Since opening his first Melt Bar & Grilled
in Lakewood almost 10 years ago, Matt Fish has been on an unstoppable roll. He and his grilled cheese compadres have since opened up shops in Cleveland Heights, Independence, Mentor and a pair in Columbus (Short North, Easton), not to mention satellite spots at the Jake and Tinkham Veale University Center on the campus of Case Western Reserve.
Next up for the ever-expanding comfort food brand is Greater Akron; more specifically, a former Friendly’s at 3921 Medina Road in Bath Township. The location, right off I-77 on Rt. 18, is the group’s first in Summit County, putting grilled cheese sandwiches tantalizing close to an entirely new audience, says Fish.
“We’ve been wanting to be in the Akron-Canton area for a very long time; we looked there even before Columbus, but nothing ever materialized,” Fish explains. “This opportunity came up to us when all these Friendly’s closed.”
Fish says that Melt beat out at least four other restaurant hopefuls, both local and national, all vying for this prime piece of real estate. The location, adds Fish, should attract residents from Akron, Medina, Canton and even down south to New Philadelphia.
The Montrose shop poses some new challenges for the organization, which had pretty much gotten expansion down to a science. When it comes to design aesthetic, Friendly’s and Melt aren't exactly on the same plane, requiring a total gut job of the space save the shell, says Fish.
“This isn’t going to be one of our typical build-outs,” he notes. “This is the first freestanding structure that we have, so it’s our building, it’s our parking lot, it’s our landscaping. It’s everything. We try our best to be unique, fun and different and to separate ourselves from others. The same thing will happen here.”
When the dust finally settles, the 4,800-square-foot restaurant will seat 120 guests plus an additional 35 on a seasonal patio. Guests will enjoy the same playful, colorful interior and a menu full of creative sandwiches and craft beer. Fish says that depending on the weather, this newest Melt will be open in early to mid March of 2016. A new staff hiring fair will be held at the location in early 2016.
As for what’s next for Melt, Fish says he’ll stick with the tried-and-true formula that has gotten him this far.
“We’ve been fortunate that everything we’ve done so far has been organic – it’s been a good situation, a good landlord, a good location,” he says. “We’ve got our eyes on certain areas of Cleveland, Columbus and Northeast Ohio in general. It really comes down to location opportunities that come our direction. It’s hard to say ‘I want to go to Akron’ and find a place within six months. If you rush it, you’re sometimes putting a round peg in a square hole.”