“I thought, ‘I love food, I love pleasing people, I could do this; and hopefully, I’ll feel really fulfilled doing it,’” says Christopher Alford, 39, of his upcoming Lenny’s location. But this wasn’t always part of the plan. In fact, far from it.
The Kentucky native graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1997 with a degree in Police Administration, and after graduating, moved to Texas to take a job with the U.S. Border Patrol. Additionally he joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves in 1995 and was an active member until 2001. He spent four years working for the Border Patrol, and after 9/11, he was hired as a federal air marshal. When his wife, who works in the medical field, became pregnant with their first child, Ethan, the couple realized that having one parent in the medical field and one parent in federal law enforcement wasn’t the most conducive lifestyle for having a baby in the house. Alford has spent the past eight years as a sales representative for companies including Ferguson Enterprises, East Jordan Iron Works and Medtronic Diabetes, where he currently works and will stay until his restaurant opens.
How did you learn about the brand?
Somebody actually brought it into the office, and I really thought it was a great sandwich. It’s a sub sandwich, so you really can’t reinvent the wheel there, but I’m a foodie; we live in the kitchen. We don’t eat out a lot and we just love cooking. I like to think that I know at least a good sub from a bad sub. I did a little research and took the family to a Lenny’s that’s just over a mile from our home. It was a damn good sandwich. Having been in sales and worked in restaurants – I bartended and waited tables in college – I recognized that this was a great operation. So I went online that night and began researching the Lenny’s website.
Why did you choose an opportunity with Lenny’s?
The atmosphere is fantastic. Their colors are red, white and blue, so it’s bright and inviting. There are no trash cans, but instead have people taking your trash from your table and refilling your drinks. I live and die by the service I provide my customers; therefore as a consumer, I expect pretty good service. At Lenny’s, it was excellent. Also, I’m kind of a nostalgic guy, so seeing the deli case open with the meats and cheeses in it recalls a bygone era, which resonated with me.
And personally, the rat race gets old after a while. I can’t be in law enforcement anymore because we have two young children. So I contacted Lenny’s to get involved. They’re bang-up guys. If they were jerks or pretentious, that would have been it. But they’re incredible, and I feel at home. I feel comfortable investing my money into this endeavor. I trust these guys, and it feels right.
What challenges have you overcome to get where you are now?
The transition from federal law enforcement to sales was trying at best. I had never planned on this. I really hadn’t planned on Ethan showing up, but he did, so some changes had to be made. My wife works in open-heart surgery. She’s from Costa Rica, I’m from Kentucky and we’re in Texas. We don’t have that familial support because we’re both 1,500 miles from our families. I had to do some soul-searching, but I had some fraternity brothers from Kappa Alpha Order in sales that guided me and assisted me. For a 27-year-old kid, having a new career and being a new parent was a lot to deal with during those couple of years.
What are your expansion or development plans? What is your end goal with Lenny’s?
My goal is between three and five stores. I have definite plans to open more locations, but the timeline is flexible. I think I’ll certainly have three stores in three or four years. Five stores will just depend on if it’s doable.
What are some of the publications you read? Local? National? What is your goal publication with your business?
I read Discovery Channel Magazine, Kentucky Monthly, Smithsonian Magazine and Texas Monthly.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or passions?
I lift weights avidly. I’m up at 4:15 a.m. and I go to the gym. I do a 2-mile run in the neighborhood afterwards. Physical fitness is important to me. With life, children, that is when I can fit it in. I’m also working on my Master’s Degree in Military History with a concentration on the Second World War at American Military University. That occupies quite a bit of time in the evenings, but it’s great because the kids are in school and we study together. All technology gets shut down at 6 p.m, and we read for an hour. It’s good for 10-year-old, Ethan, and Isabella who is 7 years old. I don’t have any proclivities toward teaching but I’m a WWII fanatic. History has been a passion of mine for a long time.