'That's the power of the cheesesteak'

Ramon Rios | @RamonrSrpg | 850-623-2120 | rrios@srpressgazette.com
Jake Calloway working the grill at Philly's, he will manage the new Pace location. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

PACE — The taste of Philadelphia is coming to Pace in the form of Philly's Cheesesteaks & Hoagies sandwich shop.

The popular sandwich shop has two locations in Pensacola and they are in the process of opening their third at Bostic's 5th Avenue Plaza at the intersection of Highway 90 and 5th Avenue.

"We always though about having a sandwich/cheesesteak shop down here because nobody did it," Ross Calloway Sr. said.

Calloway spent the first 22 years of his work life in retail. He retired and started managing a hotel in Wildwood, New Jersey during the summers and wintering in Pensacola. When the hotel owners sold the property, Calloway said he decided to go to plan B — the sandwich shop.

Calloway's love of the cheesesteak is evident in the way he describes how it should be made — using only the best meats and cheeses, fresh onions and peppers if you like and most importantly the bread, he said.

It may have been coincidence or maybe it was fate, but when the hotel Calloway managed sold, he found out that Amoroso's Baking Company would start distributing their bread nationally. The bread he says was the missing ingredient and now that Amoroso's was available nationally, he could make a true Philly Cheesesteak in Florida. He opened his first shop at 3900 Creighton Road in 1999.

"We wanted it to be a neighborhood thing, part of the community," Calloway said. "We didn't want to open up a shop in the mall."

Calloway's plan worked. The shop is unassuming with delicious smells and the clattering of cooking sounds mixed with chattering children as they watch television and wait for their food. It is an inviting and comfortable place with long-time employees and customers. Calloway found success and opened another shop at 2166 W. 9 mile Road in 2010. By that time, his cheesesteaks had a loyal following.

"When we had our final inspection before we could open the 9 Mile shop, we had people lined up outside waiting for the inspector to finish so they could eat," Calloway said.

Jake, one of Calloway's sons started as a cook at the first shop. He will now take over the Pace shop when it opens in late December.

"The five-year plan is to have him retire," Jake Calloway said of his father. "We've got him down to working only two shifts a week."

Calloway has two other sons; Ben, the youngest, runs the 9 Mile Road shop and Ross Jr. runs the flagship Creighton Road shop.

"I like working with the people — it's good to watch their faces as they bite into the sandwich. It makes them happy," Calloway said. "That's the power of the cheesesteak."