Pat Matthews handed out more than a thousand free sandwich coupons in 1998, when he closed the doors on his downtown Spokane lunchtime eatery, Sandwich Gardens.
“I expected I’d be back (in River Park Square mall) in about a year,” said Matthews.
This week, 10 years later, Matthews finally came back.
Right around midmorning one customer came in and handed him the nearly-pristine coupon. “He got his free meal,” Matthews said of the unidentified customer.
Today, when he expects to see that customer again, Matthews will ask him to autograph that coupon. He plans to frame and hang it inside the shop, located on the second level of the mall.
Two days back inside River Park Square, Matthews has heard plenty of other customers thanking him for returning.
In 1998 his shop was in the section of the mall demolished to make way for the new Nordstrom store. He had little choice but to close in a location he’d been in for 23 years. He focused on his other Sandwich Gardens, inside the Heart Institute building on the South Hill, and on his Sandwich Gardens Kitchen catering business.
Matthews kept planning to get back downtown but said he couldn’t find an available space in the mall.
A year ago a friend told him that a storage space on the mall’s second level could be remodeled and was available. After Matthews contacted mall managers, they told him the space next to the storage area, occupied by Teddy Bear Junction, could be his at the end of 2008.
What hasn’t changed is Sandwich Garden’s food supplier — the catering kitchen Matthews operates at 2628 W. Eighth. “That’s where we produce everything we serve, and we use that kitchen to cater food for other restaurants,” Matthews said.
Matthews, however, thrives on being at the counter. He spends half his lunch hours chatting with customers and hearing them talk about food.
That’s something he did for 23 years downtown, and then from 1998 to 2007 at the Heart Institute, when remodeling there closed his second Sandwich Gardens shop.
“It’s great to be back and work with the public. That’s what I really wanted to do.”