One of the oldest eateries in Riverside, The Sub Station was established in 1972 and has been a hub for the UCR community. Coupled with the absence of students at the UCR campus, local businesses such as The Sub Station have found themselves in dire need of assistance from faithful patrons. In an interview with The Highlander, Richard Munio, the owner of The Sub Station, explained the impact his sandwich restaurant has had on the culture and daily life of the university.
The Sub Sation has been serving the UCR community for 49 years — their sandwiches are a staple to UCR’s culture. Munio grew up in New Jersey, started college in Colorado and eventually graduated from California State University Chico. After graduating, he was immediately drafted and served for one year in Vietnam. After returning, Munio opened The Sub Station with his college roommate, who eventually left the company after one year.
Munio explained the many financial hits they have had to endure due to the pandemic and offered solutions on how to help during these trying times. Munio explained that it is important patrons continue to support establishments who have been serving the community for decades ー connecting current students to alumni through delicious meals and great service.
Throughout the interview, Munio emphasized the importance of The Sub Station and its impact on the culture of UCR. Munio unveiled old university photos and even a letter from Timothy P. White, the previous UCR chancellor, to further illustrate how much of UCR’s culture has been shaped by The Sub Station. He stated that he was moved by the letter as he recognized the impact his restaurant has had on university life. According to Munio, White once said, “The Sub Station is not across the street from UCR, UCR is across the street from The Sub Station.”
After his introduction, Richard explained that if The Sub Station were to disappear at the hands of the pandemic, it would leave a gaping hole in the fabric of campus life. Over the past year, Munio has cut down his staff and shortened business hours in order to sustain his restaurant during the pandemic. As a result, many students working at The Sub Station have lost their jobs or had their wages cut down significantly. The Sub Station has lost out on profits that are vital for their survival as a small business, according to Munio. He further explained that The Sub Station used to be in business seven days a week, 12 hours a day. In order to survive, The Sub Station now operates at only six days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Munio stated, “We’re trying to find a niche where we can do some business and still survive.” In an effort to find different ways to survive, Munio stated that they have focused some efforts on catering and providing bagged lunches to customers. While Riverside recently reopened for outdoor dining, Munio stated, “I’m disappointed that we haven’t found a way to get people to come dine outside … with everyone stuck at home, homeschooling their children and working from home, people just aren’t coming out to eat.”
Nevertheless, Munio remains optimistic that his regular customers will help keep them afloat and is hopeful that with more patrons attending, The Sub Station will not have to close its doors. Munio sent out an “SOS,” standing for “Save Our Sub Station” during December of 2020 and had an incredible show of support and attendance. “We sold out of our T-shirts and hats,” he said. Many regulars and previous employees have offered to help send donations to Munio’s establishment and have made GoFundMe donation pages to ensure that this UCR landmark does not disappear.
However, Munio maintained that what would be most beneficial is if people continued to come into the store and purchase meals. He explained that he has rejected any donations sent to this business, instead asking patrons to eat at the restaurant, a solution he stated would ensure the business would remain in place for years to come. For the donations he did accept, he has donated them to Inspire, a private, nonprofit organization in Riverside that aims to help emancipated foster youth transition into adulthood with financial means that will help them break the cycle of abuse and poverty of their past. Munio stated, “It is not a given that The Sub Station can survive this pandemic. It is up to you, as our longtime friends for 50 years, to make a conscious effort to drive across town and do business with us.”
Recently, The Sub Station has created a Save our Substation campaign and email list that customers can join in order to receive alerts about upcoming specials and remind them that the shop is still running and ready to serve the community. Munio explained that he has continued to collaborate with Inspire, making a donation with every purchase of an item from The Sub Station. Munio added that if customers visit The Sub Station at least two to three times a month, not only will he be able to keep his establishment running, but other Riverside-based organizations will benefit from the profits as well.
Munio takes pride in his lifelong business and shared that it has become as important to UCR’s identity as the university mascot, Scotty the Bear.