Post Date: August 3, 2017
Author: Zachery Green
If there is one word that sums up the Delmar Loop, it’s “vibe.” There’s a wacky, creative, eclectic vibe to the place that you invariably feel each time you visit. It’s how you know that you’re on one of the 10 Greatest Streets in America. It’s how you know you’re in for a good time. So it’s no surprise that the Loop would attract Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, one of the most unique, zany, vibe-focused sandwich chains in the country, a chain whose CEO prefers to be referred to as “Chief Vibe Officer.”
The first Which Wich opened in downtown Dallas in 2003 when Jeff Sinelli, developer of several independent hospitality ventures and a Mongolian barbeque chain, decided to bring a new approach to the area’s sandwich scene. The restaurant’s novel ordering system, where eaters order customized sandwiches by ticking off circles on a brown paper sandwich bag, was an instant hit. Demand for franchises grew quickly in response to Which Wich’s popularity, and in 2005 the first franchise location opened in Dallas.
Growth was practically exponential from that point on, with Store Chain Guide declaring Which Wich the fastest growing restaurant chain in the U.S. and Canada in 2010. For a snapshot of that growth, store 50 opened in 2008, store 100 in 2010, store 250 in 2013, and store 300 in 2014. Today Which Wich has 450 locations in eleven countries, one of them right here in University City’s Delmar Loop. Those who frequent the Loop location have Neelam Khurana to thank for all the tasty sandwiches and positive vibes.
Neelam immigrated to the United States from central India in 1998 after marrying Kumar Satish, who owns House of India at Delmar and I-170. For several years Neelam helped Kumar operate his restaurant, but after having her first Which Wich experience while visiting Houston, the early seeds of opening her own franchise were sown. Neelam was enchanted by the Which Wich model and deeply appreciative of its vegetarian options. The very first sandwich she tried at the Houston location was the black bean wrap, which to this day remains her favorite. After that initial encounter, Neelam always made a point to search for a Which Wich during road trips with Kumar and their kids. Before the chain came to St. Louis, she would occasionally drive all the way to Columbia just to have a Which Wich meal.
Eventually Kumar got word that Which Wich wanted to open locations in the St. Louis region. When he told Neelam, she was thrilled at possibility of running her own franchise, and in 2011, the pair began the arduous process of making her aspiration a reality. One of the most challenging aspects of that process was choosing a location. Neelam and Kumar considered setting up shop in many different areas, including Clayton and the Central West End. However, they couldn’t help but keep coming back to the Delmar Loop.
“The Loop is always so lively and vibrant,” says Neelam. “We have always enjoyed walking here on the weekend and seeing all of the foot traffic and diversity. Because the Loop is so unique, and because the concept of Which Wich is so unique, that’s why we decided it was the best location.”
It was settled. Which Wich was coming to the Loop, and after pinning down a space, procuring all the equipment, and hiring and training employees, the restaurant opened its doors on May 18, 2014. Since then, Delmar Loop visitors and regulars have grown to love the restaurant’s wide array of sandwiches, which includes “perfectly crafted” specialty offerings such as Philly cheesesteak, gyro, and cobb salad, as well as build-your-own sandwiches in the multiple categories. Which Wich’s variety extends to health-based options with several gluten-free items on the menu, and there are also shakes and sweets if you have room for dessert. With so many choices, Which Wich is the kind of restaurant where anyone can find something they love. It’s no mystery why Neelam was so enthralled when she first ate at the Houston location.
As much as she loves the food, to Neelam the most important aspect of Which Wich is its mission statement: “Some want to make superior sandwiches. Some want to make the world a better place. We want to do both.” To achieve this mission, Which Wich has two chain-wide programs dedicated to supporting others at local, national and international levels. The first program is Project PB&J, where two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are donated to those in need each time a customer orders a Product PB&J sandwich. One sandwich is donated locally, and the other is donated anyplace in the world facing a time of emergency. The second program is Flag Your Bag, where customers draw an American flag on one of Which Wich’s brown paper sandwich bags in the weeks prior to Independence Day. They are then displayed in restaurants before being filled with snacks and sent to our nation’s servicemembers in a show of support.
In keeping with the chain’s emphasis on helping people, Neelam’s location frequently engages in and supports community activities. They have assisted Operation Food Search with fundraising in the past, and have also donated sandwiches to a local non-profit group that provides nutritional support for low-income families. Neelam’s Which Wich location also offers discounts to members of a local professional women’s organization.
It’s been three years since Which Wich arrived in the Delmar Loop, and Neelam believes the restaurant’s best days are still ahead. As she continues to market the franchise through events like Taste of U City, Wash U tastings and various advertising outlets, Which Wich is becoming a Delmar Loop staple to more and more visitors. Neelam looks forward the opening of the Loop Trolley, feeling that it will provide a great opportunity for people frequenting the East Loop and Forest Park to discover the restaurant. There’s little doubt that trolley riders and others will be drawn in by Which Wich’s delicious food, great service and, of course, its easygoing vibe. In bringing Which Wich to the Delmar Loop, it’s safe to say Neelam has furthered the company’s mission by making University City a better place, all while providing superior sandwiches.
6662 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130
(314) 833-4300 (fax)