Community history, firefighters get star treatment in decor
Grafton’s newest dining option, Firehouse Subs, is part of a national chain, but the restaurant has a liberal dose of local flavor.
The sandwich shop is at 1550 Port Washington Rd. on the north outlot of the Meijer store property.
Owned by Cedarburg residents Bob and Sharon Erickson, the decor reflects the chain’s connection to firefighting initiated by brothers and founders Chris and Robin Sorensen, who were firefighters before dabbling in the culinary trade in 1994.
The chain’s corporate headquarters are in Jacksonville, Fla.
While the firefighting motif is common at all of the Firehouse Subs’ more than 1,000 locations, the Grafton shop is anything but generic.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is a colorful hand-painted mural depicting a lime-green Grafton fire truck parked alongside a fountain in the village’s Paramount Plaza.
The Ericksons’ daughter is playing hockey with a firefighter on ice overflowing from the fountain.
In the background, a horse-drawn buggy (without the horse) sits atop a nearby building, a tribute to a famous Grafton prank from the 1910s. The prankster is also shown nearby, admiring his handiwork.
Various local landmarks are shown, along with musical greats as a tribute to the community’s roots in Paramount Records.
The mural was painted for the sandwich chain by muralist Joe Paskas and his team of artists, who have created more than 1,050 localized scenes for restaurants around the country.
Among the local artifacts and pieces of memorabilia on display in the restaurant is a rack near the front entrance featuring a Grafton fire helmet, boots and firefighting turnout gear.
More than making a passing nod to firefighters, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has donated more than $207,000 in grants to local organizations in Wisconsin.
Founded in 2005, the foundation has donated more than $24 million to emergency responders in 46 states.
That sense of civic responsibility resonated with the Ericksons.
The Grafton location is their second Firehouse Subs shop. The first restaurant is Brown Deer.
It was Sharon who inspired the couple’s foray into entrepreneurship.
She had spent 20 years working as a mechanical engineer, but felt something was missing in her life.
“Friends and family would always ask if I would keep my job if I won the lottery,” Erickson said.
“My answer was always, ‘No! I would open my own restaurant.’”
After learning about the Firehouse Subs chain and its commitment to quality ingredients and public service, she felt she found her perfect business match. Then she had to convince her husband it was a good investment.
“All it took was one bite and he was sold,” Erickson said.
THE NEWLY OPENED Firehouse Subs sandwich shop in Grafton has a distinctly local flavor. Owners, Sharon and Bob Erickson commissioned a mural depicting the village’s Paramount Plaza. Photos by Mark Jaeger