This Boise sandwich shop helps feed Idaho’s poor - but its donations have stopped

The Even Stevens Sandwiches restaurant in Downtown Boise, at 815 W. Bannock St.
The Even Stevens Sandwiches restaurant in Downtown Boise, at 815 W. Bannock St.

Several local charities have lost a source of much-needed food money, at least temporarily.

The Even Stevens Sandwiches chain has suspended its donations to local nonprofits, including the Boise Rescue Mission, Corpus Christi House, St. Vincent de Paul and Idaho Foodbank.

Justin Zora, manager of the chain’s Boise shop, said the company simply grew too fast and is trying to restructure itself for profitability.

The company, whose Boise store is at 815 W. Bannock St., is known for donating a sandwich for every one a customer orders.

As the website explains, the donations aren’t literally sandwich-for-sandwich. Instead, every sandwich order triggers a 54-cent credit that nonprofits can use to buy whatever they need from the restaurant supplier Sysco. They can choose from more than 150 items.

Even Stevens’ donation program gave The Idaho Foodbank “a little more than 8,000 pounds of food” in the organization’s most recent fiscal year, said Jamie Dillon, the Foodbank’s marketing and communications manager. “That means Even Stevens’ program provided the food for 6,667 meals for hungry Idahoans.”

Zora estimates the Boise shop sells about 10,000 sandwiches a month, on average, for about $5,400 in monthly contributions divided among the local nonprofits.

“Since early July, the company has been engaged in an aggressive restructuring process, focused on identifying corporate cost reductions and ways to accelerate revenue growth,” the company wrote on its Facebook page Aug. 10.

Unfortunately, some prior business decisions have put the company in a difficult position, and as an early-stage business, we are still learning,” said Brooks Pickering, Even Stevens LLC manager and chief restructuring officer, in a statement emailed to the Statesman. “... During our first four years, we have donated over three million sandwiches to more than 80 community partners in 20 Even Stevens locations across the country. That’s remarkable, and we certainly expect to build upon that achievement.”

The release did not say when the company plans to revive its contributions program.

The company also closed five Arizona stores.

The announcement comes as Even Stevens co-founder Steven Down is facing legal troubles, including a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit that accused him of lying to investors in other ventures. Down agreed to pay a $150,000 fine without admitting or denying the allegations.

But according to the U.S. bankruptcy trustee in another case, Even Stevens money was commingled with the funds of a different Down venture — an event center business — that is going through bankruptcy.

“Pickering has estimated that this may result in a net claim of up to $500,000 owed by the Even Stevens entities to the [failed venture],” the trustee wrote in a document filed July 27 in Utah bankruptcy court.

Even Stevens told the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this year that Down doesn’t have any involvement in the “day-to-day management or operations” of the company.

In the emailed statement, the company said Down “has stepped aside and is no longer involved in the business, and Michael McHenry, the company’s former president, left to pursue other ventures.”

Audrey Dutton is an investigative reporter for the Statesman. Contact her at 208-377-6448, or on Twitter at @audreydutton.