A stack of Jimmy John's sandwiches wait to be devoured on Oct. 20.

The first noticeable neon sign in the front window reads: “free smells,” giving the impression that something odd is going on with the signs at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. As you enter the sub shop, this notion is confirmed with more humorous signs: “We’d love to see you naked, but state code requires shirt and shoes” and, “Your mouth isn’t watering, it’s crying for Jimmy John’s.”

Located on 1204 Railroad Ave. in downtown Bellingham, Jimmy John’s offers affordable subs at lightning speeds, usually prepared within 30 seconds to one minute after ordering.

Jimmy John’s also has a delivery option. The shop delivers by bike or by car usually anywhere within a mile radius of the store, including on campus. The location on Railroad Avenue has a great amount of public parking available nearby, but parking spots are metered Monday through Friday until 5 p.m. The store’s business hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Founder Jimmy John Liautaud started his company at age 19 in 1983 in Charleston, Ill. Since Eastern Illinois University is located in Charleston, the shop became popular among students. Liautaud operated with a few appliances: a refrigerator, a meat slicer, an oven and chest freezer and handed out free sandwiches to create a customer base. The company has grown significantly, now with more than 1,200 stores nationwide. In Washington, there are Jimmy John’s locations all along the west side of the state.

Sandwiches come in three sizes: an 8-inch sub for $4.85, a mini sandwich called Plain Slims for $3.85, and a giant club sandwich for $5.85. They are baked on bread made in-store and adorned with freshly sliced vegetables and deli meats. Sandwiches do not come with the option to toast the bread like in other sub sandwich chains.

The menu includes sandwiches with names such as Totally Tuna, an Italian sub known as Vito, the Vegetarian and Turkey Tom.
Plain Slims are just that: extremely plain. The menu describes them as “any sub minus the veggies and sauce,” and includes varieties such as roast beef, ham and cheese, and double provolone.

The giant clubs are more gourmet sandwiches, and include options such as the Hunter’s Club, which consists of a quarter pound of sliced roast beef, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The giant clubs also feature counterparts of the 8-inch subs. For example, the Club Tuna is almost the same as Totally Tuna but with more ingredients.

Difficult decisions, like deciding what to order, always get me. Usually, I like a fairly plain veggie sandwich with only mayonnaise. I ordered the J.J.B.L.T. 8-inch sub, a classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, because it was easy to compare with my other sandwich experiences. It also sounded delicious at the time. However, for customers the most popular subs are the Italian Night Club and the Beach Club.

One minute after I ordered my J.J.B.L.T., it was ready to be devoured. My water cup wasn’t even full by the time my sandwich finished being prepared. Even though Jimmy John’s slogan is “Subs so fast, you’ll freak!” I didn’t take them seriously. I learned I should take slogans seriously, even if I was on the verge of freaking.

The densely filled sandwich looked small at first glance but eventually became too filling to finish. The bacon was crispy, salty and warm: everything bacon should be. The tomato overwhelmed me at first but complimented the other ingredients nicely after the second bite. The bread’s texture felt a little too hard for my taste, but it still went well with the rest of the sandwich.

Blink-182 played in the background during lunch, followed by alternative-rock songs from the late 1980s to the 2000s. With a good amount of available seating, it is hard not to sit down and read all the signs in the vicinity. There was even one sign explaining the reason for all the other signs: “If these walls could talk, there would be no need for these signs.”

The songs, in combination with the signs, gave the shop a spunky atmosphere.

When walking downtown, if you come across Jimmy John’s but do not have the money for a sandwich, remember that the smells are always free.