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Milwaukee's Cousins Subs entering Northwest Indiana market

Cousins Subs, a Wisconsin favorite, is entering the Northwest Indiana market, starting with a Crown Point location.

Cousins Subs, a popular sandwich chain in Wisconsin, is entering the Northwest Indiana market, starting with Crown Point.

The 47-year-old Milwaukee-based chain serves East Coast-style deli sandwiches, cheese curds and grilled cheesesteaks at 95 locations across the Badger state. Franchisees Amit Patel and Kalpesh Patel, who is a Munster resident, said they plan to open more Cousins in the Chicago area in coming years.

The Patels are looking to open a Cousins Subs shop this summer at the intersection of Broadway and 107th Street in Crown Point. It will be located in a new strip mall near a Tomato Bar currently under construction.

"We've got a couple of other areas in Northwest Indiana that we are looking at," Cousins Subs Vice President of Development Joseph Ferguson said. "There is the possibility there will be more."

Most Cousins Subs restaurants have about 32 seats, an open kitchen concept, and 15 to 25 employees, Ferguson said. They typically require about $300,000 to $500,000 in investment.

The Crown Point location will be on the end of a new strip mall that's expected to go up over the next few months. It will have a drive-through.

Now one of the biggest sub shops in the Milwaukee metro and across Wisconsin as a whole, Cousins was founded in 1972 by two New Jersey transplants who were cousins. It's expanding to the adjoining market of Chicago as it looks to expand across the Midwest with a focus on Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky. Cousins also hopes to grow across Indiana, especially in the Indianapolis metro area.

"Anyone who has traveled to Wisconsin has most likely seen or had our product," Ferguson said. "We're known for both our deli-style and hot grilled sandwiches, as well as our many fresh Wisconsin-based products like cheese curds, shakes, floats, and Sprecher's Root Beer."

It's looking to grow in areas of population density where there's a mix of retail and residential homes, since it caters to both the lunch and dinner markets.

"Right now, we're looking to stay in the Midwest," Ferguson said. "We would listen, though, if a potential franchisee from another area wanted to open somewhere else, like further south."

Cousins Subs will enter a crowded marketplace in Northwest Indiana with many competing sub shops such as Subway, Penn Station, Potbelly's, Firehouse Subs, Quiznos and Jimmy John's. Crown Point also is home to independent sandwich shops like Lincoln Carryouts and Sandwich City.

"It's a good area for brands to grow. The sandwich is a popular choice for both lunch and dinner," Ferguson said. "We know there are a lot of people in the market making a sandwich. It's a growth product. Ours is hot off the grill with fresh cheese. We have cheese curds and a grill that set us apart."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.