Manny Perez honored as SBA Minnesota Small Business of the Year

Manny Perez honored as SBA Minnesota Small Business of the Year

Manny Perez’s long career in the restaurant business culminated earlier this month when his JMLM Restaurants enterprise was named as the Small Business Administration’s Minnesota Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year. 

Perez’s business relationship with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport stretches back 19 years to 2005, when he opened a Subway sandwich shop at Terminal 1.

Today, Perez’s businesses include the Subway at Terminal 2 and three other Subway sandwich shops, located in Faribault and Prior Lake, Minn., and one at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Perez hopes the SBA award offers inspiration to other minority-owned small businesses to remain ambitious. “Hard work can take you somewhere,” he said.

A native of Oelwein, Iowa, Perez has worked in restaurants since high school. After moving to the Twin Cities area, he bought a pizza restaurant in Prior Lake, Minn. and later sold that operation to buy his first Subway franchise on East Lake Street in Minneapolis in 1997.

Perez eventually expanded and at one time had 16 Subways. “It taught me how to run an organization at a decent scale. And it really helped me with my people management skills,” Perez said.

Historically, Perez purchased locations that were struggling operationally, stepping in to provide training on quality, cleanliness, and service. He’s received many awards from Subway for highest sales increase, most improved store, and best remodel.

He’s also received several SBA-backed loans over time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, JMLM benefitted from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

In 2003 he contacted the concessions team at MSP Airport to inquire about an airport Subway location. When a spot became available on Concourse G in 2005, his proposal for a Subway was the winner. He’s been in a couple of different locations at MSP over time and has now been at Terminal 2 for nine years. 

“I like it over at Terminal 2,” he said, noting that Sun Country’s expansion of flights is boosting foot traffic. “This will be a record year for revenue at this location, no doubt,” he said. His Terminal 2 Subway was recently the #1 location in the country by revenue among Subway franchises in a non-traditional setting, which includes airports, colleges, hospitals, and amusement parks.

“It’s been a good partnership with the MAC,” he said of his MSP experience. 

Perez says retirement from his Subway locations is in view, and he’s planning for the manager of his MSP Subway location, Eduardo Rogue, to succeed him. Rogue has been with Perez for 10 years and has managed the Terminal 2 location for the last seven years.

“I’m 60, and I’m mentoring him to pass the torch,” Perez said.

When Perez submits his next proposal for a concession location at MSP, he plans to have Rogue on the documentation with him. 

Perez’s next chapter is playing out in Prior Lake, Minn., where he’s lived the last 30 years. Perez is working to construct a new Mexican restaurant on a site he acquired. He expects the restaurant, named “Chula’s,” could open as early as next year.