If you’re in Roxbury with a hankering for a tuna sandwich, Ideal Sub Shop is your ideal pit stop. Egidio Teixeira, 69, runs the shop with his brother Olivio and brother-in-law Antonio Rosa. Originally from Cape Verde, he moved to Roxbury from Dorchester in 1968. As the neighborhood has evolved over the decades, his inexpensive sandwiches have been a constant.
Tell me the story of how you opened. Why did you decide to open a sub shop?
We bought it about 35 or 36 years ago, me and my two brothers, and my brother-in-law. We all were working, but my brother quit. He had a taxi, and he sold it, so he started working here. We were doing part-time, and he was working full time. It was my brother’s idea. He got tired of driving taxis. First, he wanted to buy a liquor store. Then, we found the sub shop. I had been a meat-cutter before. Now, I’ve been doing this six days a week.
How has Roxbury changed over the years?
Well, there was a fire almost every day when I first moved here. So a lot of people, what they were doing, they just paid people to burn up the houses and collect the insurance and move out. So then we ended up with all of those empty lots, and people started dumping trash in there, refrigerators, tires, you name it. And then I joined the DSNI — the Dudley Street [Neighborhood] Initiative.
After I joined them, one day my sister-in-law, she was working, and we chased this guy. He was trying to dump construction stuff ... We didn’t chase him, we just followed him, and he got scared, I think. He just ran away.
Then, the DSNI built all these houses. Now, it’s totally different. There’s a lot of big buildings around here. They’re brand new. DSNI built over 20 houses, low-income family houses. So now the place looks good. I guess the crime is down, too.
How has COVID-19 affected the shop?
We closed for two months. We didn’t have to close, because it’s takeout only, but sometimes we had 20 or 30 people inside, you know? And we tried to tell them they had to wait outside. Nobody wanted to listen. So we just closed. We reopened in June, but we only allow four people at a time. You come in, you order your stuff, you pay for it, and you go outside. When it’s ready, we bring it out. It’s going to be like this for at least another six months or more. So the business is down, but we started picking up a little bit. So we’re OK. ... I don’t know when the winter comes. It’s going to get cold, but I don’t know if people want to wait outside. That’s a different story.
Do you think that the business will continue after COVID-19? How do you feel about the future?
It looks OK. The only thing is, sometimes you have a problem with the customers leaving. Once in a while, you get a hardhead who doesn’t want to go outside. They don’t want to wait to get food. It doesn’t work like that. Everything has changed now.
What are your hopes for the future of Roxbury after COVID-19?
Well, I’d like to see the crime disappear. That’s one of my concerns, but from what I understand, Dudley Street, it’s going to be a next big project for the City of Boston. Actually, right now, houses around here are over $1 million. There’s a house across from me. It’s a four-family for something like $1.2 [million]. They just built a condo down the street. They had an open house last Saturday and Sunday. And it’s 6.5 each for the apartments. So around here, the rent is very, very expensive. You can’t find [anything] at less than $2,000.
You’ve been in the neighborhood for a long time. What’s your role in the community?
Well, let me see. I’m a member of DSNI board of directors, and I’m a member of St. Patrick’s Church. So a lot of people know us. A lot of customers are people who work for the City, the buildings on Mass Avenue, the health department, the gas company, water company, the electric company. A lot of construction people, too, they stop by and buy the stuff.
Who makes your sandwiches?
We all do! But my brother, he stays on the cash register most of the time. But once in a while he comes and helps. But, you know, we all make sandwiches.
What do you like to order?
Italian, but we have a variety. We get three different kinds of turkey. We’ve got the regular turkey, roast turkey, honey roast turkey. Then we got Italian. We’ve got tuna, Genoa salami, meatball, steak, pastrami, Cubano. Oh, we got a lot. A whole bunch. I like the tuna. We sell tons of tunas a year. A lot of tunas!
Can I ask a silly question? What have you done in your spare time during quarantine?
I was off for two months, so what we did, my wife and I, we decided to clean the whole house. We remodeled the house two years ago. We stripped it down to the bone and replaced everything, the electricity, the walls, everything is brand new.
So what we did during quarantine, we washed all the walls inside, took down the Venetian blinds and washed them all up, the glass and the floor, we stripped everything down. And I had all the clothes folded down, put them in the drawers. So we kept busy for the whole two months.
Do you think that one of your kids will take over the sub shop someday?
No, I don’t think so. My daughter was thinking of coming to work here, but she works for Amazon now. My daughter who’s going to school, she’s working part-time here now. But the kids, they’re not interested. So that’s why we’re stuck here. We’d like the kids to take over. I need to retire!
What do people love about your shop? What do they order?
Mostly, we sell more tuna, ham and cheese, and Italian, because everything is fresh. It’s all made to order, even the tuna. We use the can, we have small can and large, so when you order it, we open a can and mix everything up the way you like it, and everything else is cut fresh. And the price is pretty cheap too, so I guess that’s the only reason. And, well, I guess one of the reasons we sell a lot of tuna is because we only use Pastene.
How do you keep your prices so low?
We don’t get rich. We just get by, and everybody’s happy.