relevant factor in his ultimate decision to sell the Subway on Spring Street. “The students tell me they used to be on a 10-meal plan, and now they’re on 14,” Patel said. “We used to see them two or three times a week, but they hardly come once anymore.”
Patel also speculated on a few other factors that could have affected business. He noticed that orders from the College decreased markedly in recent years. “We get orders from the College here or there, but it’s not the same as it was the first few years,” he said.
He also believes that business from visitors to Williamstown has steadily declined over the years. “We used to be busy on the weekends from people visiting for tournaments, but the College often feeds them,” he said. Visiting teams’ meals are managed by individual schools’ coaches. Some of these teams choose to dine at a variety of Spring Street restaurants such as Subway, while others prefer to eat in College dining halls as a matter of convenience.
Patel emphasized the importance of the relationship between members of the College community and the local businesses on Spring Street and elsewhere. “Our business on Spring Street relied on the faculty and the students,” he said. “Any change at the College affects the small businesses.”
While Patel cited these alterations at the College as possibly decreasing business, changes at the Subway franchise as a whole may have also played a role in the fate of the Subway on Spring Street. The company recently announced that it plans to close 500 out of its 27,000 U.S. stores this year in order to focus on its growth outside of the United States. This continues Subway’s trend in recent years of shutting down U.S. stores in order to expand internationally; this year, Subway anticipates opening more than 1000 new stores outside of North America. CBS Boston quoted the company on its decision to change focus: “Looking out over the next decade, we anticipate having a slightly smaller but more profitable footprint in North America and a significantly larger footprint in the rest of the world.”