The name, however, is the only thing that’s new. Blasingame and Palsa are still located at the corner of 18th and A streets in Antioch, offering the same meat-packed sandwiches they’ve been serving for years. The names of the sandwiches have changed, but the quality is still there.
Blasingame and Palsa decided to leave the Mr. Pickles franchise in June in order to save money, and chose to go with a Hawaiian theme to offer some color and exuberance to their loyal customers.
“We wanted something fun,” Palsa said. “People come in to grab a sandwich and then head out on their way, so we wanted this place to be like a mini vacation – a quick burst of color in their ordinary routine.”
The name Big Kahuna also helps define their sandwiches, which Blasingame said are some of the biggest you’ll find in town: “I think it is pretty safe to say that our sandwiches have more meat than what you’ll find at your average deli. That’s what makes us stand out. We don’t skimp on our ingredients.”
For the most part, Blasingame and Palsa, who have been friends for eight years, have been able to transition from Mr. Pickles to Big Kahuna with little trouble; however, the name change did confuse some of their customers. Some of their regulars stopped coming at first because they didn’t realize that she and Palsa were still the owners.
“It’s amazing how loyal your customers are,” Blasingame said. “We had customers who said they drove by but only came in because they saw our cars in the parking lot. With the name change, they thought we’d left – but we’re still here, and luckily the name change has actually brought in some new people to check us out, so things are going well.
“Of course we’d like more customers, but everyone in the industry says that. It’s hard to find a really good deli these days, but we’ve got a great variety of sandwiches and it’s a healthy lunch, so we hope that once people realize that we’re still the owners and only the name has changed –not the food – that business will pick up and even increase.”
Big Kahuna offers 20 specialty sandwiches, nine deli sandwiches and five salads. The top-selling signature sandwich, the Big Kahuna, is loaded with chicken breast, bacon, avocado and jack cheese layered together in a sourdough roll.
Since Blasingame and Palsa renamed all the specialty sandwiches when unfranchising their sandwich shop, they took the opportunity to have fun with the naming process and incorporate family names such as the Hailey Bird (turkey, avocado and cream cheese), named after Blasingame’s granddaughter, and the Nino (hot turkey, cheese and cranberry), named after Palsa’s brother.
“The new sandwich names help personalize Big Kahuna for us and make it feel even more like home,” Palsa said. “Our staff and customers are like family. We’re surrounded by such great people.”
“It’s so rewarding to offer a quality product and to become a part of your customer’s routine,” Blasingame added. “Some people walk in and don’t have to say a word. We already know what they want. We get to know about their families and even their pets and we get to chat a little bit each time. It’s nice to have that connection with people.”
While the owners enjoy the one-on-one time with customers, things get busiest during lunch time, so they recommend customers call ahead or fax their order to 925-755-8655 to reduce wait time.
Big Kahuna Sandwich Shop, located at 1710 A St. in Antioch, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 925-706-8040.