By Emily G. Peters
Pasadena is full of experiences worth waiting for. Take Union Street Sandwich Company, for instance: slinging stellar sandwiches since 2015 under the careful guidance of owner Stacy Ober. Yet even with Ober’s 30-plus years of culinary experience, she took her time to ensure the shop would succeed.
“It was never my dream to own a restaurant, other than the far-off fantasy that many talk about, like moving to a seaside village and selling blueberry muffins,” said Ober. “Opening USSC was the idea of a dear friend—and grew into a leap of faith.”
Ober’s leap was trickier than most; she was about to take over a failing business. Rather than drive headlong like some entrepreneurs might, she chose the scenic route.
“I waited three months prior to signing the lease to sit inside the space. I studied what the customers bought. I watched patterns of traffic. And then I asked friends and colleagues in the business to talk me out of this crazy proposition!” she joked. But all those observations paid off, as Ober collected small but significant ways to improve the shop.
“Since we eat with our eyes and nose, my menu is focused on eating food that makes us feel good; emotionally and physically,” she explained. “What distinguishes Union Street Sandwich Co. from other sandwich shops is we’re actually cooking here. With the exception of our imported Italian meats, all of our meats are organic and roasted daily on-site. When a customer comes into the shop, invariably they comment that it smells so good. It may be the applewood smoked bacon or roasted turkey—but it always smells good and like home.”
Ober dipped into her own home-life for inspiration too—the brisket (which is sublime) and even biscotti are from her childhood recipe box. And while Union Street Sandwich Company is fast-casual, that ethic of waiting prevents it from succumbing to the genre’s pitfalls.
“We are not fast food. We’re a place to hang out, take a break from work, eat something delicious and healthy and just relax. We want to visit with you,” said Ober. “I have communal tables, a large, squishy chair from home, and wonderful outdoor seating with big umbrellas. I want customers to feel like they’re at my home or in my backyard.”
It appears that hope has become a reality. This once-struggling sandwich shop won “Best Of Pasadena” awards in 2016 and 2017 and has found comrades with fellow tasty spots taking up residence on Union Street. Ober doesn’t take her customers’ support for granted.
“It’s become so easy to shop or order food online that the art of conversation and human connection is becoming rare. Supporting a bar or your favorite coffee shop is not only important for our collective economy, but our souls,” she said. “There are definitely nights when I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering what the heck am I [sic] doing. But then the next day sales are great and perhaps a customer comes in and shares a personal story or a hug. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked—and the best choice I’ve ever made.”
Union Street Sandwich Company is located at 109 E. Union St. in Pasadena. For more information, contact the Union Street Sandwich Company team at unionsandwich.com | (626) 639-3575 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @unionsandwich.