A local lawyer’s side business is spreading out like mayo on a sub roll.
Gray Broughton spends his days as an attorney for Williams Mullen, defending businesses that have been raided or subpoenaed by authorities.
He also owns a growing and profitable portfolio of sub shops and on Monday opened his third Jimmy John’s franchise in three years with a location in Shockoe Slip.
“I was always thinking it would be nice to a have a side business,” said Broughton, who before joining Williams Mullen in 2006 spent four years as an attorney with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
The new shop is in the former longtime home of catering and lunch spot A Moveable Feast, next door to City Dogs. It joins Broughton’s other Jimmy John’s shops at the corner of Franklin and Belvidere and in Chesterfield Towne Center.
Broughton, 37, bought into the Jimmy John’s franchise in 2009 at the suggestion of friend from the Midwest, where the brand was already popular.
His first location, in Chesterfield, was far from an instant success.
“I’m not going to lie – the first one was rough. I wasn’t making money from the get-go,” he said. “No one else knew about Jimmy John’s at the time. We were waiting for these things to take hold.”
The leap doesn’t come cheap. He said it has cost about $400,000 to get new stores up and running, including buildout, equipment, franchise fees and the like.
That’s more than a few billable hours.
“You’ve got to be pretty sure it’s going to work,” Broughton said.
A graduate of Davidson College and Washington & Lee University’s school of law, Broughton has financed the shops largely by going in with friends and family members. He has different investment partners on each location.
He opened his second location in late 2011 in VCU country.
“Thankfully, that one took off almost immediately,” he said. “I’m hopeful the downtown store will be the same.”
Each store can to bring in about $500,000 to $1.5 million in gross sales per year, he said.
Broughton did have to tell his firm what he was doing on the side and that it wouldn’t interfere with his practice.
He hired Danny Hardesty, a University of Virginia graduate and former Williams Mullen litigation paralegal, to manage the stores’ day-to-day operations of the shops.
“Obviously, I don’t have time to make sandwiches or manage a store,” Broughton said. “I still have all the requirements of being a partner at a law firm.”
The operation now has about 100 employees, including eight full-time managers and an army of bike-riding delivery people.
Broughton said his entrepreneurial exploits also come in handy when dealing with some of his clients, who are businesspeople that run government contracting firms or health-care providers.
“A lot of times, just by telling someone I’m also a business owner, it’s just an additional commonality. They don’t think, ‘you’re just a lawyer that’s only gone to law school and has no idea how to run a business,’” he said.
Broughton said he’ll continue to look for more locations. Might he someday ditch the suit and briefcase and don a Jimmy John’s cap and apron?
“I’ll stay in law. This is a side thing,” Broughton said. “It’s not a minor side thing. But I enjoy practicing law.”