Philanthropy and the private sector are two concepts that pretty much go hand-in-hand, as companies constantly seek to align themselves with the communities they serve.
For Stack Sandwich Factory, a unique eatery recently established at the Popular Center building in Hato Rey, giving back is part of every transaction that goes through the register.
“When we opened this concept, we thought a lot about where we wanted to go and where we wanted to take our company. We talked about doing something of quality and that was accessible,” said Luis Alberto Arroyo, who along with his brother Josean Arroyo, opened the sandwich shop a little more than a month ago.
“We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to build the Puerto Rico in which we want to live,” Arroyo said.
With that in mind, the brothers set out to open the sandwich shop — an original concept whose motto is “Eat with a purpose” — a reincarnation of a former business they ran in the same spot known as Mezzanine. The facelift entailed a $10,000 investment and increased the number of jobs from five to nine, Arroyo said.
The reworked concept includes a full menu of reasonably priced sandwich options featuring fresh meats, vegetables and toppings. Clients can also build their own sandwiches, paying only for their choice of meat — in that case, toppings are on the house.
“Everything we serve is fresh. Our meats, vegetables, everything,” he said. “We want this to be an experience not only for our employees, but for our customers who should expect a lower level of price and wait time, and higher simplicity.”
That experience also includes knowing that for each purchase they make, customers are contributing to a social cause.
The young entrepreneurs — Luis Alberto is 27 and his brother Josean is 36 — took their time researching the cause they wanted to work for, concluding that education was the way to go. However, they realized that the problems are “deep and systematic.”
To achieve their mission, Stack Sandwich Factory partnered with Instituto Nueva Escuela, a nonprofit a center for Montessori teacher training that works closely with the Puerto Rico Education Department to improve non-functioning schools. The institution will receive 2 percent of all of the shop’s sales, Arroyo said.
“The most important thing for Puerto Rico is education, and education for all,” Arroyo said. “We wanted to partner with somebody who was transforming the system. We believe in children having access to education, and for public schools to be an alternative.”
Conscious that the 2 percent contribution may be a small amount, the brothers are confident, however, that they will convey a message to the rest of society.
“Through our business we have an opportunity to invest in a social cause and become an awareness channel. We have to do something that’s socially conscious and tie it to the brand, because we’re not just talking about money, we’re talking about awareness,” he said. “Every time you eat here, you become a philanthropist.”
The Stack Sandwich Factory at the Golden Mile is the first of at least three locations the Arroyo brothers hope to open in the San Juan metropolitan area by the end of 2015. The next one should open during the second quarter of next year, he said.