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MEMPHIS, TN-The Lenny’s Sub Shops chain has inked a deal for 15 new restaurants in New Mexico, with the first of the new shops to open in the spring. Lenny’s signed the deal with real estate entrepreneur Nat Eppel, who bought exclusive rights to open 15 restaurants in the four New Mexico counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia. Eppel’s first restaurant, the spring opening, is planned for Albuquerque.

Eppel, who owned and operated a real estate research company for 13 years, says that he was looking to develop an entire market and was drawn to New Mexico because of its growth and availability. Three major New Mexico cities, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe, are some of the highest growth areas in New Mexico.

Lenny’s is also expanding rapidly in New Mexico’s neighboring state of Texas, and the chain has plans for other expansions in the West and the Southwest. Founder Len Moore is developing 90 restaurants in the Houston market, Texas Sandwich Investors will open 98 restaurants in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market, and additional restaurants are planned in San Antonio.

In one of its other recent announcements, the company said that it plans 41 new restaurants in the Sacramento area, in Lake Tahoe and in Reno, NV as part of an expansion strategy that foresees up to 500 new locations in the next several years. The quick-service sub chain’s JCP Renascent Group, a franchisee financed by a group of investors from the Sacramento and Lake Tahoe areas, is opening the Sacramento area shops.

Len and Sheila Moore opened the original Lenny’s Sub Shop, a Philadelphia-style sub shop, in a Memphis suburb in 1998. Lenny’s sites are franchised by Lenny’s Franchisor LLC, headed by CEO George Alvord. Alvord and private investors acquired ownership of the company from Len Moore in 2004. Lenny’s has granted more than 700 franchises in 18 states from California to Virginia.

In addition to the New Mexico, Texas and Sacramento area expansions, Lenny’s has opened several restaurants in new markets, including St. Louis, Asheville, NC and Savannah, GA. It has sold multiple-restaurant packages in several states, including California, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan and Kansas.

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