by David Tesitor
HUERFANO- On a June day in 1995, Ed and Gudrun Johnson opened their fifth Subway restaurant in the old Texaco gas station at the corner of third and Main. They had left behind four Subways in Anaheim, California and settled in Walsenburg. They relocated to live a simpler life away from the mayhem of Southern California. While traveling through Colorado in 1992, they discovered the beauty so many others before them had seen. Soon after, negotiations were underway and the old station which featured the ‘Man who wears the Star’ was razed to make way for a modern, state-of-the-art Subway restaurant.
On Tuesday evening, the train left the station again as the Johnsons handed their keys to a new owner, Dill Foods, a company which already owns and operates twenty-seven stores throughout Colorado. Wednesday was the first day of Gudrun’s retirement, and she will focus her energies on helping her grandchildren with school. She will also remain active in the community. Ed will still focus on his endeavors to bring alternative wind and solar energies to the county.
The Johnsons have donated thousands of dollars of food over the years to local organizations and will continue doing whatever they can for the community. Gudrun said of her customers and friends, “ I want to thank everyone for their business and support. Without them we could not have made it.” She also said, “Nothing will change. Everything will remain the same. Julie Vigil will manage the day-to-day operations of the store and the crew will stay on board.” Vigil was selected as Subway’s Manager of the Year in 2007 in their Colorado district which includes over 500 stores in all.
Gudrun estimated they sold enough subs in their career that if you laid them end to end, they would stretch from Walsenburg to Anaheim and back again. “Back then,” she said, “there were only five subs to choose from. There were a select few condiments to add.” Most of the menu was set up by franchise policy with strict guidelines. However, they were able to provide a breakfast menu to cater to the needs of the community. They also felt they provided healthier food than most fast food eateries. Now, Subway offers over 16 subs, soups, fruit, and yogurt.
In almost thirteen years in Walsenburg, the Johnsons have built a loyal following of regular customers. School buses could always be seen in their parking lot, as well as chartered vans and buses. It was also not uncommon to see locals taking an hour out of their day to eat lunch or dinner while the Johnsons visited their table.
When they opened the doors back in 1995, they had an open house and fed those who came by to wish them good fortune. Father Ben Bacino blessed the building, and according to Gudrun, “We’ve been blessed ever since.” She closed by saying that she and Ed want to give their heartfelt thank you for the loyalty and support of the people of Walsenburg. She also said, “I hope people will give the same support to the new owners. They are planning some exciting things in the transition.”