The Grad Lands Its First Retail Tenant: Lee’s Sandwiches

One of San Jose’s most recognizable homegrown eateries just landed a lease in one of downtown’s newest highrise projects.

Lee’s Sandwiches plans to open one of its storied banh mi shops at The Grad, a 1,039-unit student housing tower under construction just down the block from the Fourth Street archway to San Jose State University. In a news release Thursday, developers said the iconic eatery will be the first anchoring commercial client to commit to move into the development, which includes 15,000 square feet of retail space.

Thang Le, a co-owner of the family-owned Lee’s chain, applauded the lease deal at 88 E. San Carlos St. as a way to serve the downtown and SJSU community.

“Students of SJSU will be excited to hear that a brand new and improved Lee’s Sandwiches will be joining The Grad SJ as a premier tenant bringing our version of traditional and modern Vietnamese banh mi and our famous iced coffee adjacent to campus on Third and San Carlos Streets,” he said in a press release Thursday.

Lee’s Sandwiches opened its original shop three decades ago in a storefront on Santa Clara Street, just a quick walk away from The Grad, which plans to wrap up construction as SJSU commences its 2020-21 school year.

Once open, the street-level Lee’s at The Grad will serve up sandwiches and rice plates from 6am to 9pm on weekdays and 8am to 11pm on weekends.

Lee’s an “ideal addition” to the project, said Case Swenson, president of Swenson Development—which, with AMCAL Equities, is one of the companies building The Grad. Developers said the aesthetic of Lee’s at The Grad will reflect the “upscale vibe” of the tower, which is being marketed as student housing although anyone can apply. 

“We’re going to pack as much modern design into the space as possible,” Le said. “It’s going to be a small shop packed with tons of flavor and attitude.”

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