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Hartle's Subs reopens in original location

February 28, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

HAGERSTOWN -- Hartle's -- Hagerstown's longtime sub shop -- is back in its original location and selling subs it says are made from the original recipe, though the owners aren't Hartles.

But that doesn't seem to matter to the people who have flocked to Hartle's since it reopened last fall in the shop's original 635 S. Potomac St. location, owner Paula Robertson said.

"They don't care that we're not in the family," she said. "I think it's the nostalgia of walking back into the building because so many people tell stories of when they went to South High and she (founder Margaret Hartle) had pinball machines in here.

"They say, 'We hung out here. We remember seeing the deli case out front and it was full of subs.' They say, 'Aw, the big deal is, we would come over from Martinsburg and my dad would get five subs and they were 50 cents apiece. I bet we hear that at least twice a day."

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So today, the Robertsons -- Rich and Paula -- who bought rights to the "Hartle's" name, plan to have a grand reopening at the original location. That will be the anniversary of when the original Hartle's opened on March 1, 1955, Paula said.

According to Herald-Mail archives, Margaret Hartle and her late ex-husband bought the sub shop from Maxine Hurd in 1955. For 20 years, Hartle would sit in her home next to the shop and slice up to 90 pounds of tomatoes a day for the shop's subs.

Hartle died in 1997, leaving the shop to two of her daughters.

The original location eventually was sold and, in 2004, the Robertsons bought the business -- which had moved to 1301 Marshall St. -- and the "Hartle's" name, Paula Robertson said.

Paula, a hairdresser at the time, said her husband, years after having been a vice president with Freddie's Subs, wanted to have his own sub shop.

They kept the Marshall Street location and, later, opened a second Hartle's off Robinwood Drive. However, it lacked a dining room and didn't do as well, and was closed a year later, she said.

"My husband and I decided we didn't want to open any more unless it (the location) was absolutely perfect," she said.

Last fall, they learned a restaurant then leasing the original Hartle's building was leaving.

"It was the best possible location," Paula said.

Shortly after signing the lease, the Robertsons opened their Hartle's in the original location in time for the Alsatia Mummers Parade and "we had a line for five hours" during the parade, Paula said.

While the location is the same, the interior is not.

It's been changed by other businesses that have occupied the building since the original Hartle's closed, she said.

"We'd love to re-create it," Paula said. "But what's most important to us is that when people come in, they say, 'Wow! It smells like Hartle's.' People are tickled to death that we're back there."

The Robertsons say when they bought the Hartle's name from one of Margaret Hartle's daughters, they also bought the original sub recipes.

But the same claim is made by Scott and Sheree Green, who bought a little Funkstown restaurant called Gracie's Place from another of Margaret's daughters in 2007. The Greens since have opened three other Gracie's in the area.

Paula said there's no animosity between the two couples.

She put it this way: "There's so many people in the area that like them and so many people that like us. There's people like Subway. There's enough money to be made by all of us."

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