In 1996, former Chicago options trader Jimmy Seidel came to the realization that he'd need to open his own eatery if he wanted great sandwiches like the ones he'd found across the country in his years of travel. He picked a little shack of a place on Pearl Street in Boulder as his home base for what would grow into a thriving family of Snarf's in the Denver metro area and beyond. The original shack is long gone, replaced by a bigger space just a block away, and Seidel has more plans for growth as Snarf's gets ready to celebrate its twentieth anniversary later this month.
Part of those plans include a new location at South Broadway and East Florida Avenue, in a vacant service station that was most recently a Sinclair. The move is in keeping with many other Snarf's that have moved into unexpected locations, something that Seidel says wasn't necessarily planned. "I just love the shacks — I seek them out," he explains. "I personally love old gas stations and other freestanding buildings."
The original Boulder sandwich shop started its life in 1952 as an A&W and had multiple incarnations up until the point Seidel decided to open Snarf's. "It was a pretty scary Chinese restaurant when I took it over," he recalls. "A pretty good scary Chinese restaurant."
Snarf''s was forced to move when the owners of the building tore it down ten years ago; Seidel reopened down the street later that same year.
And while the shoppette that houses Denver's first Snarf's, which opened at 1001 East 11th Avenue in 2009, doesn't have as much character as a mid-century gas station or other reclaimed edifice, Seidel says the place will be getting an overhaul this year — and he'll also be adding Denver's first Snarf Burger (the concept he launched in another shack in Boulder three years ago) next door. Snarf's has also expanded to Chicago, Saint Louis and Austin; a fourth Saint Louis store just opened, and the second Austin Snarf's will open within the next two months.
With all the growth, Seidel says, his success has come from being consistent. "We try to stick to our original premise," he says. "We've taken a classic combination and tried to make it the best. And I think we've done it and been successful at it."
Current twentieth-anniversary promotions include "golden ticket" giveaways (Seidel is an admitted Willy Wonka fan), with a prize of free sandwiches for a year, and a "not on the menu" menu available on the Snarf's website with Buffalo chicken sandwiches, Reubens, cheesesteaks and other specials, including Seidel's favorite, the Big Fat Snarf, built with full portions of pastrami and corned beef and plenty of other toppings.
Additionally, there will be special events at the the Table Mesa Snarf's (637 South Broadway Street) in Boulder and at the Berkeley Snarf's (5001 West 38th Avenue) in Denver on June 25, and 100 percent of profits at all stores will be donated to local food banks and nonprofits on that day.