With 17 separate locations across the United States, Cheba Hut distributes big name sandwiches like White Widow, Sour Diesel and AK47 along with blunt and nug sized wraps. The names of the sandwiches are named after popular marijuana strains.
“It was my brainchild,” Jennings said. “It came from the two things I do best — get high and eat.”
In addition to moving the brand’s headquarters to Fort Collins, the two existing locations at Laurel and College and at Taft and Mulberry have recently opened a full liquor bar, expanding their square footage and opening up sales to adults who would like to drink.
“It will always be a sandwich shop with a bar in it, not a bar with a sandwich shop in it,” Jennings said. “It’s still a place to go before you go. It’ll never be a club though.”
Jennings plans to employ about 10 people at the Cheba Hut headquarters. Currently the company employs about 100-125 people nationwide.
“I want an army of interns — students. I like it with the school right there… I think there’s smart people here,” Jennings said. “We’ve always brought everything through Fort Collins for training and testing. Now we might as well make it official.”
Jennings likes the word ‘headquarters’ for this new location better than the word ‘corporate’ because he said he feels the latter word has such a bad connotation. Moving headquarters to Fort Collins gives Cheba a better opportunity to connect with customers and their needs.
“It’s been a good fit with Fort Collins, I think, because they let us play. We have a 4/20 party every year for ten years without one arrest or anything,” Jennings said.
Jennings said he hopes it will help the company grow, generate ideas and act like a think tank.
“We’re excited. We’re going to bring apparel in house — PR, design, hopefully we can do our own furniture too,” Jennings said. “We see Fort Collins as growing with the microbreweries and just a cool town. Of course there’s the legalization thing. Marijuana will be legal, probably commercial the first of the year.”
Jennings, along with his 25-year-old Fort Collins’ branch owner Dave Timmons and the branch manager, junior CSU zoology major Samantha Alba, discussed moving headquarters and establishing a brand and being ‘the spot’ people want to come. As the company expands, all of them hope to stay true to the current theme of Cheba — the allusion to family and passion.
“You come to work, clock in, but you’re getting paid to hang out with your friends, maybe do a little work, slice a little bread, put some tomatoes on a sub, whatever,” Alba said. “But in all, I do not feel grievance to go to work. It’s more about who I’m working with today. Those are my buddies, I want to hang out with them.”
Jennings emphasized the differences between Cheba and places like Subway, Jimmy John’s and other submarine sandwich shops.
“Jimmy John’s is a Subway that turned up the music (and they work) stupid fast,” Jennings said. “With Cheba, we have a sign hanging up in every store that explicitly states it will take longer than five minutes to make your sandwich.”
Jennings said he wants each store to focus on quality, not quantity, and interaction, not transaction.
“You can go to any sub shop and get a sandwich, (but) none of them and nothing else will replicate what we have here. You can’t go and get the atmosphere we have,” Alba said. “Some people come here just to say they did and the amount that take pictures of our menu and crack up are outstanding.”
Fort Collins is the host for many new rollouts in the company. For 16 years Cheba has grown into seven states and Jennings said he’s looking to expand.
Jennings said he’s hoping to open a branch in Denver, two in Colorado Springs, three or four in the foothills and then open in the Midwest, British Columbia and Vancouver, turning it into an international brand.
Not everyone is as excited as Jennings is about his decision to bring Cheba headquarters to Fort Collins.
“I think he’s going to make a lot of money with weed going legal and headquarters moving here,” said Eli Portell, a junior journalism and technical communication major. “On the Cheba Hut website there’s a disclaimer that states there’s no association with the stores and marijuana but, come on, every time I walk in there, especially on 4/20 they’re all wearing sunglasses.”
When the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce was asked how they felt about a business with many ties to the marijuana culture moving its headquarters to Fort Collins, they said they are waiting to see how the industry will affect the city before forming an opinion.
“Many of our City Council members have their own opinion on the matter, but most of us here at the local level and most advocacy groups are waiting to see the market play out,” said a spokesperson for the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce.
The Fort Collins Downtown Business Association could not be reached for comment at time of print.
Some students are more inviting and accepting of the idea.
“I think that there’s not a lot of point in fighting it because now we’ve developed this kind of marijuana culture here in Fort Collins,” said Blair Kelly, a junior journalism and technical communication major.
Collegian Reporter Scott Fromberg can be reached at email@example.com.