25-year-old is Taneytown's newest entrepreneur

July 14, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

With her blond ponytail poking through the opening of a green company visor, Lisa L. Mathias looks like a high schooler taking a break from her summer job to chat with a customer.

But she's more than just the help here at the Subway sandwich shop in Taneytown. She owns the joint.

"I fix the subs, I bake the bread, I do everything," said Ms. Mathias, a 25-year-old from Randallstown who has become the newest member of Taneytown's business community. "I hire and I fire, too, though I haven't had to do that."

Ms. Mathias set up her shop -- tucked in the corner of the Exxon station on East Baltimore Street -- hired five locals to help run it and has enjoyed a steady stream of customers since its opening June 10.

But she doesn't like to talk about that.

Ms. Mathias nervously took several quick puffs on her cigarette (the first of two in 20 minutes), obviously uncomfortable talking about herself and her goals.

But Arthur J. Harvey, who comes from Glen Burnie to help out in the shop, had no problem discussing his ambitious girlfriend.

"She's career-oriented. She knows what she wants to do," said Mr. Harvey, a Baltimore city police officer. "It takes a lot of willpower to start your own business."

"She has a lot of high aspirations," he continued. "She's already thinking about other store locations. That's what it would take to make it in the business world."

But at one point, Ms. Mathias wanted nothing to do with it.

She had toyed with becoming a physical therapist or a travel agent, but a dislike of school stopped her from pursuing education higher than the diploma she received from Randallstown High School in 1987.

Her parents, Brenda and Richard Mathias, urged her to go to work at the Subway shop her brother Scott, 31, opened in Jessup about six years ago.

"Oh, . . I rebelled against this place when my brother opened his first store," said Ms. Mathias, rolling her eyes. Scott Mathias now owns stores in Randallstown and Silver Spring as well. "I mean, I didn't want to make subs for the rest of my life."

Instead, she became a secretary at the headquarters of the Salvation Army in Baltimore, where her mother worked. After about four years, she left her job and decided to follow her family's advice.

"I had never worked in the place [Subway shop] before," she admitted. "I didn't really know how it would be. Now, I love it."

Ms. Mathias' Subway shop makes four in the family. Scott Mathias' wife, Lauri, is the bookkeeper for all four franchises.

Brother and sister were going to open a franchise in Owings Mills, but the deal fell through.

"It's so easy," Ms. Mathias said. "You do the same thing every day."

It wasn't so easy at first.

"In the beginning, before we opened, it was a lot of pressure, a lot of stress," Ms. Mathias said. "I worked [from] open to close for about three weeks, that's 6 a.m. to 11 at night, to train everyone, get things ready."

She said she had disagreements with her brother about how to prepare for the store's opening, but she credits him with being a big part of her education.

"I had to go to school in Connecticut for two weeks [to learn about owning a franchise] but I didn't learn that much," she said. "I mean, I had worked for my brother for a year.

"It was hard to learn [from the class] the long way to get something done when I had already learned the short cuts from my brother."

Things are a bit easier now, especially with excellent staff support, Ms. Mathias said.

"It helps to have good employees to help the business running smoothly," she said.

One of those employees, Trish Adams, 18, believes it is Ms. Mathias who keeps things going.

"Lisa works hard. She's young, but she's just like any other boss I've had," said Ms. Adams, who will be a sophomore at Frostburg State in the fall.

"She's laid back, but she gets things done."

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