NEW BETHLEHEM – Tim Murray opened his first Subway restaurant in the summer of 1996. Not even the major flood that washed through his store on opening weekend could keep him down.
Now, more than 20 years later, Tim and Jenn Murray announced recently that they have sold that New Bethlehem store, along with the six other Subway franchises they operate in Clarion and Armstrong counties.
The Murrays introduced the new owner, Pipasu Soni, last week, saying that they’re confident he will be the right fit for the businesses.
“He plans on continuing the community support,” Tim Murray said, noting that over the years, his Subway franchises have given back more than $350,000 to the community.
“We’re excited to be a part of these communities,” Soni said, adding that he plans to continue the “community-first” approach.
A native of a small town in Tennessee, Soni said he has been working in corporate America for 20-plus years, starting off in Augusta, Ga. and moving around to New York, Texas, New Jersey and even the United Kingdom over the years.
About three years ago, Soni said he and his family settled in the Gibsonia area outside of Pittsburgh, while he was working with U.S. Steel.
“I decided to make a move,” he said. After meeting the Murrays earlier this year, Soni and his wife, Christi, decided to purchase the seven Subway locations. “I wanted something that was established, with a good reputation. I really like the Subway structure.”
Tim Murray said the sale process actually began in April of this year, but took some time to finalize.
The sale includes the restaurants in New Bethlehem, Clarion (downtown and near Instate 80), downtown Kittanning, at the Walmart in Kittanning, Ford Cliff and Worthington. The Murrays said they will continue to own four of the buildings in which the restaurants are located, including the one in New Bethlehem.
Soni said he plans to continue the many benefit days at the various locations, and he hopes to work more with area businesses for catering and healthy options for employees.
With 55 employees across the seven locations, Soni said he plans to keep the current staff along with the “hometown feel” that he sees in each of the stores.
He said that he and his wife plan to operate the stores as a couple, like the Murrays have done. The Sonis have three children, Emma, 13, Abigail, 11, and Jag, 4.
As for the Murrays, who operated 11 Subways in the area at one time, they said it will be a bit of an adjustment but that they still plan to be a part of the local community.
Tim currently serves as mayor of New Bethlehem Borough, while Jennifer is a member of the borough council. They have both also been active in the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce and other area organizations.
“I’ll still be in the community,” Tim Murray said, noting that he will also be working with Soni in an advisory role for several weeks. “I wish Pipasu success, and we’d like to thank the community for their support over the years.”
Although they wouldn’t divulge any details, the Murrays said they hope to have a new endeavor to announce at some point.
“We have a few things on the burner,” they said.