Out on the Town, Student Life

Super Sandwich: The backstory

Tucked in the basement of the Le Cartier building, neatly between a Korean restaurant and a men’s hair salon, is a neon sign boasting the nickname of a McGill student favourite: Super Sandwich. From an outsider’s perspective, this hush-hush location might seem incompatible with high traffic and heavy business, but many students find that it adds to the shop’s undeniable charm. This hidden cove has found a home in the hearts of McGill students. Thanks to its setup, as well as its lightning-fast preparation and unbeatable prices, Super Sandwich has become known as one of the McGill bubble’s best-kept secrets.

Founded in 1988 under the name Charcuterie Le Cartier, the shop was originally run by the mother and father of its current owner, Matt Lo. Although its official name remains the same today, the store’s luminous sign—which Lo’s father added some 20 years ago—has given the shop the popular nickname it now holds. While Lo didn’t officially take over his parents’ business until his father fell ill 15 years later, the sandwich shop and depanneur has nonetheless been a big part of his life since childhood.

“[My sister and I] always helped out since the very beginning,” Lo said. “[At first] on weekends, and then when we went to school we helped out during the summer.”

Over the course of his life, Lo has witnessed the evolution of Super Sandwich. What started as a regular depanneur now holds its own, not only as a delicatessen, but as a staple food supplier for McGill students. The famed sandwiches, which were an early addition to the family’s business model, now account for 70 per cent of the store’s sales. Lo attributes the late boom in business to his mother’s decision to start heating the sandwiches before serving them and to an influx of students who started living in the building years ago.

Super Sandwich’s connection to McGill runs deep. According to Lo, the store’s transition into a student hotspot was largely an intentional process. Once the family noticed student interest in their sandwiches, they began to advertise in McGill publications and got involved with events on campus, such as Frosh.

Yet, this kind of advertising isn’t the one Lo attributes to his success. Rather, what has been the most beneficial for his business is word-of-mouth.

“I think, when you have a friend and he knows about a place and he likes it, you’ll probably trust him more than [an advertisement],” Lo said.

After decades of working behind the same basement counter, Lo still speaks fondly of his work and the students who keep his shop afloat.

“I find working with students is the best,” Lo said. “Usually, they’re all very easy-going.”

Perhaps Super Sandwich’s popularity on campus is more personal than that of other traditional food vendors. The shop has garnered a cult following of sorts among the McGill student body—the lesser-known cousin to the samosa craze. The sacred knowledge of its location and delicious deals is a matter of knowing the right people. Because of this, a lunch order at Super Sandwich feels less like a typical lunch stop and more like an experience unique to McGill students.  

When asked about what gives Super Sandwich this magical property, Lo points back to the core of the operation—the sandwiches.

“The speed that we do make the sandwiches, the price, and the quality is a good combination,” Lo said. “I know a lot of students are in a hurry, and they know if they come here they can have a good sandwich in a couple of minutes.”  

Super Sandwich’s proximity to McGill’s downtown campus has given Lo more than just loyal customers. Over a decade ago, a McGill student ordered an egg salad sandwich from Lo. Today, that student is Lo’s wife.  

“One thing led to another,” Lo recounts. “I asked her out and we’ve been together for the past 12 years.”

Ultimately, Lo’s wife was just one of many happy Super Sandwich customers. The store’s low prices, fast preparation time, and signature sandwich style have garnered it a wide following among students, which shows no signs of dying down any time soon.

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