By: Isaiah Montoya
How does a national franchise eatery become a local favorite with a hometown twist? Charleys Cheesesteaks and Wings at 1830 Zaragoza on El Paso’s far-east side is owned by 25-year-old Dylan Surratt who is committed to up keeping Charley’s national standards while meeting the needs of his local customers. He is an El Paso County native who plans on staying in the Sun City for life.
Charleys Philly Steaks founder and CEO Charley Shin tasted his first Philly Cheesesteak back in 1985 while attending The Ohio State University. As a young undergrad with an appetite for success, Shin knew he wanted to share this sandwich experience with others in a big way. After experimenting with countless ingredients and perfecting his recipe, Shin turned his entrepreneurial dreams into reality in 1986 when he opened his first restaurant called Charley’s Steakery, a 450-square foot space near The Ohio State University campus.
Dylan Surratt has followed in the footsteps of Shin by desiring to share Charleys food with the masses. Surratt is from Clint, Texas which is located in El Paso County’s Lower Valley. His family owns land which has been used for growing lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage and most recently, pecans.
“I grew up around food and from a farmer’s perspective and I really enjoy seeing the beginning product being formed into the ready-for-the public product that people buy,” says Hardesty. “My uncle owns a shelling plant so I was able to see the entire process.”
Unfortunately for Surratt his family’s farming business suffered as did many local pecan farmers. He entertained entering into the farming business also but he began to weigh his options and decided to enter into business for himself and yet still be able to utilize some of what he learned in the family business.
By acting upon his natural desire to please the public through food and Mexico’s resurgence in the pecan market, Surratt decided to take his passion to another venue. “We were basically out of the pecan market and one day my wife and I were in the mall and we ate at the Charleys there, and I thought it might be good to inquire about opening one of my own here,” he explained.
Not all Charleys have wings but Surratt’s does; which is a considerable difference due to the fact that the only other Charleys in the area with wings is on Ft. Bliss. One thing all Charleys have is an east-coast feel with an urban decor which is fitting for El Paso. At this point Charleys national headquarters is in the densely populated city of Boston, Massachusetts.
El Paso’s Eastside is growing and handling many orders in a quick time period is something Surratt specializes in. The facilities are set up in a manner where the customers can witness the entire process of their sandwiches being made. The goal is to be transparent and use fresh and respectable products. Additionally Surratt adds his own distinct flavor of country hospitality.
“I want to serve this community and invest in the community,” explains Surratt. He is currently attempting to involve the surrounding community in his perspective. He has free Philly Cheesesteak giveaways and other engaging activities. “We currently have a promotion with Gold’s Gym and we want to start working with Montwood High School.” Charleys therefore invites community input.
Another way of serving the community for Surratt is to be available when and how needed, including online and on-site ordering from 11 am to 10 pm everyday. A key period of time that Surratt hopes to see increased business is 1pm to 4pm.
“After lunch and before dinner is a slower time for us but I really want the citizens to come out on a higher level during these times,” he says. In pure east-coast fashion Surratt hopes to see community members engage with each other. He says, “Many firefighters and law enforcement come in here at that time and some construction workers. They have a more flexible schedule than others but I believe many can find a way to make it happen.”
In the statement, ‘make it happen’ what is ,’it?’ It is a bringing together of the community. Surratt’s hometown, Clint, is in El Paso County but it isn’t as urban as El Paso or even Socorro. Clint has maintained its small town atmosphere and sense of close-knit community. Fittingly Surratt says, “We want to bring the rest of the community together.”
This is made possible through precision preparation and fresh ingredients, plenty of variety and stellar management. David Fuerte is shift manager and as Hardesty explains, “He is my right hand and he gets things under control.” Fuerte humbly states, “We do everything we can to get it just right, including properly preparing the employees.” Fuerte is strict with the employees so they always maintain professional standards.”
For a Philly Cheesesteak and some wings, Charleys is where to go. Stop by and let them know what you need; as is promised they will do what they can to please you.