Americana: Ham, Swiss, Hold the Rent

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Albany is peppered with nine Big Dom's submarine shops. And there is a real-life Big Dom behind the sandwich empire—Dominic Basile, who is big (6 ft. and more than 300 lbs.) and for whom business lately has not been great. Says Basile: "We've had a bad winter."

Not long ago, a bad spring seemed in the offing too. The landlord of one shop wanted to raise Basile's rent from $300 a month to about $350. Basile is a businessman; Landlord Richard Gerrity is a businessman; businessmen compromise. Says Gerrity: "Creativity is important." Thus he gave his negotiator a single, unorthodox instruction: "Get the most number of sandwiches that you possibly can get."

A deal was cut, or rather sliced. The new lease calls for a 3,000-submarine payment in lieu of two years' rent. Gerrity, whose machine-tool factory is next door to the Big Dom's submarine shop in question, will dole out 1,200 sandwich vouchers to plant workers the first year. Ordinarily a Big Dom's sub can cost up to $4.95. Says Gerrity of his employees: "If they're smart, they'll go for the expensive ones."