The Early Years
Our story begins with a few interesting words: unconventional, creative, delicious, harmonious, fusion, trio, and passion… words that inspire thoughts of music, as well as food, and words that have been used repeatedly over the years to describe Peppo’s, particularly its unique food and business culture. And for good reason. Peppo’s was founded by a trio of Jazz players! The time was 1976, and the place was rural, southwest suburban Chicago, where three members of a Jazz band decided to give rise to a dream.
Bands of another sort—off-road motorcyclists—were the market at that time, who, including the three partners, would meet to ride together along the trails and open fields in the area. The problem was, there was no place to eat after a demanding and dusty day’s ride, and Peppo and his partners seized upon an opportunity.
The goal was to satisfy unusually large appetites, but also to try to combine a salad and a sandwich into one, using a secret recipe for the toppings, origins of which remain undisclosed. The result was a simple numbered menu of meat and cheese combinations, topped with something called GUTS, which was then and continues to be the core of the Peppo’s product and business, and serves to represent the double meaning of innards and competitive spirit—the latter of which most certainly represents the passions of Peppo and his partners.
Immediately, people fell in love with the food, and it wasn’t long before Peppo’s became an alternative destination for the area (besides the motorcycle trails) for men and women of all ages. People remarked on the unconventional style of Peppo’s sandwiches, creatively combining a salad and a sandwich into one, with the harmonious fusion of a hearty and healthy trio of ingredients—tomatoes, pickles, and onions—herbs, spices, and homemade dressing into a delicious, deeply satisfying, and visually appealing sandwich that was unlike anything else on the market.
Indeed, even today, if you were to be presented with an array of sandwiches, without their wrappings, from the most popular sandwich chains in America, the Peppo’s sub-sandwich would clearly stand out for its sumptuous Guts toppings. And though Peppo’s has always offered sandwiches in 5”, 7”, and 11”, Peppo’s subs may very well be better judged by weight than length. (Our smallest sandwich weighs in at about 13.5 ounces.)
Of course, there were some challenges along the way, as with all independent businesses, including a tenuous period of uncertainty when Peppo’s was forced to quickly vacate its original location and search for another. But great food and loyal customers ensured that Peppo’s would endure and thrive to become a permanent fixture of the local community. Yet, despite innumerable suggestions to expand, the partners chose a more conservative path, and Peppo’s remained a family-owned and independent, one-shop business for over 40 years.
Peppo Sr. has since emerged as the sole proprietor of Peppo’s, and his son, Peppo Jr., who was largely raised on and in Peppo’s, has taken to the business with youthful energy and an eye toward the future. Under Peppo Jr.’s direction, Peppo’s took its first significant step toward growth in over three decades by recruiting a small group of motivated and dedicated team members, who aided him in expanding the original store’s location, engaging heavily in local festivals, growing Peppo’s now popular catering business, and getting Peppo’s featured on Chicago’s Best.
Words like unconventional, creative, delicious, harmonious, fusion, trio, and passion can obviously still be used to describe Peppo’s food and business culture, as the Peppo’s legacy passes from one generation to the next, for the owners, as well as for our loyal customers. However, we feel that a new era demands a new word to be added to our list: ambition, because, despite our long history, we are working hard every day to innovate, improve, and expand in all areas that relate to our business, including and especially our food offerings, opportunities for growth, and opportunities for our dedicated team members.
So it is, with a keen eye toward a bright future, that we shout a sincere “Thank You” out to everyone who is and has always been behind us!