Prairie Subway, Papa Murphy’s sold to next generation

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Randy and Paula Sheckler (left) have owned Subway in Prairie du Chien for 33 years. On Dec. 8, they sold the franchise to their son and daughter-in-law, Brent and Mary Sheckler. They also sold out their portion of the adjoining Papa Murphy’s franchise, making the younger Shecklers sole proprietors to both businesses. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

 

Prairie du Chien’s Subway and Papa Murphy’s has been handed over to the next generation of the Sheckler family. 

The transition became official Dec. 8, as Brent and Mary Sheckler bought the two franchises from his parents, Randy and Paula Sheckler, who started the local Subway in September of 1988. The two couples together opened Papa Murphy’s in Prairie du Chien in May of 2004.

Brent and Mary are excited to be sole proprietors of both businesses. 

The Prairie du Chien Subway was Randy and Paula’s first franchise restaurant—33 years ago. 

They opened it in the location where Dunkin’ Donuts is today. It was there for about nine years before they purchased the current location—then Prairie Station—in 1996. They took the gas pumps out and renovated the building. Initially inside, starting in 1997, they ran Subway and, on the north end, a convenience store. This is where Papa Murphy’s is currently.

Both Randy and Paula grew up in Prairie du Chien, graduated high school together and got married. They were 29 years old when they discovered a new phenomenon in fast food: Subway. They ate at the Platteville one often. 

Paula remembered, one day, the Platteville Subway owner noticed the couple had been in the restaurant frequently. He started talking to them and mentioned the idea of opening a Subway in Prairie du Chien. He got them in touch with the development agent, whose persistence, coupled with their interest in the food and the company and their hometown ties, got things rolling. From there, Paula said it was tough to get a loan, there was no free money and they had to convince many people that they could make a go of “selling cold sandwiches.”

Fast forward to today, and Subway is a staple in Americans’ regular diets. 

“I’ve known Subway my whole life,” Brent said. 

The Shecklers’ Subway ended up being one of the earliest to become established in Wisconsin. Paula said she and her first manager, Wendy Vanderbilt, went to Connecticut to complete extensive training. 

Early on, there were 2,500 franchise Subways. At one time, that number grew to roughly 40,000. Though, at present, they are down to about 21,400.

The couple put up nine Subways in Wisconsin and Iowa over the years, including Lancaster, Fennimore and Boscobel, which they still run today. 

They added on to their building in Prairie in 2001, and have since leased the back end to various other local businesses. 

Then, Papa Murphy’s came to Prairie in 2004, after Paula tried it elsewhere and came home to share with the family that this new franchise might be perfect for Brent and Mary. It turned out to be a complimentary fit to Subway and, once the Shecklers convinced the company it would work in a city smaller than 10,000, the take-and-bake innovation was set for its current location. Mary and Paula went to Washington State  to do the Papa Murphy’s training. 

It was then that the younger Shecklers graduated college, were married and got straight to work. Brent and Mary also purchased a fitness center in Fennimore around the time—the origination to their highly successful Suppz gyms and nutritional supplements business. They were no strangers to hard work, Brent having worked at Subway throughout high school and Mary during college.

The fresh and convenient fast food businesses have been good to the Sheckler family. They’ve worked hard and made sacrifices, but they’re pleased to have been surrounded by some good employees over the years. 

Mary said, currently, she’s got some great management in Prairie du Chien who have “really stepped up.” Melissa Folsom is the general manager and Micah Jacobs is the new assistant general manager. 

So, from selling $1.69 cold cut and $.99 meatball subs, to passing on the torch after more than three decades, Randy and Paula are confident Subway and Papa Murphy’s are in the best hands. 

Brent and Mary have been training since July to take over. They hope to remodel Papa Murphy’s this coming June, and Subway soon after. They continue running the Suppz gym in Fennimore and own multiple Suppz nutrition stores around the region and online. They’re also parents to three school age children.

Randy and Paula won’t be retiring just yet either. They’ll keep busy with their other three franchises and Prairie Fun Land in Prairie du Chien. But, next in line is selling the Lancaster Subway to their youngest son and daughter-in-law. 

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