Submarine down: Cedar Rapids sub shop closing after 32 years

Shawna Lane (center) has owned Sub City since 2003. — photo by Jordan Sellergren

Update: Sub City has run out of meat, bread and cheese, so the doors have closed for the final time.

Cedar Rapids is losing another sub shop and another historic building, so go while you can. Shawna Lane, owner of Sub City on First Avenue since 2003, will close doors for good on Friday, Dec. 22, “if I make it to Friday,” she said. “I’m not buying any more inventory.”

Sub City’s closure is in part because a reduced downtown population led to a decrease in her downtown lunch customers. “Verizon has laid off a lot of people,” Lane told me over the hum of the deli slicer. But ultimately, Sub City will close its doors because building owner Skogman Realty has bought out leases to the restaurant and adjacent buildings, with plans to demolish them and erect a new company office.

It had been years since I’d been for lunch, but I ordered the usual from my time as a regular patron in the late ’90s: veggie on wheat with provolone, all the veggies, hot peppers, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and dill spread with a Coke. It tasted exactly the same, down to the wheat bread and the raw mushrooms and onions and the way the dill spread squished between the parchment. There was a Lifetime Christmas movie on the flat screen.

I was the only customer until a man walked in, requested change for the meter and made a quick sandwich order “with a little extra vinegar on the side.” Tim, from Cedar Falls, comes through Cedar Rapids often for business, making a point to stop for a sub when he’s in town.

“I’ve been coming since 1996,” he told me as he unwrapped his lunch, “It’s a very friendly and fun place. You sit down, and people will ask if they can come sit with you. I don’t know — I’ll have to find a new favorite spot.”

The loss of a long-time restaurant can be hard on regulars. Many of us still mourn SE side favorite Cork ‘n’ Fork (also known for its subs) which closed four years ago this January. But the loss of buildings that give our cities a sense of place in history can be devastating for a community. The building Sub City has inhabited since New Jersey transplant Bob Dickson opened in 1985 was originally built in 1950. The adjacent auto shop, thirty years prior. The historic Bever Building next door to the south was erected in 1923. All three will be history soon, though — and you can’t get them back once they’re gone.

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