A small business doesn’t survive for three decades without becoming something more to the community than a simple retailer. Nestled in the middle of Fort Wright on Dixie Highway, right off the Kyles Lane exit, Mike Monson’s Sub Station II has been feeding guests for 30 years while contributing more than food to the area.

Monson has worked at the location for 24 of those 30 years and in 2005 he assumed ownership of the South Carolina-based sandwich franchise’s northernmost location. Over these many years, Monson has become synonymous with the eatery to the people of Fort Wright and the area surrounding it.

“When you’re a small business that’s really what it’s all about,” Monson says. “Being a part of that community—that was my whole goal. When I started stepping out from just making the sandwiches and becoming a full member of the community, that’s when things really started taking off for business and for myself, where I became much happier.”

Becoming more municipally involved comes from his belief in paying it forward. When Holmes High School, due to a tight budget, was on the verge of cancelling its senior graduation party a few years ago, Monson stepped in to feed the whole class on his dime.

As an active member of The Church of St. Agnes, his talents and willingness to help recently came in handy again.

“We started a fish fry down there and of course I’m the food guy. So who runs that? I do,” Monson says with a chuckle. “And of course if we’re going to do that, what kind of bread are we going to use? Only the best and we’ll get it through me.”

When Monson’s not the one supplying the food, he’s supporting those who produce the veggies that grace his submarine sandwiches. Sub Station II has been a partner of the Brighton Center’s Newport Community Gardens for the last four years. The urban gardens on Ann Street and at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church supply the store with tomatoes and other produce when their yield is large enough. In turn, Sub Station II’s purchase of those crops helps fund the Brighton Center’s continuing efforts to combat hunger in the community.

In April, Monson is working hard on his own initiative to help the hungry, in the hopes it will extend far beyond his friends and neighbors. 

Sub Station II will participate in Pay It Forward Day by helping feed those most in need on April 27, the day before the actual Pay It Forward Day. Working with local charitable organizations such as the Henry Hosea House and Parish Kitchen, Monson’s store will donate a sandwich to the shelters for every sub sold that day.

“I want to have a goal for that one day to feed all the needy in Northern Kentucky,” Monson says.

All of this fits the mentality of man who knew early on he wanted his career to be in the public—interacting with people daily—instead of sitting tucked away in an office cubicle. Monson started at Sub Station II to help pay his way through Thomas More College (which has since become a university), becoming store manager under his mentor and then-owner Joe Peeno. From there it’s been a long journey, through lean periods like the economic downturn of 2008 to now enjoying greener economic pastures, but it’s been a fulfilling one all the same for Mike Monson.

And it’s hardly the end of the road. Monson hopes that Sub Station II’s participation in Pay It Forward Day will inspire other restaurants and organizations in the area to participate in years to come. “Maybe we can start something big for the community,” he says. 

To receive more articles from NKY Magazine sign-up for a complimentary subscription here: http://bit.ly/SwEQdC