Steamboat Springs After 10 years, The Merchant of Sandwich will open its sliding glass drive-through window for the last time today. Citing health reasons, owner Brad Herrick is closing the little shop west of downtown and moving on to the greener pastures of Safeway's produce department.
"It wasn't the way I expected to go out, but after 10 years of business, it's time to move on," Herrick said Friday. He added that the Merchant might resurface in another form at some time. "I may create a catering trailer and do catering at summer concerts."
That option exists because no one has expressed any serious interest in buying the business. Herrick has tried to sell it for what he called a "negotiable" amount.
"Since no one bought the business, I'm going to take the equipment and move on," he said.
Herrick acknowledged that any buyer would face the inherent challenges of running a business in the cramped, 12-foot by 15-foot building next to Grease Monkey on U.S. Highway 40. Still, Herrick considers his 12-year lease at $650 a month a bargain for any buyer who would take it over.
Shawna Garcia, who works at Grease Monkey, said she would miss Herrick's burritos most, along with the Merchant's convenient location.
"He's got really killer food," Garcia said.
Nichole Manewal added that Grease Monkey employees will also miss Herrick's company.
"We're really bummed," said Manewal, who praised Herrick's French dips. "It's a drag. : Brad, he's a good guy. He comes over and brings our food to us whenever we need him to. He's really good about that."
Herrick said his diverse menu took creativity and time to create. In a prior career, Herrick logged 1.5 million miles as a truck driver and was always on the lookout for tasty regional fare, as opposed to chain-restaurant meals.
"When I decided to open a sandwich shop, I put my favorites on the menu," Herrick said. "There's a lot of people in this town that it became their favorites, too, for many years. : I don't crack an egg until you place your order. Freshness is my key."
Herrick said while he is closing due to health concerns, there have been other difficulties as well.
"Business has gotten a lot slower in the last quarter due to competition," said Herrick, who cited Bagel Works downtown and the Subway adjacent to the west side Kum & Go as two competing restaurants. "All the people around have eaten away at the business quite a bit."
Herrick said his business had grown every quarter prior to the last one.
"This last quarter's been in the gutter," Herrick said. "The big franchise outlets have such a stronghold on people's minds and imaginations. People like me lose out."
During his peak summer season, Herrick would employ as many as four people, including his 15-year-old son, who he said also is sad about the closure.
While this isn't the way Herrick planned to go out, he is happy to have spent a decade accomplishing what he set out to do.
"I wanted to open my own sandwich shop, be my own boss and create my own menu - all that I've done here."