College Hill snags sub shop

Travis Perry

After months of preparation, patience and diligence, the College Hill development northeast of campus has bagged its first business.

Submarina, a California-style sub shop, is not just a new sight for the area, but for Topeka, the state, and the Midwest as well. In fact, the nearest franchise to the fledgling eatery is in Tennessee.

All things considered, Craig Underhill knew he’d be taking a risk when he, along with his wife Belinda, decided to purchase the franchise.

“We were kicking around the idea of starting our own business for about a year and a half,” said Underhill. “It’s a little bit scary.”

But Underhill said he was able to come up with several reasons to jump in headfirst.

Seven thousand reasons, to be exact.

The proximity to Washburn University was a driving force behind the decision to move into College Hill, and the focus on creating a youthful environment in the store is evident. Submarina sports a bright, colorful atmosphere, several flatscreen TVs are mounted on the walls, and with free WiFi on its way, Underhill has worked to make Submarina an attractive spot to students.

The new business has also become a family-affair of sorts, with Underhill’s son, Kyle, serving as store manager, and daughter Rebecca helping out on the weekends. Both are Washburn students. Submarina opened its doors Jan. 9, and is planning what C. Underhill called a “soft opening.” The plan is to give his staff plenty of time to learn the product and get up to speed before doing a bigger grand opening and actively advertising to the public.

C. Underhill was adamant about making a customer’s first experience with the sub shop an enjoyable one and, so far, attracting them has not been an issue. He estimated 50 percent of the customers they’ve had since opening have been from those living in the College Hill Apartments. Being located within walking distance is a big plus for many of them. Ultimately, both C. Underhill and K. Underhill agree that Submarina’s opening bodes well for the development of new businesses in the area.

“We’re hoping to be the first in a set of dominos to fall,” said K. Underhill.

Henry McClure of McClure Real Estate couldn’t agree more. McClure has helped see through the College Hill development process, and is touting Submarina as a major building block for the development.

“[Submarina’s] design will be the cornerstone for how College Hill is going to develop,” said McClure.

While McClure couldn’t release any details, he did say several potential businesses had toured Submarina to see the potential for the retail spaces offered in the new development.