Ex-Padres player Adrian Gonzalez getting into the restaurant business

Adrian Gonzalez isn’t ready to give up playing baseball just yet, but he already is at work on a post-MLB career move: ownership of sub sandwich franchises.

Just a few years after making a modest investment in a single Jersey Mike’s location in San Diego County, the former San Diego Padres first baseman has purchased a majority ownership stake in six of the fast casual sandwich shops and hopes to add even more to his nascent portfolio.

“You definitely have to think about the future, and this is one of the things I will be doing and will be much more active in once I do retire,” said the San Diego native, who was preparing this week to head to Florida for spring training as a new player for the New York Mets. “There's always a possibility I’ll stay involved in baseball after I'm done playing but, in a way, this is setting things up for me for post playing baseball.”

A four-time Gold Glove Award winner, Gonzalez, 35, is majority owner of three Jersey Mike’s locations in Oceanside, two in Carlsbad and one in Encinitas. And he plans to open five more over the next five years. His partner is Ken Nicola, a minority owner who oversees daily operations.

The first time Gonzalez bit into one of the chain’s subs, he says he was immediately smitten, so much so that about three years ago he was persuaded by an acquaintance who owned local franchises to invest in one of them as a silent partner. When the former owner decided to pursue other things, Gonzalez decided he would take over ownership of the six franchises.

According to Jersey Mike’s website, the initial investment to develop a franchise is between $193,204 and $660,442.

Not only is Gonzalez now an owner, but he’s something of an ambassador for the chain, touting the fresh ingredients that go into the subs, the in-store cooking of the meats, and the chain’s charitable giving.

Locally, 38 Jersey Mike's locations are raising money this year for Rady Children's Hospital in hopes of besting last year’s local fundraising record of nearly $192,000.

“We want to continue to grow and have more stores, we’re not just going to sit with these six stores,” said Gonzalez, who signed a one-year contract with the Mets last month after playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for six seasons.

“I love the concept, everything they do, from their charitable giving mentality to wanting to be a neighborhood location where kids go after a Little League game and have subs. If you're going to get into this, you have to believe in it and trust it so it's not just a location I own, it's part of what I believe in as well.”

For more information, visit www.jerseymikes.com

--Lori Weisberg is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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