Story By Nehemiah D. Frank
Managing Editor | Liz Frank
On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Phil Armstrong, a black entrepreneur and a minister at the esteemed Metropolitan Baptist Church, opened his third Subway store in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Subway is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world and can be found in 112 countries worldwide. As of December 2016, there were 44,882 Subway restaurants in operation. This changed in January 2017 when Armstrong opened his first Subway store, in the Gateway Shopping Center at 1605 North Peoria Ave. Opening a business North of Admiral is a risk that most investors in Tulsa would advise against; however, that fear isn’t supported by crime statistics in the City of Tulsa as a whole.
“Numbers Show North Tulsa Crime Is Lowest In The City.”
North Tulsa has been falsely stigmatized as a high crime area, and Armstrong’s desire to debunk this myth would be one of the impetuses for his new franchise. Not only did he want to show that a business could be successful north of Pine Street, but he wanted to demonstrate to the residents of his community that the African-American entrepreneurial spirit of the Black Wall Street days was still alive and growing in Tulsa.
Before becoming a Subway franchise owner, Armstrong worked at the Subway Corporation as the Director of Development. In 2004, he was instrumental in getting North Tulsa’s first Subway shop opened at Pine Street and Peoria Avenue; he even drafted the blueprints for the store. Little did he know, he would eventually become the owner of the very Subway store he worked so hard to get into North Tulsa.
Armstrong says he was inspired by Tim Smallwood, the African-American owner of a locally-branded Tropical Smoothie franchise across the street from what Armstrong refers to as his “flagship” store.
Armstrong says he’s following the footsteps of Smallwood as an African-American business owner who wants to invest in North Tulsa.
“If you bring something into an area like North Tulsa or just any economically depressed area, and you bring something that’s brand new, fresh, appealing. ‘Hey, this is something that would naturally fit into an area like 101-first and Memorial,’ people are going to be more appreciative that you brought something with that type of quality. ‘We will love it, and we embrace it.’”
Armstrong had that vision, but he couldn’t sell that idea to anyone else. Unfortunately, the shop in North Tulsa that he drew the plans for closed. He tenaciously searched for an investor, but they all gave him the same narrative: They couldn’t take the risk of investing ‘that kind of money’ on a Subway franchise in North Tulsa.
“It was tough to hear that because I live near there,” Armstrong told The Black Wall Street Times.
While working for Subway as a developer, Armstrong would drive past the store daily going to corporate appointments, to his kid’s sports activities, and to church. But one drive was different, and he had an epiphany driving past the Subway store that day. He heard God tell him to open the store, and he did.
The Subway on Peoria is truly Oklahoma’s top store, with the state’s only digital menu board, the only store using the a new type flour, and the only store in the state of Oklahoma that has a premium bread oven.
Armstrong’s stores participate in local philanthropy by donating 10 percent of its proceeds every month to the Morton Health Clinic, which is only a half mile from the Pine and Peoria store. Additionally, the first day his first store opened, the store baked and delivered 50 loafs of bread to John 3:16 Mission, a local charity that provides services for Tulsa’s homeless and needy.
His willingness to give has been well-received by the community: The Pine and Peoria store has seen an increase in sales weekly since its initial opening in January.
Armstrong is excited about his third franchise opening on Greenwood, which happened Wednesday, during the week that Greenwood celebrates Juneteenth.
Opening a black business on Greenwood is always a tremendous honor because Greenwood is where the Black Wall Street began and where the spirit of Black Excellence in Tulsa was born.
“‘If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done,'” Armstrong quotes the Book of Ecclesiastes 11:4.
He encourages new business growth; if you’ve ever had a desire to open a business now the time! If you’re passionate and believe you have a brilliant idea don’t miss the opportunity to become a business owner who gives back to the community like Phil Armstrong.