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Brown Deer - From the parking lot, Firehouse Subs appears to be a run-of-the-mill, fast-casual sub sandwich franchise.

But that all changes once you walk through the front door.

"Ten-twelve! Welcome to Firehouse," the employees yell from behind the counter. "Ten-twelve," it is explained, is firehouse code for "visitor." Other firehouse terms like "rescue" and "dispatch" are yelled out as the sub sandwiches advance down the preparation line.

You don't need to dig into the details of the jargon to understand that Firehouse Subs cares about firefighters. It's evident from the red brick walls adorned with firefighter jackets, helmets and hoses donated from North Shore Fire Department.

Sharon and Bob Erickson, the franchisees at 9070 N. Green Bay Road, invited the Brown Deer Police Department, village officials and the North Shore Fire Department to a VIP night in advance of their opening day on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, they donated an automated defibrillator device to the Brown Deer Police Department. The AED devices cost about $1,000, and Firehouse has donated one in every community served by its restaurants.

Sharon Erickson was introduced to Firehouse Subs when she was researching restaurant franchises. She was previously working as a mechanical engineer, but she always had a dream of owning her own restaurant franchise. She was attracted to Firehouse Subs' commitment to local fire departments and communities. She and her husband Bob plan to open a Grafton franchise in the spring and a West Bend franchise after that.

"I'm very service-oriented, so I thought this was the franchise for us," Erickson said. "I'd like to think we are part of a community and not just a corporate entity."

The highlight of Firehouse Subs' Brown Deer location is the custom, hand-painted mural illustrating an old legend about how the village of Brown Deer earned its name. Legend has it that a deer jumped through a saloon door and broke up a card game. In the painting, the deer is wearing a Milwaukee Bucks jersey and playing cards with three firefighters when the Ericksons' oldest daughter Jade interrupts them to alert them of a fire at the historic 1884 schoolhouse.

The mural was painted by a team of artists who work at the Firehouse Subs headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. The team has painted more than 1,000 murals since 1994.

The non-profit Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has given more than $20 million to local fire departments, including more than $180,400 in Wisconsin. Donations for the foundation are collected by selling leftover five-gallon pickle buckets, keeping donation cans by the register and giving customers the options to "round up” their bill to the nearest dollar. The North Shore Fire Department is able to apply to the foundation for funding.

Firehouse Subs is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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