BRADENTON -- Even after waking up at 4 a.m., Tom Venema was full of energy and all smiles Wednesday when he opened the doors of the downtown Jimmy John's.
"It finally happened," Venema said. "After working on it for almost a year."
And he worked on it until the opening moment Wednesday. He met Coca-Cola reps at the store at 5 a.m. and began baking bread a couple of hours later.
Venema is used to early mornings with his 15-month-old daughter Veda, and may someday recruit her to join his Jimmy John's team. Venema's wife helps him run the three Jimmy John's he now operates in Bradenton, and his sister Tracey Gray is the general manager of the new downtown location at 1001 Third Ave. W in the SunTrust building.
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His other Bradenton Jimmy John's locations: 5300 Manatee Ave. W., and in the Pinebrook Square Shopping Center at 4338 Cortez Road W.
Downtown, Gray has 15 employees, including delivery drivers, sandwich-makers and cashiers. The restaurant seats 33 people and has what Venema calls a community table that seats 10 people.
"We're excited to come downtown," Gray said. "It's a different atmosphere down here. We're bringing 'freaky fast' lunch hour."
The delivery charges are more streamlined at $1 per sandwich instead of a separate charge for each item ordered, and Venema hopes Jimmy John's will become a regular option for those who work in downtown Bradenton. They'll offer delivery on foot -- what Venema calls "running delivery" -- as well as by car.
"Everybody is busy, busy down here," Gray said. "And we always strive to get sandwiches out in four to five minutes."
The establishment passed
the state-mandated health inspection for restaurants on June 11.
Bradenton police Officer Scottie Camacho was excited to see another lunch option open up in downtown Bradenton, and she was also excited to see Venema, a former high school classmate, open another establishment.
"It's great to support a local business and also support a friend," Camacho said. She ordered a Jimmy John's Gargantuan sub, described on the Jimmy John's website as "huge enough to feed the hungriest of all humans!" It includes Genoa salami, smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise and Jimmy John's Italian dressing.
It's too big for her to eat on her own, Camacho said, so she took it back to the Bradenton Police station across the street to share with coworkers.
Jimmy John's, founded in 1983 and headquartered in Champaign, Ill., has 2,263 stores nationwide, with approximately 150 in Florida.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.