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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Fitzpatrick Always Can Count on a Big Hero's Welcome Here

Northridge: Junior soccer player eats well at sandwich shop owned by his grandparents.

September 26, 1998|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Mark Fitzpatrick has been running a tab at the submarine sandwich shop My Hero for nearly 20 years. But don't expect him to pay up any time soon.

That's because Fitzpatrick, a junior defender on the Cal State Northridge men's soccer team, is the grandson of My Hero owners Howie and Elise Kuebler. And the tab is a running joke.

"Obviously, I eat for free but they take care of my teammates sometimes too," Fitzpatrick said. "My grandfather and the ladies who work there have our orders memorized. We just have to show up."

The good food at the Northridge stand hasn't helped the Matadors on the field, where they are 1-4 this season and 8-15-1 in Fitzpatrick's college career. But knowing he has a landmark to call home is a comfort to the former Alemany High standout.

"Something about [My Hero] makes you feel comfortable," said Fitzpatrick, a transfer from the Naval Academy who has keys to the shop and sometimes treats his dates to after-hours cheesecake on the premises.

"It's just a little mom-and-pop place that everyone seems to love. They don't advertise, but once people come in they always come back for more."

Hungry customers have been coming back to My Hero since the Kueblers took over in 1964. The business had been opened months earlier by friends of the couple, but was floundering and in need of new ownership to move the 99-cent sandwiches and 15-cent sodas.

"And the only thing that's changed since then are our prices," said Howie Kuebler, 75. "Same location, same decor."

That decor has been augmented over the years by numerous photographs and posters relating to two primary themes: harness racing and Cal State Northridge sports.

The racing theme ties into the activities of the Kueblers' sons, Rick and Fred. Rick is a harness racer and Fred is the general manager of the sport at Los Alamitos.

As for the Matador team and action photos that dot the walls, they speak to the Kueblers' long-running support of Northridge athletics. The couple can be found at virtually any game on campus and were vehement opponents of the school's efforts to eliminate four men's sports in 1997.

"We were hysterical," said Elise Kuebler, 73. "We had all the newspaper stories up so people could keep up with things and we put out envelopes addressed to [Northridge President] Blenda Wilson so customers could send her letters."

But customers are not really customers at My Hero, where several employees have worked at the shop for 20 years.

"The people who come in are friends," Howie Kuebler said. "And with the Northridge athletes, I get handshakes from the guys and kisses from the girls."

Among the current and past devotees of the shop are former Chatsworth High and major league baseball player Dwight Evans and late actor Michael Landon. Northridge Athletic Director Paul Bubb has been known to get an earful of commentary when he drops in for a bite.

"We were the only sub shop around when we opened, and now there are eight of them within a mile of us," Howie Kuebler said. "But we offer a real good sandwich at a real good price and [the competition] hasn't really dented us."

Besides, if the shop ever runs short of funds, the Kueblers can just ask their grandson to pay his tab.

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