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Scott Jennings' marijuana themed submarine sandwich shop business is
growing like a weed in the East Valley. Soon, it will expand to other parts
of Arizona.

The 32-year-old owner of Cheba Hut shops in Tempe and Mesa started his
first pot-themed restaurant only five years ago, but today he is planning
three franchises in Tucson, Flagstaff and Lake Havasu.

The sandwich shops -- which proudly display the motto "Where the only thing
fried is an occasional customer" on the door -- are at 960 W. University
Drive in Tempe and 1710 W. Southern Ave. in Mesa.

The two Cheba Hut locations in the East Valley are adorned with ubiquitous
marijuana imagery. Even the restaurant's name "Cheba" is slang for pot.
Jennings went as far as to give Cheba Hut's 25 sandwiches their own
marijuana monikers such as the "Cronic," "The Shwag," and "Acapulco Gold."
Instead of referring to the sandwich sizes as "small," "medium" and
"large," Cheba Hut's menus calls them pinners, nugs and blunts -- slang for
various sizes of marijuana joints. The prices range from $2.20 to $6.89.

Jennings, an Arizona State University alumnus with a degree in
communications, said he worked at several sandwich shops when he was a student.

"Nobody was really doing anything cool . . . just selling food," Jennings
said. "You got to have a ploy."

He wouldn't disclose how profitable the business is, but he said it is
profitable. In his own words: "In the volume of business we do, I'd put it
up against anyone in the sandwich realm."

Kyle Dakota, manager of the Mesa shop, which is across the street from Mesa
Community College, said he serves up to 300 people during lunchtime when
school is in session.

He said the restaurant theme doesn't bother most customers.

The idea to start the restaurant came to Jennings after he saw the Cheech &
Chong film "Nice Dreams." In the film, the two main characters figure out a
way to get rich by covertly selling pot from an ice cream truck decorated
with images of the plant. Like Jennings' sandwiches, the various ice cream
flavors in the movie all had their own weedtheme name.

"I actually thought it was a pretty ingenious marketing idea," said Mesa
resident Paul Brice, who was eating at the Mesa restaurant with his
girlfriend, Katherine Pfleuger-Riley, this past week.

Pfleuger-Riley and Brice said the marijuana motif doesn't offend them and
they became loyal customers after their first visit.

"The toasted subs are better, the food is fresher," Brice said.

Jennings said his customers come from all walks of life -- from college
kids to business professionals.

"We actually get a lot of baby boomers in here," he said. They come in and
say, 'Oh, I can remember that.' It makes them kind of smile." Asked if he
was glamorizing or encourage drug use, Jennings replied, "I don't want to
glamorize it. I just want people to be realistic about it. It's just a weed
. . . They outlawed a weed."

Jennings said he chose to start his own business because he liked people,
but he hated working for others. But he acknowledges that to become
successful in business, a person can't be afraid of long hours and doing a
lot of grunt work. He said in the first two or three years operating Cheba
Hut he was working 90 to 100 hours a week.

"You got to put your time in. It's just now getting to the point where I
can start thinking about expanding," he said. Asked what makes his
customers return to Cheba Hut, Jennings said it is a combination of food
quality and atmosphere.

"It's the non-corporate attitude where you actually look people in the
face," he said. "My employees -- we're happy here.

"Everything's fresh, everything is made to order. Nothing's sitting under
the heat lamp."

Despite the restaurant's theme, Jennings said he won't tolerate employee
drug use.

"We obviously have to be very strict," he said. "We can't have my employees
coming in high."

Pubdate: Sat, 10 Aug 2002
Source: East Valley Tribune (AZ)
Copyright: 2002 East Valley Tribune
Contact: BSchuster@AZTrib.com
Website: eastvalleytribune.com | East Valley, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Dave Woodfill
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