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2 High Street businesses close their doors

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Pera Fresh Istanbul Food, located at 1980 N. High St., on Oct. 22.  Credit: Alex Drummer / Oller reporter

Pera Fresh Istanbul Food, located at 1980 N. High St., on Oct. 22.
Credit: Alex Drummer / Oller reporter

Despite close proximity to Ohio State’s campus, at least two restaurants along High Street couldn’t make it. But some nearby local businesses said they weren’t surprised based on the menus, food prices and locations of the two restaurants.

Meanwhile, at least one of the spaces might already have a new tenant — Tom and Chee.

Pera Fresh Istanbul Food and Red Robin’s Burger Works recently shut their doors.

A Red Robin spokesperson confirmed the Burger Works location at 1708 N. High St. had closed earlier this month, but said that “beyond that, we do not have any additional details to share at this time.”

The owner of the property, Scott Schiff, said it a was a failed experiment by the Red Robin company.

“Columbus, Ohio — being known as the test market, particularly the university area — (Burger Works) tried it, and they didn’t like the results, so they moved on. You know, if somebody can’t make money on High Street at Ohio State University, they ain’t going to make money anywhere because it’s just so dense a population,” Schiff said.

The property, which Schiff said has a “waiting list” of tenants, has already been re-leased.

Shane Lumpkins, a manager at The Big Bar & Grill, a nearby business located at 1716 N. High St., said he heard a pizza place is going into the empty space. However, Schiff could not confirm.

Lumpkins said the price of the burgers might be to blame for the restaurant’s closing.

“Honestly, Burger Works is just a high-dollar burger, so on campus it’s tough,” he said.

As for Pera, the former owner, Faith Gunal, did not return a Wednesday afternoon phone call inquiring about why the restaurant closed.

Scott Solomon of Oxford Realty, which owns the property at 1980 A. N. High St., said Pera still had time left on its lease. He said the restaurant didn’t technically close, however.

“(Pera) physically sold their business to Tom and Chee,” he said.

Solomon referred The Lantern to the sales representative for Tom and Chee for comment on the details of the sale. That representative, however, did not respond to a Wednesday afternoon phone call.

Representatives from nearby Central Ohio Tom and Chee locations didn’t respond to phone calls requesting comment after business hours and the company didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment after business hours on Wednesday.

Tom and Chee is a tomato soup and grilled cheese shop, according to its website. The business went from a tiny food tent to a franchise after appearing on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and receiving investment funding. In Columbus, it has locations in Hilliard and Pickerington, according to its website, which also lists a “coming soon!” location at 1980 A. N. High St.

Adam Sidrane, a second-year student, said he would be interested to give Tom and Chee a try once it opens.

“I’ve never heard of it, so … it’s different. There’s tons of burger places. I’ve never really heard of like, a grilled cheese (restaurant),” he said.

Christian Klamar, a second-year in economics, said he had never been to Burger Works or Pera but is excited about Tom and Chee.

After hearing the news and being asked if he would go there, he said, “Oh yeah, are you kidding me? That makes me so happy to hear.”

Kirsten Long, a third-year student, however, said she loved both Burger Works and Pera and was “heartbroken” that they both closed their doors.

Long said she’d be interested in trying Tom and Chee but thinks it would have competition in Columbus, such as Melt Bar and Grilled.

Owner of nearby Buckeye Donuts, Jimmy Barouxis, said he didn’t notice Pera’s closing until a few weeks after it happened. However, Barouxis said he saw it coming.

“It’s a terrible location. It’s just strange. It’s just in a weird spot and the food probably wasn’t that good,” he said.

Barouxis — who is 38 years old — said he has been in the campus area since he was 6 and has seen several businesses go in and out of the location.

Greg Hall, the owner of Used Kids Records, located between Buckeye Donuts and Pera at 1980 N. High St., said he did not think the change would affect his business but if others followed suit, it might.

“I don’t like seeing a lot of empty storefronts around me,’ he said. “It’s not good to be the one retailer in the middle of a series of empty storefronts,” he said.

These nearby off-campus eateries aren’t the first to close on High Street in recent times.

Last year, multiple businesses left the South Campus Gateway area. Kildare’s Irish Pub closed in summer 2013, and Charlie Bear: Land of Dance and Gooeyz moved to different locations in fall 2013.

8 comments

  1. I remember when they opened a fast food place that sold Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut items. It was GREAT! And, of course, it didn’t last long.

  2. A KFC around here (in walking distance on High Street) would be GREAT!!!!!!!

  3. I have never eaten at either of the places that closed, but I lived just around the corner from Burger Works and remember when it first opened. In the almost year I lived there, I never tried it. Such a shame restaurants can’t thrive on a busy street like High Street.

  4. How can the buckeye donut owner say it’s a bad location? He’s in the same strip 4 units down!? Oh, and I’m sure McDonalds picks bad locations too. The awful tenants that have gone in and out of that location have been the issue.

  5. The idea that “Pera” was in a bad location is just not true. As Bruce said, Buckeye Doughnuts has thrived there forever, and Mcdonalds is right next door. If anything it is a tough location due to competition.

    While I never personally tried Pera, it seemed to be a chipotle type concept, which is quite popular. However, I believe their cuisine “Istanbul Food” is too niche and doesn’t lend itself to the average eater. In addition, I never was able to be explain what they served without walking through the doors. Lesson to future new businesses, don’t make things difficult for the consumer, they are lazy (Myself included!).

    In regards to Burger Works, I thought the idea was a solid one. Take a brand that is already recognizable and create a fast-casual concept of it. Sound perfect for students! However, the two things that would make this concept work for the target demographic, Red Robins bottomless fries and low prices, never were part of the concept. I tried it a handful of times, wanting to buy in. However, you could see the writing on the wall, as there were always far too many empty seats, even during peak hours.

    In regards to Tom & Chee I think its a good concept, however there are already a couple of “Grilled Cheese Shops” in the area. As for the Gateway, I think its a lovely area, and one that is a great idea. However, the turnover due to the high rents has been astonishing. With all the empty fronts, and the largest space being essentially bailed out by the university, I think the Gateway is a bit of a failure.

    I love campus development, and change. It is something that is widely discussed with others. I believe that more pieces like this would be wonderful to see!

  6. I never post comments but I have to say something. the Red Robin Burger Works was a great spot, but the front was COVERED BY A GIANT TREE. YOU COULDN’T EVEN SEE THE SIGN BECAUSE OF THIS TREE. unless you knew it was there, you probably weren’t going to see it. I can’t believe the store owners never acknowledged this.

  7. Glad to see Burgerworks go. Went there twice. Did not like the atmosphere and overpriced toppings. Comparable burger at five guys was less expensive, for me. And the shoestring fries were horrible. They did have a variety of cheeses though, and milkshakes. Also they were the first restaurant i saw with the new coke fountains. But now most have them.

    I loved pera. Sad to see them go. And tom chee doesn’t appeal to me. They advertised that they had falafel on the storefront though. I just think the buckeye doughnuts guy didnt like the gyro competition.

  8. If Tom & Chee does re- open in Ohio. Besides Cincinnati, OH; try Worthington, Dublin, Polaris, & Westerville, OH instead through to Cleveland, OH. Where it is building up. I will be trying you in Cincinnati, next month. I hope, good luck.

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