When the first Mike’s Sub Shop opened in Point Pleasant in 1956, franchise and chain restaurants were few and far between.

In 1972, a 14-year-old high school student began working at Mike’s and immediately fell in love with the product and meeting and talking to new people.

When the original owners decided to put the restaurant up for sale, Peter Cancro — 17 years old at the time — bought the place with the help of his high school football coach.

By the time Cancro had opened a few more seasonal stores in the area, he got the idea to franchise his restaurants to satisfy the demand of his summer regulars who missed his subs over the long winter season. With that change, Jersey Mike’s Subs was born, the name change indicating that these were in fact Jersey-style subs now being offered across the country.

John Hurley lived one block from the original Mike’s Subs in Point Pleasant. Working there as a teenager until he went off to Montclair State College, he then began working full time for the company by managing a couple of their stores.

With the franchising idea in its infancy, Hurley then taught training people how to open their own Jersey Mike’s Subs franchise.

“People would come in to open their own store,” Hurley says.

Always a quick study, Hurley decided to open his own franchise in Bayville in 1993, a location he sold a decade later.

Hurley now owns three franchises — two in Ocean County — and his new store in Somers Point, with the option to open two more stores in the Atlantic County area.

The company has grown from that single store in Point Pleasant to about 720 stores across the country, with roughly 900 stores expected by the end of 2014.

What makes Jersey Mike’s Subs so popular?

“Our fresh-sliced meats, no produce comes in a bag, and everything is fresh,” says Hurley.

Every sub is sliced to order, right in front of the customer. Even the grill is not hidden in the back somewhere, but is featured right out front where customers and employees can interact with each other.

“Point Pleasant is right on the border between hoagies and subs,” says Hurley.

That is the imaginary line that separates not only professional sports team alliances but the use of the word hoagie, from South Jersey and Philadelphia, and sub, from North Jersey and New York.

At Jersey Mike’s they call it “the juice,” that mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar that gives it a “northern” flair rather than the “southern” oil only purists.

Bread is baked fresh daily — usually white and wheat — with a special rosemary parmesan bread offered occasionally.

The giant sub has a length of 15 inches, the regular is half that size and the mini is roughly 5 inches or a third of a loaf, making the sizes appropriate for two to four people, one or two, or one person, depending on who is eating the sub and just how hungry they are.

“Our employees talk to our customers and interact with them,” Hurley says.

It’s that friendly, old-time sub shop ambiance that allows everybody to have a good time.

Another thing that makes Jersey Mike’s Subs different is involvement with the community.

Hurley’s grand opening lasted five days and offered free subs with a donation to the Mainland Regional High School.

March is Jersey Mike’s month of giving and Hurley will be raising money for the local food bank. On one specific day, the store will donate 100 percent of its profits to the food bank.

“That’s what Jersey Mike’s is about — giving back to the community,” Hurley says.

If you go to Jersey Mike’s be sure to try the Big Kahuna cheesesteak ($7.45/$12.95) which comes with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos and extra cheese.

If you look closely at Jersey Mike’s menu you will notice that each sub has a number in front of it — popular items remain on the menu, new items get a new number.

Longtime regulars will still order their favorites, by number, even the ones no longer listed on the menu. The above mentioned Big Kahuna is technically number “56.”

If you order by number, a “99” is a Big Kahuna with everything including the spicy chipotle mayo — yet another good reason to interact with the knowledgeable employees.

Meatball and cheese, chicken parm and a grilled pastrami reuben are also available ($6.45/$11.75).

Wraps ($7.45) can be made on white or wheat wraps. Chicken caesar, buffalo chicken, baja chicken, grilled veggie and turkey are all on the menu, although any sub can be made into a wrap.

Standard party trays feed 10 to 12 people with each sub individually wrapped. Trays can be made according to the number of guests that are coming for the big game.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, 3-and 6-foot subs can be ordered for the biggest game of all, with only 24 hours advance notice.

Hurley recommends that you come in and experience Jersey Mike’s because they are not your regular sandwich shop.

A variety of amazing subs at Jersey Mike’s

Subs on Jersey Mike’s menu are grouped according to price. For example, cold subs such as the Jersey Shore’s Favorite made with provolone, ham and cappacuolo; the American Classic with ham and provolone; and the Veggie made with Swiss cheese, provolone and green bell peppers are priced the same — $4.65/mini, $5.95/regular, $10.95/giant.

The Super Sub has provolone, ham, prosciuttini and cappacuolo; the turkey breast and provolone is made from 99 percent fat free turkey; and the tuna fish fall into the next price range from $4.95 to $11.95.

The famous roast beef and provolone is cooked on premise, using only certified Angus beef top rounds and the Original Italian has provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami and pepperoni. The Club Sub and the Club Supreme also in this price range from $5.25 to $12.95.

Freshly grilled hot subs can be made with chicken or steak and include the Jersey Mike’s Famous Philly with grilled onions and peppers; and the chipotle cheesesteak which has grilled onions, peppers, and chipotle mayo are priced the same. These subs are $6.75 for a regular and $11.95 for a giant.