Lenny's News and Interviews

Harrington: Helping youth with job skills

April 27, 2010

Dian Trosclair considers herself a victim of modern-day miracles.

After 28 years in the corporate world, Trosclair's executive position with ServiceMaster was eliminated last January as part of the weak economy and outsourcing.

It provided the perfect window for the 55-year-old Knoxville native to move back to East Tennessee from Memphis and become involved in the community through the five Lenny's Sub Shop stores she owns with her brother, Sean Norris.

"In my corporate career, charitable things were addressed mostly by writing a check," said Trosclair, who spent 12 years at FedEx and 15 at ServiceMaster. "I was never really able to get involved. I feel like this is my opportunity in life to make a difference."

By chance, Trosclair discovered Youth Villages.

For more than a decade, the private nonprofit has provided transitional living programs to help those 17 to 22 years of age ease into adulthood. Recently, it has begun to reach out to businesses.

"We cultivate partnerships with businesses to help youth with job skills and employment opportunities," said Abbie Currence, educational and vocational coordinator for the Knoxville office.

Kroger and Home Depot are already using the program. Five kids have been hired in the area.

"We're always looking for good employees and these kids are ones who really want to work," Norris, 52, said. "We're pretty excited about this program."

Between the five area stores, Lenny's has about 60 employees. Managers at all locations have agreed to mentor anyone hired through Youth Villages.

The brother and sister team opened their newest store in January at 522 S. Gay St. in the historic Athletic House building, adjacent to Coolato Gelato. It replaced an existing location on Clinton Highway.

Their first Lenny's opened in Alcoa in March 2008. Trosclair and Norris bought the Knoxville locations from an estate shortly after in May of that same year. They now own the Lenny's franchise rights in Knox, Blount and Sevier counties through their company Clairris LLC.

They also own the Sports Clips franchise at 5469 Washington Pike in Harvest Park. They plan to open a second location this summer on North Peters Road next to Altruda's restaurant.

Through their hair salon, they will provide free hair cuts to youth to get them ready for employment.

"It's an opportunity to get these kids in unfortunate situations into the work force," Trosclair said.

As for Lenny's, sales have increased 15 percent at all their locations.

"We are right on the cusp of pre-recession levels," Norris said.

Earlier this year, they introduced a flat iron grilled steamed sub option because Trosclair said there's "such a cultural demand for steamed" in Knoxville.

Meanwhile, the pair is trying to expand the catering side of business. The company also just rolled out a new rewards program.

"Our customers are very loyal," Norris said.

Business writer and The Bottom Line columnist Carly Harrington may be reached at 865-342-6317 or harrington@knoxvillebiz.com.

© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Contact Lenny's Public Relations:

Jenna Duett
Marketing and PR Manager
(901) 753-4002