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Mack Musgrave, Secret Sandwich Shop LLC
McKenzie Robinson | SBJ
Mack Musgrave, Secret Sandwich Shop LLC

Secret Sandwich Shop

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It’s not much of a secret anymore. Mack Musgrave’s Secret Sandwich Shop LLC this summer left the dark, back corner of Sweet Boy’s bar in downtown Springfield for its own storefront around the corner. The eatery first opened in July 2020, and Musgrave says it will soon be undergoing a rebranding. Secrecy continues, though, as the shop’s new name is under wraps. The restaurant serves customers through a walk-up window designed with clever yellow sandwich decals.

Here’s our interview with Mack Musgrave.

You first opened in the back of a bar. What drew you to create the concept?
My wife and I are friends with the people who own Sweet Boy’s, and they had a spot open in the back. They wanted to put in some food. I was working for Boulevard Brewing Co. at the time and I was furloughed. I’ve been wanting to open a sandwich shop for a long time, so it just all kind of fell into place.

Where does your love of sandwiches come from, and what’s the best sandwich you’ve ever tasted?
No matter where we go, be it Branson or Portugal, we find the best sandwich shops that we can find. Before we opened this one, we all went to St. Louis and we had what we called the sandwich sojourn. We just went and we ate probably 20 sandwiches that weekend. It’s just inspiration. In Lisbon, I went to a place called Afonso. They make “bifanas,” which is a really great sandwich from Portugal. It’s on brown bread, it’s simmered pork and has cheese and a sweet mustard. And then Gioia’s [Deli] in St. Louis, they have incredible sandwiches.

Do you have a culinary background?
I worked as an architect before – that’s what I went to school for. I moved here from south Florida, and I moved into restaurants around 2008. It wasn’t a great time for architecture. I had some family here and I kind of just literally started anew, and food was the path that I took. And then I got heavy into craft beer.

What have been the biggest wins of this past year-plus in business?
In the back of the bar, it allowed me to create an incubation kitchen. It was something I could learn from and see if it’s something I really wanted to do. My career was on pause anyway just because of the pandemic. It’s grown significantly since the first day.

What has been your biggest business shift since opening?
Mostly it has to do with process through design. We’ve had to redesign a few times to make things run smoothly. This is not the first and it’s not the last iteration of how it looks in there. Same over at Sweet Boy’s.

What are your plans for using the second floor of this building?
We already cater, so we’ll be looking to push our catering more, once we get the upstairs space going. We’re already almost too busy as it is. That will be in the next month. We’re getting a lot of phone calls for catering and we’ve made it work down here, but it takes all of our resources. We’ll move all of our prep upstairs.

Downtown certainly has other restaurants, and even other sandwich shops. How do you view competition?
It’s an all-rise-together thing. I eat at a lot of the restaurants around me; they eat here. My ultimate goal behind staying downtown is I really love downtown, and I want it to be better and I want to help better it. That’s all any restaurateur around here wants is for downtown to grow and succeed.

What have you learned about yourself opening and running the sandwich shop?
A lot of my friends who work here for me now, they’ve left some really pretty incredible places. I’ve learned quite a bit of who are the closest people in my life. Some of that happened because of the pandemic, but I mean, this is all kind of from that anyway. We do our best to take care of them as well as we can. They’re my priority.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for a bar or restaurant owner?
Do your research and make sure you’re speaking to the right people before doing so. During the pandemic, it was tough to speak to the right people at the city, getting the right information. A lot of good restaurants helped out. Definitely use your friends in the business who own and operate; listen to their advice.

You started your career as an architect and now you’re a sandwich maker. What does that say about following your passion?
When you’re young, you’re not sure what your dreams are. Things change. Just go the direction that you want. We’re only on Earth for 80 or so years. Might as well keep moving in the direction that you feel comfortable doing and take risks, but make sure it’s the right risk for you.

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