Family comes first at The Sandwich House in Elderton
Greg Frailey suspects he might have headed off to art school if not for a fortuitous turn of events that allowed him to take over The Sandwich House shortly after he graduated from Elderton High School.
Frailey, who worked at the Elderton restaurant while still a student at the nearby school, learned he had the opportunity to lease and, ultimately, buy the business, opened in 1985, from his sister-in-law's family.
In 1991, as a 21-year-old, Frailey became owner.
During the two decades-plus that have followed, he's done his best to steer The Sandwich House through scenarios that have ranged from a shrinking Elderton population to the emergence of fast-food options along Route 422 to the closing of the town's high school.
“You have to adapt to the changes, see what the needs are and just go with it,” Frailey says.
He learned that lesson as he proceeded through his late teens and early 20s. Owning a restaurant had not ranked anywhere among his post-graduation plans. “It was pretty scary,” he says. “It was a big undertaking. But I'd worked with it before I (bought it), so I had some experience, some knowledge, some background.”
Frailey settled into The Sandwich House routine — wake up early; arrive at the restaurant around 7:30 a.m. to bake and prep; spend the day taking, making and serving orders and running the cash register; close up and head home around 8 or 9 p.m.
“If we just stay on the path we're going, that's fine with me,” Frailey says. “We keep it like a home-type atmosphere. We make good food at a decent price. We have friendly employees. That's all you need.”
The Sandwich House's main entrance sends patrons straight into one of its three small dining rooms; the room with the order counter and on-the-wall menus sits just a few steps farther into the domicile.
It's a design that suggests Welcome Home rather than Wait Here. Frailey has left the downstairs structurally similar to the way it existed in the early 1900s, when the building served as a farmhouse. Walls with doorways separate the base floor into cozy rooms, each with its own window that provides natural light.
After ordering at the counter, patrons can take a seat anywhere in the restaurant. Listen to the adult contemporary music — think Hootie and the Blowfish or Coldplay — that floats at a hushed tone from the speakers in the corners. Frailey, or one of his employees, will arrive in a bit with the food.
The casual, you-are-all-family-here setting is one attribute Frailey hopes separates his establishment from the Subways and Sheetzes of the area. Call it the service-with-a-smile philosophy.
Frailey has faith that his food quality is better than the made-to-order sandwich spots along Route 422, too.
The Sandwich House menu sticks with tried-and-true options.
Hoagies range from steak ($5.49 for half, $7.95 for whole) to Italian Supreme ($4.99, $7.09) to fish ($4.99, $6.99) to taco ($4.69, $6.59) to turkey ($4.59, $6.59) to meatball ($4.49, $6.39) to pizza ($4.09, $5.99).
Quarter-pound burgers sell for $3.39 to $3.69, depending on the additional toppings.
Hot sandwiches (roast turkey, pork roast, meatloaf or roast beef) sell for $6.99. Croissant sandwiches (turkey, bacon and swiss or ham and swiss) sell for $4.49. And wraps go for about $6.
Frailey offers a collection of sides, which range from fried-cheese choices to seasoned fries to vegetables. And, for the carb-watching crowd, he provides salads. His macaroni and potato salads feature his grandmother's recipes.
Then, there are the desserts, which allow Frailey to show his creativity. They differ from day to day but always feature Frailey's homemade flair. On a recent visit, he prepared a coconut cream pie and brought out a few iced cookies.
Fancy is not a word that comes to mind when studying The Sandwich House food selection, Frailey acknowledges. Family, on the other hand, does fit the description.
“It's just like your mother or your grandmother would make,” he says.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1321.