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.