Two local sailors who have raced each other on the water for years have joined forces as business partners to expand Long Island’s newest sandwich concept.
Franchisees Walter Henry and Bill Denslow are now at the helm of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, opening the growing chain’s first area location in Hauppauge last month.
Henry and Denslow bring unique skillsets to their franchisee partnership. Henry, who began his culinary career as a chef in Manhattan hotels, eventually joined the Quiznos chain and developed dozens of Long Island locations for the sandwich brand.
Denslow, a Vietnam veteran, went into the finance industry after his stint in the U.S. Navy, working at Citicorp and JP Morgan Chase. The banking executive had already retired before Henry asked him to team up as franchisees.
Henry, who lives in Syosset, and Denslow, who lives in Oyster Bay, have been friends for nearly two decades after crossing paths as members of the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Center Island. These days, they spend most of their time plotting a course for success in the sandwich business and touting the virtues of Capriotti’s, after considering several other franchise opportunities.
“We looked at a lot, but we chose this over the others for the quality. The food is really, really good, and it’s attractive,” said Denslow. “We had to find the right one. We took a trip down to Delaware, we took a look, tasted it, and we really got excited. Walter knew all the people at the headquarters of Capriotti’s who basically came out of Quiznos and other places around the country that he knew.”
Quiznos, which filed for bankruptcy in 2014, contracted greatly between 2007 and 2017, shrinking from 4,700 locations to fewer than 400. At the same time, the chain’s sales fell from about $1.9 billion in 2007 to $171 million 10 years later, according to Technomic.
But Henry now sees new opportunity with Capriotti’s, touting its leadership, product, and reduced competition.
“The sandwich business is not thriving, franchises are gone. Blimbie is gone, Subway is declining and Quiznos is clearly gone,” Henry says. “My experience and Capriotti’s product is better than all the brands I’m talking about and it’s exciting. I think this is something Long Island needs and it’s important to have a go-to for a quality sandwich and something unique.”
Founded in 1976 by brother-and-sister Alan and Lois Margolet, Capriotti’s started out with a sandwich shop in Wilmington, Del. and began franchising in 1991. The company was taken over in 2007 by two of its Las Vegas franchisees Ashley Morris and Jason Smylie and a group of investors. Today, Capriotti’s has more than 200 locations nationwide with many more in the pipeline.
Henry and Denslow have a three-store deal with exclusive rights for the franchise in Suffolk County. Their Hauppauge store at 371 Smithtown Bypass will be joined by a second location in Selden next month. Each store employs between 15 and 20 people.
The all-in cost to open a Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop ranges from $417,000 to $748,500, according to the company’s franchising information, though the Long Island franchisees say the initial investment can be closer to $1 million.
The smallest sandwich size at Capriotti’s costs $6 and its best sellers are The Bobbie, a slow-roasted turkey topped with cranberry sauce, handmade stuffing and mayo, and the Classic Cheesesteak, with grilled steak, mushrooms, onions, white American cheese and a choice of hot or sweet peppers.
Henry said Capriotti’s excels at catering platters and lunch boxes.
“We have massive boxed-lunch catering orders pending,” he said. “We have one for 300 two times a week and others.”
If the first two locations do well, Henry says the franchisees will have the wind at their backs for further expansion.
“I told them if the first two shops go well, they shouldn’t sell another market on Long Island until we talk,” he said.