More than sandwiches: Subway serves opportunity and supports Pine Ridge

More than sandwiches: Subway serves opportunity and supports Pine Ridge

Bread, meat, and cheese have been a way of life for Bob and Darlene Ecoffey for many years. The sandwich shop they owned in Aberdeen was located next door to a Subway restaurant. Rather than view the franchise as a threat, Darlene saw it as an opportunity. 

“My wife said, ‘we need to open one of these!’” Bob recalls. “I asked, ‘Where?’ She said, ‘in Pine Ridge.’”  

Darlene’s suggestion turned out to be both prophetic and a boon to the community.

Taking a healthy bite out of unemployment 

For the Ecoffeys, Pine Ridge represented a homecoming. Both grew up on the reservation; the decision to open a Subway there was fueled by a combination of nostalgia and a desire for positive change. 

“Our thought was, we wanted to bring something to Pine Ridge that would give people a good, healthy meal at a fair price,” Bob explains. “We also wanted to create jobs and put money back into the community.”  

Once they made up their minds, things moved quickly. They connected with a development agent and built the store from the ground up. The process took about a year, and the Subway officially opened for business in August 2008 at Highway 18 Main Street, a prime location that offers easy access to passersby.  

‘Tiyospaye’ means family 

Just as the Ecoffeys envisioned, their Subway quickly filled an important role in the community. It provided healthy meals and, even more importantly, steady employment — one of the primary motivations for bringing the restaurant to Pine Ridge. 

“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a good, loyal staff,” Bob says. “We’ve trained, over the last 15 years, hundreds of high school students and provided jobs for many families.” 

Top-sellers like the Philly Cheesesteak and The Monster aren’t the only draw. The restaurant offers customers who don’t have internet access at home a place to catch up online. They’ll buy a sandwich, grab a seat, and use their phones or computers for a while.  

Bob and Darlene make it a point to give back to the reservation at every opportunity. That means donating money to youth activities like basketball and skateboarding competitions and sponsoring the Oglala Nation Fair and Rodeo.  

“It’s a great community; a lot of good people reside there,” Bob says. “Watching out for other people is part of our Lakota tradition. The word ‘tiyospaye’ means family; we all have extended families that are close-knit in the community.” 

From party lines to fiber optics 

In many ways, the Ecoffeys consider Golden West to be an extension of that family – not just for the services provided, but for the employment opportunities, as well.

“People I went to school with have worked there and retired,” Bob explains. “Golden West provided a good family income for them. It’s a business that has been a part of our community for 30-40 years.” 

Phone and internet services are vital to Subway, allowing the Ecoffeys to advertise specials on the website and offering online and mobile ordering. Bob is especially excited for expansion of the fiber optic network to other areas outside of Pine Ridge for the high-speed internet it provides. 

“There are a lot of good opportunities as a result of Golden West’s investment in the community,” he shares. 

Reflecting on the technological changes he has observed in his lifetime is eye-opening for Bob.  

“A lot of times, when I was younger, people didn’t even have phones,” he recalls. “I remember back when we had party lines. We’ve come a long way since then!” 

 

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