After 47 years on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, Great American Hero will close in August 2022 and move to a new Dallas location. Former owner Dominick Oliverie had threatened to close the business for months, saying it was “too successful to stay open.”
But a lot has changed since then.
Danny Wilson and Jacob Cox bought the restaurant from 75-year-old Oliverie on Jan. 1, 2022, and plan to engage in an aggressive growth model intended to make Great American Hero a competitor to sub shops like Jimmy John’s and Jersey Mike’s.
“We want to take on the big guys,” Wilson says.
They’ll move to a new location at Skillman Street and Northwest Highway in Northeast Dallas and a Shug’s Bagels will move into the Lemmon Avenue location.
Then, the Great American Hero team will focus on turning the sandwich shop into a franchise that could grow to hundreds of locations across the United States, the co-owner says.
Wilson projects that the company could open 500 to 1,000 Great American Hero sandwich shops in 10 years across the country.
That’s quite a change for the one-off pink, yellow and blue retro restaurant that has been serving some of Dallas’ best Italian subs for nearly 50 years. Wilson says they’ll miss the charm of the old building, but it’s time to move on. Their lease is up Aug. 15, 2022, and both owners say rent was too high for them to stay.
They hope customers will drive to the new shop 7 miles away come September 2022, when they hope to reopen in Northeast Dallas.
Great American Hero 2.0 will be at 6216 Retail Road, a shopping center near Lake Highlands, Lakewood and Preston Hollow. It’s neighbors to Walmart, At Home, Chick-fil-A and Whataburger. Great American Hero will operate in a significantly larger restaurant space, once a Del Taco. It, like the original Great American Hero, has a drive-through.
The shop’s giant menu — displayed in tiny, nearly unreadable font at the original shop — will stay the same. But they’ll make it easier to read, on a digital board, Wilson says.
They don’t plan to slim down the menu. Customers might revolt if they fuss with the No. 28, the classic Cuban panini. Or the No. 13, a Heroletta, which combines a New Orleans muffaletta and an Italian sub, with four kinds of meat piled alongside olives, pepperoncinis and cheese.
It’s the No. 1 that tops them all in sales — the Italian. It’s commonly ordered with a few shakes of canola oil, olive oil and red wine vinegar, former owner Oliverie’s signature blend.
Who are the new owners of Great American Hero?
Wilson and Cox co-own two bars, Select Start arcade and emo bar Shot Topic, both in Deep Ellum. They also operate a coffee shop called Cream & Sugar in Fairview.
Neither are from the Dallas area — Wilson is from California and Cox is from New Mexico — so they don’t have stories about growing up around Great American Hero like so many Dallasites do. But they saw a business opportunity to save a well-liked brand, then grow it.
“We knew there was a lot of nostalgia around it,” Wilson says of Great American Hero. “It was a brand that we really liked and wanted to do something with.”
What’s new at this old sandwich shop
Great American Hero, like so many aging Dallas-Fort Worth restaurants, will face the push-pull of staying authentic under new ownership and at a new address.
One of the changes is that espresso-based drinks will become available, which Wilson says is a cinch since they already own a coffee shop. The staff will also start selling breakfast. And, now that the new restaurant has fryers, they’ll offer French fries as a side at lunch and dinner — a first in 47 years.
Eventually, Great American Hero will likely sell beer and wine in the evenings, Wilson says.
Then comes the big boom for this small shop: Great American Hero is expected to expand to more locations in Dallas first, then become a franchised company. Ideally, Wilson would like to bring military veterans on as franchisees, a passion point for the owners even though they are not veterans themselves.
“We’re proud to be Americans and we appreciate everything our troops have done for us,” he says.
The new restaurant is under construction for now. Wilson says they’re trying to move quickly so Great American Hero customers have minimal downtime between the August 2022 closure of the original and the reopening of the new shop.
Great American Hero is at 4001 Lemmon Ave., Dallas. After it closes, the new Great American Hero will be at 6216 Retail Road, Dallas.