Citizens of Seattle- your world is about to get totally rocked by the best sandwich franchise in the U.S.A.! Thanks to Doug Engerman, our newest member of the Cheba Hut family, the great state of Washington is slated to get THREE new Cheba Hut locations. Doug’s first Cheba Hut will open later this year in Bellingham, a Seattle suburb with a laid-back, approachable vibe that Doug felt would be ideal for a “toasted” sandwich shop franchise that prides itself on being anything but ordinary.
“Ever since I became acquainted with Cheba, I always thought that Bellingham, culturally, is a ready-made market for Cheba Hut,” explains Doug, who has lived in Washington for over two decades. “Bellingham has a Bohemian flair to it, and 40,000 college students. It feels like a good match not only to me but [Chief Relationship Officer] Seth [Larsen] and other corporate members agree completely.”
Finding the best location is nothing new to Doug, who moved his family to the Seattle area 20 years ago for a job opportunity, and has been happy about that decision ever since. “I’m a Chicago kid,” he says, “born and raised on the north side of Chicago. I moved my family out here and we’ve never looked back.” Doug, who lives in the town of Blaine, at the northernmost point of Washington State near the Canada border, says the breathtaking natural backdrop was one of the biggest attractions for him. “This is really come to be what we think of as home because of the surroundings,” he says. “The natural beauty is really hard to match- no offense to Colorado, but we have everything Colorado does, plus water!”
That’s not the only parallel Doug draws between Washington and Cheba Hut’s birthplace of Colorado. He acknowledges that, after Colorado, Washington was the second state to legalize cannabis. “We’re number two- we try harder,” he jokes. Since we’re a sandwich franchise and sell food products only, it’s not necessary for a state to legalize cannabis consumption before it can get down with some sweet Cheba goodness. However, as cannabis legalization sweeps across America, more people are eager to embrace the cannabis-themed culture of Cheba Hut. As a state that was one of the first to legalize cannabis products, Doug feels that Washington is in excellent position for a Cheba Hut sandwich franchise of their own, especially after seeing that we’ve been kicking so much ass in states that haven’t even legalized it yet, like New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida.
Doug’s eclectic background and interests have equipped him with a great skill set for bringing the country’s best sandwich franchise to his community. As a former owner of a company that makes tech products, he has proven that he has the entrepreneurial savvy to successfully run a business. “I’ve pretty much spent my entire career in the tech industry,” he explains. “Specifically I’ve been a software entrepreneur and have been involved in software company start ups, and for the last 13 years I’ve been involved in software company turnarounds. I get involved to help chart a new course in software companies that are underperforming. That’s what I was doing up until a few years ago, and then I had an opportunity to buy a small tech company here in the Northwest.”
Believe it or not, Doug’s impressive tech background also feeds into his passion for music- in addition to being involved in the electronic components industry, he also sings and plays drums and other percussion instruments. “I’m a musician and a lot of software guys double as musicians,” says Doug. “With music, it’s another symbolic language like software programming and it’s a lot of mathematics involved.” Doug’s love of music shines through as he talks about his current involvement in two separate bands. “At the moment, I play in two different bands – one is a jazz group that we started up about 7 years ago now with some guys that were in a software company that I was managing at the time,” Doug says. The band specializes in West Coast and fusion style jazz- “cool jazz, not traditional,” he clarifies.
Doug also plays in one of the hottest funk bands in the Northwest – a 9-piece ensemble called the Cosmic Sauce. “[My involvement in two bands] keeps me ‘well overcommitted,’ as my wife would say,” he laughs.
Between his performing commitments and his work schedule, Doug acknowledges that he doesn’t have much free time left. However, he is an avid fisherman who enjoys both freshwater and saltwater fishing. “I have a fishing boat that I keep here that’s just a few blocks from my house,” says Doug. “I manage to get out fishing for salmon and crab. A lot of people take advantage of the really great summer months out here, they’re as good as it gets. We have pretty much four solid months of boating and a couple of months of solid fishing so it’s a great lifestyle.”
Doug’s introduction to the Cheba Hut sandwich shop franchise happened organically several years ago, when his college-age daughter took him to the downtown Denver location for lunch during a visit. “My daughter started college at Western Washington University in Bellingham, then transferred to Colorado University for a special study program,” he recalls. “When she graduated in December 2013, the whole family went out there. She said to me, ‘Hey, I want to take you to this place that has absolutely the best food you’ll have in a long time.’ She took me to Cheba Hut in downtown Denver. I was hooked from the first time I went there!”
Doug’s initial Cheba Hut experience convinced him that it was truly the best sandwich franchise he’d ever been to, and he began eating at our flagship Ft. Collins, Colorado location frequently when he was in town on business. “A couple of years ago, I took on a software turnaround project in Fort Collins so I had an apartment in downtown Ft. Collins for 2 years,” says Doug. “I was right around the corner from their campus location and it became my go-to place. The store became my home away from home.”
With so many delicious Cheba interactions over the years, it was only a matter of time before Doug started thinking about what it would be like to run his own location. He began investigating the Cheba Hut sub sandwich franchise opportunity, but still had his doubts about taking the plunge, until he sought advice from a friend who was involved with franchise development for Starbucks, and had what he calls his “Eureka moment.”
“After speaking with my friend for about half an hour, he said, ‘Doug, you want to sign that agreement. Sign it. Because that is the mark of a franchisor that really knows what they’re doing. They’re going to have high standards and demands of their franchisees. You DON’T want a franchisor that just wants to take your money and is not very concerned about the quality of themselves or their franchisees. These guys really sound like that have their act together so you want to rush as fast as you can to sign this agreement.” This was all Doug needed to commit to joining the Cheba Hut team and move forward with the franchise awarding process.
As one of Cheba Hut’s newest Franchise Owners, Doug has been keeping pretty busy with a series of events leading up to signing his Franchise Agreement. He remembers Discovery Day as a relaxed, low-stress way to meet CEO and Founder Scott Jennings and the rest of the corporate team. “Just the chance to meet everybody, sit around the table, and talk openly and candidly,” he says of his favorite part of Discovery Day. “No question was out of bounds and the answers were very straightforward, very direct. Not a lot of code words or buzzwords were used. It was really just a comfortable conversation, which tells me a lot about why they’ve been so successful.”
As the son of an entrepreneur, Doug was born with the spirit of wanting to be in business for himself, and he sees the Cheba Hut opportunity as a rewarding and lucrative step in his career as he follows in his father’s footsteps. “My father was an entrepreneur, and started a number of businesses, so I grew up in that environment and with that mindset,” he explains. “His advice was always, ‘whenever you have the opportunity, invest in yourself.’”
As Doug sets his sights on the grand opening of his first Seattle-area Cheba Hut sub franchise location, he looks forward to making money, but also is excited about the additional benefits of becoming a Franchise Owner. “I’m not doing this as an exercise in philanthropy,” he laughs. “I’m looking to make a return on my investment, but it goes beyond that. I want to build an organization where I can give young people an opportunity to get some experience, develop some new capabilities, and hopefully build a team of young people that I can help along the way. I’d like to see a smile on the face of every customer that’s coming out of that store and know they’re having a really extraordinary experience.”
If nothing else, says Doug, his Cheba Hut sandwich franchise location will be a prime spot for his bands to play gigs. He says, “If this is what it took to create my own musical venue where my bands and my friends in the music business can play, then that’s a good thing, too!”
As a newly-minted Franchise Owner here at Cheba Hut, Doug is about to embark on one awesome ride! If you see a little bit of yourself in Doug and want in on the Cheba action, it’s easy: just click here to visit our franchise website, where you can find out more about us, the opportunity, and what it takes to open the country’s best sandwich franchise in your area.
Ready to dive in? Complete the form below or subscribe to our email list to stay updated on the Cheba Hut opportunity so you can be sure not to miss out.