General Publik owners Zuleyka and Rob Barnes (Photo: Wolf)
No talking oven, but Publik Square is something to talk about
If you’ve ever browsed the vast shelves at Wave Rave you may have noticed a little snowboard company called Publik. The locally owned snowboards have made a name for themselves as of late and now the owners, Rob and Zuleyka Barnes, are trying their hand in the indie sandwich industry. The power couple did start out with a Quiznos franchise (previously in the same location), but after a few years they ultimately decided that they could do it better independently. I walked into the new Publik Square sandwich shop recently to catch up with the sandwich slingers.
Ryan Barnes: What’s going on with you today?
The Sheet: You know…everyday I’m hustlin.’
RB: Nice, I’m a huge Rick Ross fan.
Sheet: Hey, me too! Right on. So where are you both from originally?
RB: I’ve been here a few years but I’m from Billings, Mont.
Zuleyka Barnes: I’m originally from Honduras. But I moved here when I was 5 years old.
Sheet: So what’s the sandwich scene likein Honduras?
ZB: It’s non-existent! We mostly eat fried bananas, seafood, things like that.
Sheet: What about in Billings?
RB: Man, I haven’t lived there in probably 10 years, but it’s mostly a bunch of chains … Quiznos and Subway, no small places such as this.
Sheet: I think Mammoth is dying for some sandwich diversity. What can we expect from Publik Square?
RB: We have a variety of sub rolls and fresh breads baked locally at Great Basin Bakery in Bishop. And we have a pretty big sandwich menu made from fresh ingredients all around 5 bucks.
ZB: Really, we just wanted a place where we could eat.
Sheet: Did you know that Pee Wee Herman once married a fruit salad? People love their food. Have you always had a love for sandwiches?
ZB: Hah! I wouldn’t say we have a love for sandwiches, perhaps just a desire to do something different.
RB: I love ‘em. We worked on the menu for about 6 months while still running Quiznos. We asked all of our friends what they thought and we got a lot of great feedback. We tried to make the whole process very public.
ZB: Pun intended.
Sheet: What’s the best thing about being a sandwich shop owner? Is it the power … the money?
RB: Well, I’m here 7 days a week, but the good thing is that we don’t have to conform to any franchise guidelines. We can create our own unique menus and specials, plus I get to snowboard everyday.
ZB: I think the best thing is that we can adjust to the community’s needs. We keep sandwiches people like and we ditch the ones people don’t. We couldn’t do that with Quiznos.
Sheet: So what ultimately made you decide to leave the Quiznos franchise in the dust?
RB: We had our differences with the company. All the guidelines and rules were ridiculous, it just didn’t fit what Mammoth needed and what we wanted to do. But the good thing was that it was like going to sandwich college.
ZB: Which I actually had to go to. It’s funny because since we’ve reopened as Publik I’ve seen more people in here than before, tons of new faces. I’ve been here almost my whole life.
Sheet: I bet the best thing about no longer having any affiliation with Quiznos is that you probably don’t care that they have weird and gross commercials that include cheesy, hokey stuff, such as rats and talking ovens.
RB: Yeah the sexual oven. We still have the oven. But it’s not a Quiznos specific thing, it’s just a pizza oven with a conveyor belt.
ZB: It was like 4,000 bucks! We’re NOT getting rid of that!
RB: Also we painted over some Quiznos posters that we couldn’t get off the wall. So I suppose in a way we’ll never really escape it.
Sheet: Alright enough about Quiznos. You also own your own snowboard company, Publik Snowboards. What’s the connection between snowboarders and sandwiches, besides getting toasted?
RB: Hah! I never thought of it that way, but the concept is the same for both things. We just want to use eco-friendly materials and make quality products that are affordable. So I think there’s a solid connection in terms of the way we do business.
ZB: With the snowboards we’re always looking for new graphics and up-and-coming artists. We do the same thing with the sandwich shop. We want to cover the walls with some cool local art.
Sheet: Will you be carrying any secret menu items … you know, sandwiches such as the McGangbang?
RB: Nah … but we will honestly make whatever people want. We’re always coming up with new sandwiches and stuff and we’re open for suggestions. If we have it we can make it.
Sheet: That should be your new slogan.
ZB: It is catchy.
Sheet: Any plans for beer? Because you know as well I do that a sandwich and beer is a winning combo.
RB: It’s something we’re looking into down the road, but it wouldn’t be until at least December. We have another business partner, so right now we just need to make this whole thing work so everyone’s happy.
Sheet: I gotta ask, what’s with the “K” in Publik? The local tall tee company Akronym also has a special love for the letter “K.”
RB: It’s kinda funny. When I was first designing the logo for the snowboards, my friends and I would glance at the name and sometimes it sort of looked like pubic. So I messed around with different configurations and I found that replacing the “C” with a “K” just made it stand out and not look gross. It also helps when you Google Publik Square because it’s the only thing that comes up as opposed to spelling it correctly.
Sheet: That’s smart. So you just took the name and put a little mustard on it.
RB: Yeah, kinda.
Sheet: Okay, got a list here … have you ever considered creating some celebrity snowboarder sandwiches?
ZB: Hold on. I’ll get a pen.
Sheet: No, don’t do that. These ideas aren’t that great.
ZB: Well, just in case.
Sheet: Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya. Example, you could have an all organic veggie sub called the Steve Klassen, or a sandwich made with a light Red Bull and tomato sauce called the Shaun White. You could even design a sandwich that looks really good and promising and then after you pay for the thing it smashes itself into a closed gate. I call that one the Danny Davis.
RB: Hah, that’s messed up. I’m not sure how people will react to last one. But we do have the “Taylor Made,” named after Gabe Taylor. It consists of turkey, provolone, avocado, tomato, lettuce and mayo. It’s our most popular sandwich.
ZB: We also have the “Steady Tim.” He’s this super-dedicated regular who has come in for the past 738 days and has ordered the same thing every time. It’s basically an Italian sub.
RB: We really worry if he doesn’t show up.
Sheet: Well, I got a feeling you’ll have a lot of dedicated customers.
Stop by Publik Square on Old Mammoth Road (there’s parking in the back). They also do catering and free Publik Snowboard demos! Give ‘em a call at 760.934.1100.