The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


New York Sub serves SMU for 35 years

New York Subs at 3411 Asbury Street.
Stuart Palley
New York Subs at 3411 Asbury Street.

New York Subs at 3411 Asbury Street. (Stuart Palley)

Sitting at a white picnic table outside a restaurant, a man greets customers with a distinctive New York accent. “How you doing?” he asks one woman carrying a baby. “Thank you for bringing the little ones in.”

Later, he proudly says that this restaurant – his restaurant – is feeding third generations of Park Cities. “It’s pretty heartwarming,” he says.

More customers walk past, and the man chats and laughs with them all. He says he likes to “kibitz with the customers; screw around with them.”

“I think they like to see me here,” he says.

The man is R. Kenneth Harkness, and his restaurant is New York Sub.

Harkness opened New York Sub 35 years ago on Feb. 1, 1974, at 3411 Asbury, the same location where it stands today. The restaurant was only 450 square feet then, and it didn’t have any tables or chairs. Harkness started the business with less than $2,000.

“I was the second sub shop in Dallas,” Harkness said. “So there was one sub shop, and it was terrible. It’d be like going up North 30 years ago … and trying to find good bar-b-que or good Mexican food. It just didn’t exist. I said, ‘I can make … a better sub than this guy just from eating them all my life.’ And I did.”

When it opened, New York Sub was one of the only restaurants along Hillcrest Avenue. Harkness recalled a hamburger joint next to his restaurant where 7-Eleven now stands, a cafeteria on the next block and a few places in Snider Plaza.

Harkness spent his formative years in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s and MBA degree from Rutgers University, where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He came to Dallas after he realized he didn’t want to be an accountant, and used this connection to improve business.

“I went over to the Beta house here and I say, you know, to the fraternity brothers, you guys spread the word about business and everything, and they did,” he said. “Matter of fact, I had Betas working for me. And that was it; it just evolved.”

Following the opening of the Asbury location, Harkness expanded his business to a downtown location in August. The next March, Harkness opened another shop in Denton. Eventually he had another downtown location, one on Greenville Avenue, one in Fort Worth, one in Austin and one in College Station. Harkness would later sell off all the restaurants except the Asbury location.

In his 35 years across the street from SMU, Harkness says he’s seen a lot of businesses come and go.

“I guess my benefit is I own the building, so I’m not going anywhere,” he said, explaining that many businesses don’t succeed because the owners can’t pay the rent.

“If I have a bad month, I just don’t pay myself until the next month. So I don’t have everybody breathing down my neck like some of these other tenets.”

Harkness said many food business over-estimate how SMU will affect their business, thinking that SMU is similar to the University of Texas or Texas A&M, universities with very large student populations. But, he said, there’s only so many food dollars to go around.

For those businesses that close, Harkness said he sympathizes with them.

“I feel bad when someone makes the investment and they, you know, they gotta close up shop; cause that was their dream, you know, and it turns into their nightmare. But, uh, but what it comes down to – business – business is business, you know?”

Harkness says he lets his product stand on its own, and that in 35 years of business, he hasn’t seen a single person sick from eating at his restaurant.

“When they come in here … they know they’re gonna get a fresh product,” he said.

Today, junior journalism major Taylor St. Eve says the location of the sub shop is very convenient for him, since he lives on Asbury. He eats there at least once a week, if not twice.

“The subs are pretty good,” he said. “[But] I’ve never really been to New York and eaten their subs, so I can’t really compare it.”

Freshman Katie Nichols also agrees that the subs are good, saying they have a unique flavor. She also feels that the restaurant has a good mix of subs from which to choose.

Harkness wouldn’t disclose the number of subs he sells, but noted that he buys in bulk when getting supplies. He’s also gone from a Sears chest freezer when he first started out to a walk-in freezer piled high with supplies. The room that used to be his office now stores boxes upon boxes of chips.

“The fact that I’m here 35 years, the same owner, the same location … I’m one of a dozen in all of Dallas – maybe 13, I dunno,” Harkness said. “We tried to figure it out and got to nine and couldn’t count anymore. That’s quite an accomplishment in the restaurant business.”

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