DESPITE FINISHING next-to-last in his high school graduating class, nineteen-year-old Jimmy John Liautaud went to college — or a college town, anyway. On this date in 1983 he opened the first of his sandwich shops in Charleston, Illinois, home of Eastern Illinois
University. His mission: to make good, affordable sandwiches, and take them where few food places dared to go, including college dormitories.
Liautaud’s sandwich-selling business started with a $25,000 loan from his father, which the young man used to buy the bare essentials for making food and renting a store — actually a converted garage. The money went fast: Liautaud found himself with no funds to buy a freezer and had to deliver iceless sodas at first.
The original Jimmy John’s menu consisted of just four sandwich options, all wrapped in the bread he learned to bake in his mother’s oven. The menu has expanded to 25 sandwiches plus potato chips and drinks with ice. There are now more than 1,000 Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich shops.