Slack’s Hoagie Shack has become the go-to place to grab wings, cheesesteaks, hoagies, wraps, burgers, fries and more.
It’s where 150 Pennsbury High School students “celebrated” the recent completion of final exams with free orders of fries. Owner Melissa Cruz, whose daughter, Angel Marie Cruz is a Pennsbury senior, keeps her “ear to the ground” to stay in the know.
“It was so much fun,” Melissa Cruz said of the impromptu final exam celebration she organized at Slack’s. “We had the dining room packed. It felt like the cafeteria. They were coming in and recognizing each other and giving fist bumps.”
Most of the students who came for the free fries also bought a sandwich – and cleaned up after themselves.
“We’re gonna do this French fry thing again,” Cruz said. “(My daughter) thinks we could be the new spot for the kids.”
Since taking over the establishment in 2007, Cruz has made a point to give back to the community and feed people who are hungry. Prior to the pandemic, Cruz, who runs the restaurant with her sister, Jennifer Ayala, was “discreet with giving.”
But, the day after then-Governor Tom Wolf had ordered a shutdown of most businesses in Pennsylvania in March 2020, Cruz took on a new approach. From then on, a sign hung outside letting customers and passerby of the Oxford Point Shopping Center eatery know that they could request a free meal if they were in need.
“We give a lot of food away,” Cruz said, adding that an average of 20 people per week come in for a free mini hoagie or cheesesteak, chips, and a drink. “It’s always at our expense. We’re by no means financially secure, or without our own worries, but we do it anyway.”
Cruz describes Ayala, who serves as general manager, as “the brawn to my brain.”
“I can’t do any of this without my sister,” Cruz said of her younger sibling. “I dream real big, but it is Jennifer that makes it all happen. While I’m doing all the talking and all the dreaming, she’s doing ALL the work.”
Slack’s also contributes weekly meals to grassroots efforts serving residents in need in the Penndel area. Until recently, Cruz also donated meals to Bucks County Mutual Aid.
“Before the pandemic, I used to get in arguments with people (who would say) ‘You’re in the restaurant business. You can’t give stuff away,’” Cruz recalled, adding that she’s lost employees over her stance on giving. “We get a lot of pressure to stop giving out food.”
Her generosity, coupled with delicious menu items – like buffalo chicken cheesesteaks, wings and the Godfather hoagie (which consists of prosciutto, genoa, capicola, sharp provolone and roasted red peppers) – keep customers coming back for more.
A north Philadelphia native, Cruz moved to Falls Township a year after purchasing the business. In addition to Jennifer, Cruz’s daughter works at the restaurant, along with eight other employees.
Cruz got her start working at the Slack’s location on Grant Avenue in Philadelphia as a business administration student at Community College of Philadelphia. She continued to work at the restaurant off and on throughout the years and kept in touch with her former Slack’s boss.
A few years later, the owner of the Fairless Hills location was selling, and Cruz was reeled back into the hoagie-making business.
“The restaurant is fast paced,” she said. “I need all that in my life.”
Originally her location operated as a franchise. However, many of the other area Slack’s restaurants have closed since the pandemic. Still, Cruz stays “true to the original Slack’s menu and Slack’s recipes.”
Adorned with autographed sports memorabilia, the Fairless Hills location has booths for eat-in and also offers takeout, delivery, and catering. Small orders for up to 20 people can often be ready same day, while larger orders require at least 24 hours’ notice.
Super Bowl Sunday tends to be one of the restaurant’s busiest days. It’s not uncommon to cook several thousand wings for the big game.
“Our wings are some of the best around,” she said.
Yet, at the end of the day, providing the best possible food and service is a priority.
“We’re not going to take orders and take orders if we can’t do it right,” Cruz said.
In addition to giving to community members in need, Slack’s gives back to its loyal customers through its MVP Program. For every 10th visit the customer receives a free sandwich. Customers who subscribe to receive texts also receive notices of specials and “surprise offers.”
“We will pick whatever day that works into our schedule,” Cruz said of when special offers are available. “We do things last minute.”
A recent special for the Godfather hoagie had restaurant staff working at a frenzied pace. But Cruz takes it all in stride, with a smile on her face and kind greetings for her regulars.
“It’s great,” she said. “I love the location.”
To learn more
Slack’s Hoagie Shack Fairless Hills is located at 110 Lincoln Highway, Suite 18 in the Oxford Point Shopping Center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Orders can be placed by calling 215-949-0200 or by visiting https://www.slacksfairlesshills.com/.