At only 22 years old, Nico Olivar is the General Manager of Ike’s Place in Isla Vista, and is dedicated to continuing the sandwich spot’s legacy of friendliness and community. This Halloween, Ike’s will be celebrating its 11-year anniversary with management showing every indication that there is a lot more to come from this Isla Vista sandwich place.
Olivar’s goal is embodied by the Ike’s mission statement: “Love, THEN sandwiches. Ike’s is in the LOVE, RESPECT, and APPRECIATION business.” These principles ring true for Olivar not only in his beliefs regarding work, but also life in general. Another set of values which are fundamental to him is summed up in, “G.I.F.T. of Love” (Gratitude, Integrity, Fun, Teamwork, and Love).
He emphasizes the definition of “love,” in this case as being “so committed to the well-being of the other that there is no possible way for you to have a bad day.” Decorated with bright and friendly colors, Ike’s radiates a positive atmosphere which matches these sentiments, as friendliness is palpable throughout the business.
After being transferred to the Isla Vista location in January, Olivar has introduced plenty of ideas to improve the already-popular location. For example, trivia activities and karaoke are expected to begin in coming weeks. In addition, Olivar encourages fundraising opportunities, giving the example that “if a certain group wants to come in and create a sandwich…where they are like, ‘I want to make this sandwich. Can we do a fundraiser where we get x% of the profits from that?’ I am completely open to that.”
Olivar’s personal methods of business manifest themselves in a variety of ways at Ike’s. For instance, any patron can suggest a sandwich idea for Ike’s menu — a possible explanation for why Ike’s menu officially consists of 787 sandwiches, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and halal options.
This personal-involvement approach to business carries over internally as well. As an Ike’s employee, you are encouraged to call Ike at any time, a connection not commonly afforded to employees of such extensive businesses. However large the chain may be, being a family-owned business differentiates Ike’s from the franchise business model, where employees experience minimal connection to the business’ owners.
Olivar elaborated on his dedication to personal connection in the business, saying, “I try to put an effort into memorizing customers names and their orders. Like there are certain people where they walk in here and I know what they are going to order and they come in here, and take a look at me and point at me, and I’m like ‘I got you.’”
In addition to delivering, catering, and offering kid’s meals, Ike’s also has meal deals every day. Varying by the day of the week, these deals encourage coming in with a friend to share the deal with, and participating in customer feedback by leaving a Yelp review.
Olivar has thrived in the open-minded, friendly atmosphere of Isla Vista. When asked what he takes pride in, he responded, “Being myself 100 percent so that other people feel comfortable being themselves around me.”
“People are amazing, so if you bring out that amazingness in them, then there is no way that you’re not going to have an amazing environment,” said Olivar.