From Bricklayer to Franchisee: Life after retirement from masonry

Words: Dan Kamys From Bricklayer to Franchisee: Life after retirement from masonry


Allen Tyler comes from a long line of bricklayers. He followed the footsteps of his ancestors into the family business 49 years ago, starting his bricklayer apprenticeship at Allen Tyler & Sons in Cambridge, Md.

The business was owned by his father and grandfather, but that didn’t give Tyler a free pass. He learned the business from the bottom up.

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“When I got out of college in 1962, I did six months active duty in the army,” Tyler says. “After that, I stayed in the National Guard and decided I wanted to get into the family business. My father said if I wanted to advance to own and operate the business one day I would have to become a bricklayer first. It helped me earn the respect of the other employees and it was essential to running the business.”

After he completed his four-year apprenticeship, Tyler worked another 3.5 years in the field. Tyler was foreman on a number of large commercial jobs during this time period.

When Tyler’s father died and he took over the family business, they had about 85 employees working on the eastern shore of Maryland and Delaware. Tyler ran the business for more than 25 years, growing it to 275 employees and expanding into lower Virginia. He also started Capital Masonry, based out of Maryland’s capital of Annapolis, to do contract work on Maryland’s western shore.

Tyler decided to retire with the economic downturn about 20 years ago.

“After retirement, I got bored without the day-to-day schedule I had always had,” Tyler says. “My wife, Charrie, and I started looking into owning a restaurant. We considered a couple and visited a few concepts throughout sites in Maryland, but didn’t find a concept that really meshed with what we wanted to do.”

The couple temporarily gave up on finding a restaurant. Years later, Charrie was visiting her family in her hometown of Ashland, Ky. Her parents took her to a new sub sandwich restaurant they loved.

“Charrie’s family didn’t even know we were looking into franchises when they took her to Penn Station East Coast Subs,” Tyler says. “I drove down to pick her up, and we were almost back to Maryland when she mentioned Penn Station East Coast Subs and how much I would like it. We turned around so that I could try it, and Charrie was right. I was very impressed. I started talking to the team at Penn Station and things snowballed from there.”

The Tylers opened their first Penn Station Subs restaurant in Richmond, Va., in 2004 and quickly expanded with additional locations in 2005 and 2006.

“We wanted to build on the eastern shore of Maryland, but Penn Station wasn’t looking to expand in that area at the time,” Tyler says. “Richmond was about as far east as they would go and we were familiar with Richmond and liked the area. It’s a great area and it has been a great market for Penn Station.”

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Penn Station East Coast Subs looks for quality over quantity in each of their franchisees. Allen and Charrie Tyler are great examples of the type of franchisees Penn Station seeks. Tyler has a managing partner, Kyle Doughty, who is mostly in charge of running the restaurants. As the majority owner, Tyler didn’t have to attend the Penn Station training program; it is only required for the managing partner of each ownership group. But Tyler went to training and soaked up all of the knowledge it offered.

“If you’re going to run a business, you should know every aspect of that business,” Tyler said. “You have to learn the ins and outs. It applied to my bricklaying business and it certainly applies as a restaurant owner.”

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