UK graduate opens Jersey Mike’s near campus


Jersey Mike’s building mug on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Cameron Sadler | Staff 

Paul Whitehead

A UK graduate is bringing his family and business back to Lexington to offer students new food and some advice on following their dreams. Jersey Mike’s Subs is one of the newest additions to UK students’ food choices.

Jersey Mike’s — or “J. Mike’s,” as many college students refer to it — is a brand many may recognize from their hometowns, but it is the first of its kind to open in Lexington. The restaurant has been bustling with customers since opening its doors in early February.

Every business is at some point merely a concept, an idea, or a dream that someone was willing to make a reality. For the new Jersey Mike’s near campus located on S Broadway, that dreamer is William Rover.

Rover was a business major and a member of the track and field team while at UK. Here he also met his wife, who graduated with a degree in journalism.

He began as a simple sub shop employee. Having become a manager after proving himself through hard work, he eventually took the opportunity to take over and own his own shop in Cincinnati. He turned around the shop and then began looking to expand.

Within just more than a month, Rover moved back to Lexington, bought a house and launched his franchise, all shortly before having his first child. Customers will see Rover in the shop on a regular basis, working alongside his employees.

For those unfamiliar with opening a franchise, owners must put up a large amount of capital to use a company’s logo and product, and they are held to the company’s business standards. The store must also pay a percentage of its revenue to the parent company every month.

Store manager Tony Shackleford said Jersey Mike’s goal is to build relationships with customers and employees, as well as the Lexington community.

“It’s not how fast we can get them out the door, it’s can we serve them quickly and actually give them a good experience for having come here,” Shackleford said.

Being an entrepreneur can be a difficult venture to pursue, requiring good organizational skills and a “big picture” frame of mind alongside qualities like a good work ethic and a hunger for success. The store is left to its own devices to cover the overhead costs, attract customers and build its reputation, with the success or failure of the business resting on Rover’s shoulders.

The store is essentially its own company, walking on its own two feet. It just has a recognized brand name on the door. Rover said taking such a big financial risk is scary, especially since he had to make it all happen in such a short frame of time without knowing for sure how it would work out.

But still, Rover has learned a valuable lesson from the experience.

“Don’t be afraid of the unknown, it’s the most rewarding,” he said.