Oakland Park is a community that is constantly changing. Over the last twenty years, the area has expanded and seen new residents and businesses from allover the United States. Plots of land that laid vacant for decades are occupied by new and thriving businesses or by new residences. That was until 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation and changed everything.
Normalcy became the thing we covet the most as we just want to enjoy the things we grew up loving. Small businesses can appreciate that, as they are looking forward to a return to normal. Too often lately the Oakland Park-Fort Lauderdale area has seen some of its most famous local spots fall to the economic climate created by the pandemic. But thankfully not all have fallen victim. In fact, Fat Freddy’s Sub Shop in Oakland Park, despite the hardship, has pressed on, while we wait for normal to return.
Thankfully, especially for those who grew up in Oakland Park, there is still one place that hasn’t changed, Fat Freddy’s Sub Shop on Prospect Road. Established in 1975, it is hard to imagine the area without its favorite local lunch spot. For decades, the sub shop has provided amazing service to the community and been a favorite among the community and its residents. Fat Freddy’s is one of our hidden gems, a place where we take our friends for lunch and laugh at their hesitation with trying something new only to see them return on their own within a couple of weeks because they loved the food that much. Regardless of where you now live or work, if you can find a way to sneak in a trip to the sub shop for lunch during the day, you adjust your plans so that the commute works.
Matthew Campbell has worked there since 1996 and officially took over as owner of the sub shop in 2014. He and his wife Cassie have managed the restaurant for nearly two decades and have maintained the tradition and quality that made the restaurant one of the areas most favorite secret spots. The only issue with being a hidden gem or local hot spot is that when something like the coronavirus happens, it is difficult to stay in business.
“This year has been nothing short of weird. We never had a year where we wondered about the success of the business. I’d say we’re down about 50% as far as what we’re used to seeing. The last five years there have been times where we’ve expanded hours or days to accommodate people who can’t make it here during the week at lunch time but the volume of customers didn’t expand the way we had hoped so we would return to the regular hours. It was fine because we always had plenty of customers during our regular hours and we can count on them like clockwork. This year it has been tough, and I know it’s the same way for other businesses in the area. Hopefully, things pick up in the final stretch of 2020”, says Matthew Campbell, Fat Freddy’s Sub Shop Owner.
One of the biggest challenge’s small businesses face during a pandemic is that they’ve built their success on the repeat customer, the regulars. There has never been a need to be aggressive in marketing or try to grow and expand beyond the area. The only advertising Matt has done for the restaurant are listings on directory sites and Google as well as posting on social media including Facebook and Instagram. These platforms provided more than enough steady business for years but now Matt and Cassie are trying to find new ways to reach customers.
“We definitely want to thank all our regulars and people who have been loyal to shop for years. We could not have lasted this long without them. One reason we had higher expectations in 2020 was because of the growth of the community. Oakland Park has seen thousands of new residents and new businesses move in over the last decade and we felt this would give us a great opportunity to bring in new customers and introduce them to a business that has secretly thrived in the area for decades. We’re very confident that our regulars will keep coming back as they’ve been, but we know times are tough on them as well. The fastest way for us to get back to any sense of being normal as far as the number of customers we see each day is to introduce ourselves to new people in the area and that’s we’re working on right now”, says Cassie Campbell, Fat Freddy’s Sub Shop Owner.
The restaurant has remained open throughout the year, providing take-out only during the pandemic. In October, Matthew and Cassie decided to open the restaurant back up for in-house dining and their hope is that this will give people in the area more motivation to stop by for lunch.