Subway opens first gravity-defying restaurant at the Freedom Tower

Opening this month is a new Subway, which normally wouldn't get much notice here. After all, Subways open up around the world all the time. In fact, there are over 32,000 across the globe. But this one, located far above the subways and Subways of New York, is different. This Subway will be open at the top of the still-under-construction Freedom Tower.

The Freedom Tower, which replaces the World Trade Center, only has five floors constructed at the moment, but when the tower is finished in 2013, there will be 105 floors.
As each new level is built, the Subway restaurant will keep moving upward, courtesy of a hydraulic lift. That will make it easier for construction workers to grab some food without having to travel down an elevator and look for food during the lunch hour. As it is, the workers get 30 minutes for lunch. Traveling up and down the elevator and searching for a meal can swallow up 45 to 60 minutes. It became pretty easy to see that workers who aren't interested in packing their lunch needed an alternative.

Which is why recently a Subway in a yellow trailer with an American flag on it was hoisted to the fifth floor. It will open for business in January -- strictly for the construction workers, of course. If you're a tourist or local hoping to buy a Chicken and Bacon Ranch sub, you'll have to find a different Subway.

A full Subway menu will be served, along with hot dogs, hamburgers and soft pretzels, according to Richard Schragger, who owns the Freedom Tower Subway franchise.

Schragger told the New York Post that his employees would go through background checks and will be trained in security and work rules at a construction site. He also said that there's another requirement: "They can't be afraid of heights."

In case you're wondering how Subway got its position as the first restaurant of the Freedom Tower, Subway was hired by DCM Erectors, which fabricates and installs all the Freedom Tower's structural steel. They looked at offers from nine bidders. Agreeing to work for costs and to eat any possible losses, Subway was the only one that didn't demand a profit. Somehow, with all the emotion swirling around the Freedom Tower, that seems like the appropriate approach.

So naturally, you may be wondering if you'll be able to visit the same Subway when the Freedom Tower is finished. I contacted Subway to ask, and spokesperson Kevin Kane, shot me an email back, saying, "There are no plans at this point for a Subway to remain on the top floor. We are working to try to secure a location somewhere in the building once it is finished, but that has not happened yet."

But Kane did reveal an interesting detail to their involvement with the Freedom Tower. Once the tower passes 30 floors, there has been talk of keeping a satellite Subway restaurant on the 30th floor during the construction. So as the tower progresses to, say, 84 floors, an electrician on floor 17 won't have to make his way up 67 flights to get lunch -- he'll just go up to floor 30. But that's still being worked out.

And Kane notes that while this is a pretty unusual place for a Subway, the franchise can be found in a lot of "non-traditional locations," like schools, amusement parks, hospitals, department stores and movie theaters. But what really surprised me was when Kane mentioned that Subway can be found "even in a church in Buffalo, New York."

I half-thought Kane must be kidding, but it turns out that the True Bethel Baptist Church has a Subway franchise on its property. It opened for business in 2003, with the idea that the profits could go to the church and that the restaurant would provide job training for the teenage members of the congregation.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to and the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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