PRESCOTT - Blimpie Subs & Salads, founded in 1964 in Hoboken, N.J., apparently takes its name from the shape of its submarine sandwiches.
"They wanted to say, 'Go big, like a blimp,'" said Frank Assadi, owner of the franchise in the Albertsons shopping
center with his wife, Ellen.
Despite selling large sandwiches that can feed more than one person, Blimpie emphasizes healthy meals at a modest price and on the quick, according to Assadi.
Assadi, who first became a Blimpie franchisee 18 years ago and once owned as many as six eateries, described Blimpie as a "simple operation and healthy food."
It is healthy in the sense that it does not serve hamburgers and hotdogs, Assadi said.
"All the meat comes fresh in bulk, and then we slice it here," Assadi said.
Blimpie draws customers who shop in nearby stores and work in offices downtown, Assadi said.
While Blimpie is open at dinnertime, lunch accounts for 75 percent of the traffic, Assadi said.
"The business is seasonal," he said. The restaurant is busier during the summer because fewer people cook during the warmer weather.
Blimpie also does a steady business catering, Assadi said, adding that requests for party trays come from doctors' offices, schools, clinics and other customers.
Assadi said the fast food contrasts with the cuisine from his native Iran that includes rice, shish kebab and sauces. He is a member of the Bahai faith, whose members have been persecuted in Iran.
He arrived in the United States in 1972 to attend a community college in Iowa. He earned a bachelor's degree in health science from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree there as well, and started his career in mosquito control for a health department in Houston in 1978.
Assadi started in the private sector in 1980 with Orange Julius in 1980, and owned franchises in Northridge and North Hollywood, Calif., for 15 years, He returned to Iowa in 1996, and began his affiliation with Blimpie.
He formerly owned four Blimpie restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa, and one in Cottonwood.
At age 66, Assadi said he put up the Blimpie in Prescott for sale on Craigslist so he can retire.
Assadi said Blimpie offers "simple deli food, delicious sandwiches."
He slices fresh meat as customers wait for their sandwiches, and bakes bread and cookies.
Customers have the choice of Italian, whole grain, "zesty" parmesan, cheddar jalapeno, honey oat and marbled rye for sandwiches, and spinach tortilla and flour tortilla for wraps.
Blimpie serves a selection of 6- and 12-inch panini grilled sandwiches, hot classics and deli classics. They include meatball parmigiana, ham and Swiss, and turkey and provolone.
The subs range in price from $5.20 for a 6-inch Blimpie Best (slow-cured ham, prosciuttini, cappacuola, salami and provolone, with condiments) to $10.99 for a 12-inch super-stacked sub.
Customers seeking a lighter fare may order a cup of soup or chili for $2.25, or $5.75 for soup and salad.
Groups may order party trays ranging from $35.99 (feeds eight to 10 people) to $79.99 for 6-foot subs that feed as many as 40 people.
The most popular item on the menu is the turkey sub because it is low in calories and healthier, Assadi said.