Subway Can’t Compete with Hoagie Haven: Nassau Street Franchise Location Closes

subway nassau Princeton

A national franchise can’t compete with a local independent business, at least when it comes to the battle between Subway and Hoagie Haven on Nassau Street in downtown Princeton.

Signs on the Subway shop at 252 Nassau Street just a few doors down from Hoagie Haven announce that the store is closed and that customers should visit the other Subway location on Witherspoon Street.

Subway received approvals for the 3,100-square-foot Nassau Street location in 2012. A battle between franchise owners delayed the opening of the shop until last spring.

The news of the Nassau Street Subway’s demise will come as no surprise to Princeton residents, who predicted it failure and vowed to stand by Hoagie Haven when the competitor opened.

Many Princeton residents dislike the presence of national chain stores downtown and prefer to support independent local businesses that residents say give Princeton its unique character and charm.


  1. This is why I never understand the objections to chain and franchise stores in Princeton. If a local place is good, it has nothing to fear from a new competitor. You don’t see Small World closing down because of Starbucks, right? And yet, some people, for whatever reason, seem to prefer Starbucks. And that’s OK because it’s their choice to go to a different, tax-paying business that contributes to downtown vitality.

      1. Signage is y it took forever to get a fastfood joint as in burger king, if its even there anymore. I havnt bn in town for many years. Mcds cldnt come n i think burger king was lucky if i remember rt it had to do w signs n advertisement as to y the town didnt want them there.

        1. Write with words, not stupid abbreviated text. Are you, like, a 14 year old teenager?

  2. it’s better framed as “Princeton as a town is too small of a market to support a second subway restaurant.” We should all be sad when we see a Franchisee’s business close — we just weren’t a large enough market. I love hoagie haven just as much as the next guy. But Subway was nice — for example, when I’m out of cash, Subway accepts credit cards.

  3. Yes Subway failed… but lets be honest about the reason why.

    I love how we struggle to find any “liberal utopia” justification for some event or result.

    According to the author Subway failed because Princeton residents “prefer to support independent local businesses…” And how did we come up with this answer? Because in a prior article someone interviewed 3 random residents?

    Now lets tell the truth about why Subway failed:
    1) Hoagie Haven has better prices than Subway.
    2) Hoagie Haven provides a superior product than Subway – in layman’s terms, they make better tasting subs, at least in my personal opinion.
    3) Hoagie Haven provides very fast service per sub, to the extent that it may take longer to acquire said sub is simply a product of the high demand. (Created by reasons 1 & 2 above)

    So why did Hoagie Haven win? Better prices, better subs, better service. That’s right folks… *Capitalism* at its finest. Beat your competitor by offering better value to the consumer.

    1. The points you made are true… but they don’t go against what the article is saying. You have pointed out some more specific reasons as to why Hoagie Haven prevailed over Subway, but the author is correct in saying… “Many Princeton residents dislike the presence of national chain stores downtown and prefer to support independent local businesses that residents say give Princeton its unique character and charm. ” … This statement wasn’t ascertained from asking 3 random residents what they thought, it’s pretty much common knowledge for anyone who lives in Princeton.

      1. Real people are owners of stores. The Subway owners are no less “local” than any other business.

        1. Just want to say that in Princeton everyone know what hoagie haven is whether or not you’ve been there so brand recognition doesn’t matter. Also subway tastes like crap in almost every aspect and most people would not go there whether or not hoagie haven was next to it. Finally it is well out of the way for most people aas they already have one in the middle of town so most people would just go to the one in the middle if they wanted it so bad.

      2. I spent several years in Princeton, actually, and currently live in a town with residents of a similar mindset.

        And I disagree with the statement that local residents in either Princeton or my community have any dislike of national chain stores. What people do not like is the large bright signage and display that is typically associated with such stores.

        My current community handles it by demanding that any establishment conform to the preexisting nature of the other storefronts… this applies equally to any store whether a national franchise or a mom and pop, and has nothing to do with “national chains” per se. Now the national chains do want to have larger and highly standardized signage which is a wise decision from a marketing standpoint. That said, in some communities, such as Princeton, that ain’t gonna fly. 🙂

        Furthermore, as Anthony below and Anjana above point out, the overwhelming ignorance of the masses regarding franchises would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Franchises are frequently operated and staffed by the people in the community.

        I still stand by my prior point. The author contends that Subway failed because of some inherent dislike of national corporations… this is untrue. Subway failed because they chose to compete against a superior and well established competitor.

        This is a story of logical economic and capitalist theory, not liberal-utopia-hate-of-national-brands. And if I’m wrong then the community of Princeton should be ashamed.

    2. Your logic is shoddy:
      1. Price – Many people are content to pay higher prices for a known name brand. Especially in a town like Princeton filled with wealthy people and tourists. Lower price is not always a factor.
      2. Quality/taste is debatable but again many people prefer the known quantity that a name brand offers, such as Dunkin Donuts coffee verses a local independent coffee shop, or a known sandwich at Subway verses an unknown unhealthy sandwich at a place like Hoagie Haven. How many kids would rather go to McDonalds (crap) than get a quality sandwich at a place they’ve never heard of. Quality does not always win in capitalism.
      3. Like point 1, many people are willing to wait for what they want. Waiting extra time might even justify the higher price and sense of satisfaction that they are getting precisely what they want (name brand).
      Finally, you are leaving out an important part of the equation: There is an unquantifiable value in a locally owned business that is unique to the location and which you can’t get anyplace else (i.e., tourists go to because they are tourists; locals go to due to sense of pride).
      In short, your quick trumpeting of capitalism is marred by a limited world-view – you sound like you think everyone thinks and acts exactly like you, which is why notions of traditional economics have so often failed us.

      1. First of all, Pam, your ad hominem attacks are pathetic and only serve to discredit your points. Kindly abstain.

        1) Lower price is *always* a factor for anyone who isn’t a moron. Now, if someone were to argue a sandwich shop vs one of Princeton’s many upscale restaurants, then yes price plays a much lesser role, but it would be a poorly made point because they seek a different portion of the market. But in this case, we are talking about direct competition, therefore, price does matter. Secondly, Hoagie Haven is on the edge of the campus and most months of the year is filled with STUDENTS, not the “wealthy people.” And I will say quite succinctly that for students, ahem, price most certainly does matter.

        2) Of course quality is debatable, which is why I said “in my opinion” though it is an opinion shared by many. Google Hoagie Haven, it has a 4.3 out of 5 from their reviews. You have a point about the standardization of national brands, but then go on to say that Hoagie Haven is “unknown”… you do understand its been around for over 40 years, yes?

        You further refer to their food as “unhealthy” which imho is potentially libelous.

        As for your McDonalds children, McDonalds provides Happy Meals for about $2.50. With that the kids get a simple cheeseburger without any of those weird topics us adults like, along with delicious fries, a sugary caffeine filled soda and a toy. All for less than a cup of latte at Starbucks.

        Maybe you think McDonalds is “crap” as you say. Dare I suggest that most children would disagree with you? I’m yet to meet a child who doesn’t think that McDonalds is delicious…

        Quality most certainly does play a significant role, but to be more direct its a matter of quality versus price. A “quality sandwich” is going to cost quite a bit more than a happy meal. So, although I won’t say its incomparable, it simply isn’t as directly comparable as Hoagie Haven vs Subway. You compare McDs with Wendy’s, you compare a 5 star NYC steak house with another similar steak house, not your local Ponderosa…

        3) Maybe you misunderstood my point, the wait is often longer at Hoagie Haven due to the demand. It is not uncommon for a line out the door at certain points in the year.

        Onto your second half… so in your point 1) you say i’m incorrect because I allegedly don’t understand that some people prefer name brands, and now in your point 3) i’m incorrect because i don’t understand the preferred “unquantifiable value” of local business. So, which is it, Pam?

        And I’ll address your last ad hominem attack that I have a “limited world-view” and think that I believe “everyone thinks… like (me)”. Not only is that sort of attack the typical internet wanna-be-bully, but it also could not be further from the truth.

        I believe that an analysis of this type must always involve an aggregate of the market rather than any individual points of view. It is the total summation of those views that make up the relative demand curves, which inherently contains people that prefer “name brand” and people that prefer “local business.” I would never claim that any *individual* acts completely rationally, but that in the aggregate people do.

        That was exactly the issue I took with the original article which suggests that the failure was due only to the local mom & pop preference in the area, and completely ignored the facts that Hoagie Haven provides faster service per sub, lower prices, and (in the opinion of many) superior food. It completely ignored the market forces at play…

        If Subway had offered superior food at lower prices than Hoagie Haven would it have gone out of business at that location?

        And lastly, “why notions of traditional economics have so often failed us.” I don’t know where to begin. First of all what do you mean by “traditional”? The word as applied to economics even in legitimate news sources is beyond trite. Adam Smith? NeoClassical? Keynesian? New Keynesian? Do you truly believe that the study of economics at any modern university begins and ends with the “invisible hand”? Not so much… we go a bit further nowadays… taking classes learning how to apply Fast Fourier Transforms to Econometric models goes a bit beyond Adam Smith.

        1. You are incorrect because you are arguing without actually replying to the content of my post. By the way, if you actually believe that “lower price is *always* a factor for anyone who isn’t a moron” then you are sort of proving my final point.

          1. Actually I think what I did was dismantle your argument in such a complete fashion, that the best can come up with is again to resort to ad hominem attacks… which is what people do when they can’t defend their thoughts… how sad. Might I suggest a career in politics?

  4. The really sad part of this article is that you are attacking a family. Opening a franchise is a huge investment and is a local person’s livelihood. 1) This store never attempted to start a rivalry with Hoagie Haven. 2) Closing a store is always tough on the owner so the mockery in both the article and comments is frankly disgusting.

    It is a myth that franchised stores aren’t local family run businesses. My family worked incredibly hard to get this store started for years. Not only have my sister and I have grown up and lived in this area for the majority of our lives but we are able to go to college thanks to our parent’s hard work running and owning these stores. As a family, we are happily consolidating our businesses so my parents spend more time with my sister and I as well as expand other business ventures.

    I doubt this post will change anyone’s mind, but if it gets even one person to think about how there is a person or a group on the other end of the hateful message they may want to send I will feel that it is worthwhile.

    Our family loves Princeton and Hopewell and will continue to work hard bring whatever value we can to the community!

  5. Sounds like people simply boycotted Subway, rather then determining with their brains which store was better.

  6. Well the Subway at forestal village closed three weeks ago as well! I don’t think it has anything to do with Hoagie Heaven, Subway company is having some problems and that is what this was all about, they are closing a lot of stores all over the US just like Quiznos! Its been all over the news even social media, love Princeton and in all honesty i don’t think it had anything to do with Hoagie Heaven which happens to be a land mark in a college town!
    It is sad to see someone loose so much, business is business and hopefully this people can get up and trive again…..

  7. The anti-business posture of a highly-regulated town like Princeton gives a huge advantage to chains. They enjoy instant national brand recognition, fully developed business processes, and cookie-cutter product offerings developed across markets at large scale, all of which must be built from scratch by a local entrepreneur acting independently. While confronting these challenges, a new business will discover Princeton aggressively regulates many aspects of a business’s options eg seating, (tied to parking), Signage, lighting, hours of operations, safety, and that’s on top of state and federal compliance requirements around healthcare, ADA, and other strictures. The ‘carrying costs’ eaten up by the many months required to launch a new business will total several years profits while new entrants navigate the labyrinth of bureaucracies that control their destiny.
    This is why most of the owner-operated shops in Princeton have been replaced by chain stores over the last 25 years I’ve lived here, and why a Subway franchise owner would be emboldened to launch a sandwich shop within a hundred yards of three competitors which are local institutions.
    In this case, the market has spoken, but over the long haul, the replacement of owner operated businesses by regional franchisees is destined to continue.

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