The clock is ticking for old-time Dallas sub shop Great American Hero
A long-running sandwich shop in Dallas is coming to the end of the road: Great American Hero, which has been putting out well-made sub sandwiches for 47 years, is on the market with a plan to be gone by fall so that owner Dominick Oliverie can retire.
Oliverie, who is 74, says that he'd like to do some traveling and visit family.
"I've been doing this since 1974, and I love what I do — but I'm starting to get tired, especially in the last two years, which have been hard on everyone in the restaurant industry," he says.
Great American Hero is a venerable relic from the '70s which has been a cheerful fixture at 4001 Lemmon Ave. since 1975 (it started out downtown before relocating to its current space one year later).
The restaurant retains its lovable hippie roots, from its psychedelic exterior and famous "Dallas Love Wall" mural on the side to the tie-dye shirts worn by the employees, many of whom have worked there for 20, even 30 years.
At 1,450 square feet, the restaurant is small, but puts out an inordinate amount of food, between walk-ins, drive-thru, and catering.
Their volume did not flag during the pandemic; in fact, business has increased — but with fewer employees.
"I lost employees because of COVID-19, we had to close a week because someone got it, others' parents have died, and people have gotten used to staying home," he says.
Great American Hero has built up a loyal following by doing good-quality sandwiches with fresh ingredients. The menu has hot and cold sandwiches — from meatball subs and Cuban panini to deli meat subs with meats sliced to order, thick or thin, plus seven kinds of veggie subs.
There's also tuna salad and hummus which, in true Oliverie manner, he describes as the BEST in Dallas. His gregarious charm is a big part of the shop's appeal. He's a native of New Jersey with a master's degree from Rutgers University who moved to Dallas with his wife when she transferred for her job with American Airlines.
He and his brother opened a few shops before Dominick decided to focus on one location.
On his website, he lists dozens of reasons, many of them amusing, why Great American Hero is the "BEST":
- Plenty of plants – seen on our Patio every day
- Half sandwiches, whole & double meat subs, plus half and whole salads
- More types of chef, Caesar, & dinner salads than any other sandwich shop in town, using a healthier spring mix with Romaine, green leaf, and other greens
- Fresh squeezed Lemonade and Limeade - "none of that CountryTime stuff," Oliverie says
- Soups, usually 3 types: 1-chicken based, 1-vegetarian, 1-cream base
- "Our Prices all come out to 25¢ / 50¢ / 75¢ / or $. WE DO NOT NICKEL or DIME YOU"
- First ones in Texas to get and use Dyson Hand Dryers in our bathrooms – you have to give them a try – they will blow you away!
- Pet friendly patio – we supply ice water. Doggie scraps and doggie treats given our at our Drive-Thru
- Best back fence in Dallas – built by myself & our own employees – go take a look.
They also do hand-dipped shakes, malts, and ice cream sodas. And they're philanthropic, donating to a minimum of 20 different charities every year, and sponsoring local softball teams with donations, T-shirts, and car washes.
Oliverie is working with Shop Companies to sell the space, and they've fielded lots of inquiries, although they hit a snag when they discovered that, despite the fact that he's had a drive-thru all these years, his location is actually coded by the city as a drive-in. The lawyers are working it out, he says.
"A drive-in would be like Keller's, and we've always had a drive-thru," he says. "We couldn't find my original Certificate of Occupancy, so we don't know if it's been like that all along. I remember the first building inspector who okayed me to open — Rudy Young. He was my first customer."
"I'd just like to be retired by October, so I can spend the holidays with family," he says.