Looking at the Hoageez website, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a chain restaurant. The design, logo, and online ordering all look like the work of a professional marketing team, when in fact, it was the brainchild of Michael and Linda Martin.
“We put a lot of thought into the branding. We’ve been approached almost daily by people asking if we’re part of a chain.”
They’re not; the location at 422 Walton avenue in Hummelstown is the only one in existence, opening just last December. December 21, 2012, to be specific. “It was supposed to be the end of the world,” joked Martin, “so we figured we had nothing to lose.”
Michael and Linda Martin didn’t have any experience in the restaurant business when they started the restaurant, but they did have a love of Philadelphia-style food, and saw a distinct lack of it in the Hummelstown area.
For as much success as they’ve had, the start was rocky. “The renovations [to the front of the building] were supposed to take three weeks, and they ended up taking three months,” said Martin. When the paper finally came off the windows, there was some anxiety that the locals would be less than accommodating.
“We sold out the first day.” The Hummelstown community “Has been great. Never did we expect this [level of support],” said Martin, “The support’s been amazing. Without [Hummelstown], we wouldn’t be here.”
Martin credits the freshness of the ingredients. “We never use anything day-old. The rolls come in every day from Philly.” The meats and vegetables are equally fresh.
Quality isn’t just some tagline. When industry giant Dietz & Watson offered to pay for the storefront sign if Hoageez agreed to carry only Dietz & Watson meats, they were refused because Martin couldn’t find a roast beef that he liked.
“So many places brand themselves with one kind of meat. Every meat we have, we taste-tested.”
If you order the American Italian hoagie, you can be sure that every individual ingredient in it was chosen from a wide field after relentless taste-testing.
The Hoageez website lists their operating hours as “10:00-7:00 or until we sell out,” and they mean it. “Rarely do we make it to 7:00,” explained Martin, usually we’ll sell out somewhere from two to six. The earliest we’ve ever sold out was 11:45.”
When it’s gone, it’s really gone. “At first people didn’t really understand the concept of ‘fresh,’ but now they think of that as a positive,” said Martin. In a world of frozen meat and preservatives, the Hoageez method seems to be working; they’ve sold out nearly every day since the opening, and a website redesign is on the way that will make online ordering even easier.