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Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop

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Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop
Long time restaurateur Jim Ayres is shown behind the counter of the Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop at 3150 Busch St. in Butte. The shop's co-owner is Brenda Ayres.

Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop 3150 Busch St. in Butte Phone: 494-7817 Business History It takes some business sense to have survived all the changes in Butte's economy for the past 28 years. Jim Ayres should know. Ayres, co-owner of Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop, opened the business with his then-wife Brenda in 1982 at the age of 23.

"I thought it would be easy. I was very naïve," he said.

Ayres said his naiveté was in spite of having grown up around a business oriented family.

"My grandfather had a store — my father had a restaurant," he said.

And, though he had been gaining management experience through his job working as a movie theatre manager in Helena, he quickly learned that it took more to operate a restaurant than a few good recipes.

"There's a whole bunch more to it, especially on the accounting side," he said.

Ayres recalled finding a storefront at 740 W. Park St. to rent and launching the sandwich shop business in the Uptown area. Business was good enough that the Ayreses were able to move out of the rented building and purchase a second store front at 605 W. Park and move the business.

"We stayed there 22 years," he said.

Through the ups and downs of Butte's economy, the business changed, too.

The partners opened a Paul Bunyan's in Anaconda in the early '80s, only to close it again in 1998. At that time they decided to open a store on the Flat in Butte, buying a building and having it moved to the current location, just off Harrison Avenue, across from the Butte Plaza Mall.

Both the Uptown and the new shop on the Flat remained open until 2005.

"After the power company pulled out of Uptown, it never quite was what it was before," Ayres said.

He added that attempts to include a dinner menu and add a casino in the Uptown location failed to compensate for the loss in business, and the Uptown location was closed, focusing attention on the successful shop on the Flat.

Knowing when to try something new and when to call it quits, has kept the Ayres with a successful business for almost 30 years.

Jim, who manages the shop, looked back at his restaurant career and shared some advice in a quote he attributed to his son, Jeremy.

"Luck is opportunity plus preparation," he said.

Products, services, and specialties Paul Bunyan's Sandwich Shop serves soup, salads, and sandwiches. Submarines range in size from a five inch wedge to a nine- to 10-inch half sub — up to an 18- to 20-inch full-size sandwich.

The Submarine sandwich menu includes traditional cold cut combinations and tuna fish. Specialty subs include the steak and cheese, Italian sausage, BBQ beef, and the "Pecos Bill," a combination of beef, turkey, salami, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Paul Bunyan's also offers a variety of burgers, including cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers, and mushroom cheeseburgers in a variety of sizes. Fries and chicken strips are also on the menu, as is Paul Bunyan's homemade pork chop sandwich.

"It's actually my parents' recipe for pork chops," Ayres said.

The restaurant offers a soup of the day, served with a slice of French bread, or in combination with a half-wedge sandwich.

Salads include tossed, chef, lemon pepper chicken, taco and cashew chicken.

The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and offers a convenient drive-through window.

Delivery is available from 11 to 7:45 p.m.

Has the ongoing recession affected your business?

Ayres said that he had noticed that people were a little bit closer with their money.

"We still have the same volume of customers, but they spend less — getting soup instead of a sandwich, ordering water instead of pop," he said.

Advice for others going into business "I would recommend that you work in the business you plan to open before you go into it," Ayres said.

Rewards and challenges of doing business "The reward is that you've got a schedule that you can control, but the challenge is that you are always on call," he said.

Ayres said it was also a challenge to maintain a quality product, in of spite changes in product costs.

Future plans Ayres said he's had a successful business run and doesn't plan on making changes.

"We've listened to our customers and they told us not to change a thing," he said.

— Business Spotlights are short, upbeat news stories about successful businesses in southwest Montana. To suggest a business to be spotlighted, contact Paula J. McGarvey, Montana Standard correspondent, at 782-6510 or e-mail paulajmc@bresnan.net.

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