"Sub Man" often comes out to greet hungry customers at the new Subway in Bergfeld Center.
The oversized sandwich happily stops to take pictures with guests and make children smile.
David Weaver, 47, opened the new Subway, which has a different d￩cor from the other 13 chain restaurants in Tyler, on June 18.
"It's more of an urban feel," he said of the interior design, which includes a brick wall and New York-inspired artwork.
"With Bergfeld Center being one of the oldest shopping centers in the United States, it just seemed like a natural fit to put it here," Weaver said.
He believes the corner space, at South Broadway Avenue and Eighth Street, is one of Bergfeld Center's premiere spaces and said all of the businesses there draw in customers for and help out each other.
"It's just a perfect fit," he said. "We're all in this together."
David Webb, 48, said there are only 450 to 475 Subways in the world with similar d￩cor to the store in Bergfeld Center.
Webb handles the day-to-day operations for Weaver's eight Subways in East Texas and runs 12 additional Subways in Tyler for a Dallas owner.
"I'm seeing more new faces coming in here every day," Webb said of the new restaurant, which has 11 employees.
Weaver moved to Tyler in 1989 and built all of the Subway restaurants in the area. Although he owned all of the Subways in Tyler at one time, three years ago he sold them all and now owns only the one in Bergfeld Center.
"To me it just feels like home. … A place you wouldn't mind hanging out, eating a sandwich, using the WiFi and drinking coffee," Weaver said.
He also owns Subways in Bullard, Whitehouse, New Chapel Hill, Mineola and three in Nacogdoches, as well as several other franchises.
"Subway is the largest restaurant chain in the world now," Weaver said, adding that on Tuesday there were 42,058 stores in 107 countries — numbers that change daily.
He said Subways offer breakfast and catering, and the new store recently fed a group of about 1,500 campers.
"We have the ability to feed large groups," he said.
The new Subway boasts the chain's new generation of ovens, which can cook a pizza in less than three minutes and toasts a sandwich in less than 30 seconds, Webb said. The Subway offers a Keurig coffee maker so customers can make their own flavored coffees while cutting down on waste.
Webb said there is a new Subway app people can use to order and pay for their food so they can grab it quickly from the restaurant.
"Subway is a very innovative company," Weaver said. "They're at the forefront of technology."
They started renovating the 2,300-square-foot space, which formerly housed Eighth Street Boutique, in March. A vintage sign out front was made by Sign Masters.
The Subway in Bergfeld Center will hold a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 19, offering specials, door prizes, balloons and face painting, pictures with "Sub Man" and picture identifications for children with the Tyler Police Department.
"We really hope this location connects well with the Azalea District and all the activities that happen at Bergfeld Park," Weaver said.