Potbelly signs on PR21 as it eyes further expansion

Chicago: Potbelly Sandwich Works, a fast-growing chain which has plans for national expansion, has hired PR21 to handle its PR efforts.

Chicago: Potbelly Sandwich Works, a fast-growing chain which has plans for national expansion, has hired PR21 to handle its PR efforts.

The chain, which now has 30 outlets in Illinois, Washington, DC, and Michigan, plans to have a total of 50 stores within the year.

However, Potbelly is determined that this expansion will not compromise its local feel. "We will help keep the company's unique neighborhood environment as it grows," said Bridgett Brennan, SVP at PR21 in Chicago.

The chain began in 1977 as a Chicago antique shop that sold sandwiches made in a potbelly stove. The CEO bought that store in 1996 and began expanding. As the number of Potbelly locations has grown, the company has tried to maintain the atmosphere of a small neighborhood shop. Live music is featured in its stores, which sport a variety of antiques, old signs, and music memorabilia.

"It's the kind of place where people will hang out for hours," said Brennan.

The chain's motto is "Peace, Love and Potbelly Sandwiches," and it has hired Peter Nolan, a veteran of like-minded ice-cream producer Ben & Jerry's, to head its marketing operations. It is currently developing a program to reward loyal customers.

PR21 will put between five and seven people on the account, concentrating on local events as new shops are opened, said Brennan. The chain plans to open stores in Wisconsin beginning next month.

Potbelly is privately owned and does not franchise its operations.

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