When Fawzi Tohme left Lebanon and immigrated to the United States in 1972, he did so with only $25 in his pocket and the American Dream in his sights. After arriving at Ellis Island and changing his last name from Tohme to Tomey, Fawzi ultimately settled in Detroit. Fawzi worked countless jobs over the years to put himself through school, support his growing family and build a foundation that eventually allowed him to operate his own business as a Jimmy John’s franchisee.
He worked as a waiter, a busboy, a baker and pretty much any job he could take on while attending school and raising three children: Anthony, Christine and Michael, alongside his wife. After earning his Master’s degree and spending the next 30 years working as the chief financial officer for an automobile supplier, Fawzi was ready to become his own boss. When his oldest son, Anthony was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2003, there wasn’t a better time for the Tomey family to open their own business.
“My dad, uncle Tony and I had a couple of options,” Anthony recalls. “I remember my dad thought about a gas station and then he talked about opening a Subway restaurant. That got me thinking back to my days at Eastern Michigan, where I used to eat Jimmy John’s all the time.”
“They had never tried Jimmy John’s, so we went and got a few sandwiches and they were hooked.”
In late August 2003, the Tomey’s opened their first Jimmy John’s. Tony ran all day-to-day operations, Fawzi handled the money and Anthony would come home any time he wasn’t playing baseball and work in the store, drive deliveries or do whatever his family needed to help the business thrive.
“In our area, people didn’t really know what Jimmy John’s was at the time. So we started making samples and delivering them to businesses around town,” Anthony said. “We doubled, then tripled our sales and eventually, it really became the family business. My brother, my sister, my mom, aunt and all my cousins just started chipping in and helping out where they could.”
Over the next six years, their operation expanded, opening two more restaurants before Anthony retired from baseball to focus on building the family business. From 2008-2019, they opened 47 additional restaurants, bringing their total to 50 in the Detroit area.
Despite growing into one of the top franchisees in the Jimmy John’s system, the Tomey family proudly maintains the same work ethic that Fawzi brought with him to America more than 40 years ago.
“To this day, all of us work in our restaurants every day, delivery drive and really work hand-in-hand with our teams. Our teams see how much this business means to us and they have really bought into what we’re trying to do,” Anthony said.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and we wouldn’t be the business that we are without (Fawzi) always being there for us and supporting us at all times.”
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