Sun Prairie residents can feel a little safer these days, thanks to Firehouse Subs.

A $9,875 grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation allowed the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department to recently purchase a Milwaukee Battery-powered Genesis C236 eFORCE 2.0 Cutter — or, as the device is more commonly referred to, “jaws of life.”

The acquisition ensures that both city fire stations are now equipped with the latest in life-saving equipment, according to Sun Prairie firefighter Corey Quinn, who wrote the fire department’s grant application. The department also received $11,000 through the foundation in 2015 for a thermal imaging camera to help firefighters see areas of heat through smoke, darkness and heat-permeable barriers.

Both grants allowed fire department officials to purchase the equipment without taxpayer dollars.

Such community generosity is nothing new for Firehouse Subs. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based fast-casual restaurant chain opened its third Madison-area location in November on Sun Prairie’s west side — just blocks away from Fire Station 2.

Firehouse prides itself on providing funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities for first responders and public safety organizations in the communities its restaurants serve.

Since 2005, the company has donated more than $29 million to these efforts in 44 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. First responders in many communities around the country “make do” with older equipment and have limited or no access to needed resources, company officials say.

Firehouse Subs boasts 15 Wisconsin locations and has provided $386,000 to what the company calls “hometown heroes.”

“We’ve gotten back a lot more than we put in,” said Eric Erwin, area representative for Firehouse Subs and co-owner of the three Madison-area restaurants.

Erwin’s business partners are Scott Anthony and former Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer Don Davey.

Collectively, the trio has more than 55 years of restaurant industry experience. Anthony and Davey also own several Firehouse Subs locations in Florida, according to Erwin, who is the local face of the franchise.

Last year, foodservice-consulting firm Technomic named Firehouse Subs the top overall brand among chains, plus gave it the title of “most craveable chain sandwich” based on consumer metrics.

A total of 10 specialty subs comes in three sizes and feature steamed meat and cheese on a toasted sub roll and served with a “Fully Involved” option — with mayonnaise, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and a kosher dill spear on the side.

Additionally, the restaurant provides table delivery and offers an assortment of complimentary hot sauces, including Captain Sorensen’s Datil Pepper Hot Sauce, named in honor of Rob Sorensen, a 43-year retired fire captain and father of former firefighter brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen, who founded Firehouse Subs in 1994.

“Initially, it was the food that sold us on Firehouse Subs,” said Erwin, who lives in Lake Mills and signed on a franchisee in 2012 after working for Wendy’s in another state. “It was the best sandwich I’d ever eaten, and I fell in love with the brand from the moment I walked in the door.”

When you walk in the door of the 18,000-square-foot Sun Prairie location, 390 S. Grand Ave. # 102, you’ll likely hear an employee call out, “10-12” — firehouse talk for “visitor present.” That’s the cue for the rest of the employees to say, “Welcome to Firehouse Subs.”

Next, you’ll no doubt notice the custom 4-foot-by-12-foot mural hung high above the seating area. It depicts the Sun Prairie Fire Department’s Station 2 with local area representative, Bobbie Erwin (Eric’s wife), and other members of the local Firehouse family escorting out Big Ten mascots from Indiana University, Northwestern and Purdue. You can even see the city’s historic Columbus Street water tower in the background.

The mural was painted by Joe Puskas, a Jacksonville artist who has created more than 1,095 murals for Firehouse Subs since the company began.

In addition to the restaurant’s local color and local mission, Firehouse Subs offers ways local customers can give back to the Sun Prairie community, too.

Leftover five-gallon pickle buckets (which look like the ones you can buy from a home improvement store) are available for a $2 donation to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, donation canisters on the register counters explain the nonprofit’s mission and collect spare change, and the Round Up Program allows patrons to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar.

Erwin says Firehouse also is donating 0.13 percent of all purchases to the foundation, which will result in a minimum donation of $1 million.

A grand opening celebration is planned for spring and likely will feature Sun Prairie Fire Department vehicles and demonstrations of the Firehouse Subs-funded life-saving equipment.

“This is a growing area,” Erwin said, “and we thought there was a real opportunity here.”

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