It’s been about nine months since the Ohio City Galley
, a contemporary food hall and bar concept, opened its doors in that neighborhood. Located in the renovated Forest City Bank Building at the corner of W. 25th Street and Detroit Avenue, the galley is home to four different chef operators who had initially planned to remain for at least 12 months. Now we’re learning that two will be departing sooner than expected.
Rice Shop will be exiting the building in two and half weeks, while the regional Mexican spot Poca will continue serving until early September. In the case of Rice Shop, chef-owner Anthony Zappola, who also operates Lox, Stock and Brisket
(13892 Cedar Rd., 216-471-8175) in University Heights, the demands of running two different spots on opposite sides of town have become too burdensome.
“I signed both leases around the same time, but I had no idea how quickly Lox, Stock and Brisket would take off,” says Zappola. “I can’t keep up with this pace. I decided that I need to regroup and focus on one and Lox, Stock and Brisket is that one.”
Fans of Rice Shop can hold out hope for a possible Rice Shop 2.0 somewhere down the road, he adds.
Galley Group founder Ben Mantica says that the changes are all part of the adjustment process. This particular learning curve includes getting to know the market and then providing it with the appropriate products.
“I think, given our style of service, that we are above the pricing that people expect for a fast-casual environment,” Mantica explains. “We need to do a better job finding operators who are able to execute their concept in a specific price range that meets our guests’ expectations for fast-casual service.”
In the case of chef Mike Nowak's Poca, for example, it was pretty clear early on that it wasn’t a great fit. Diners looking for two-dollar tacos, over-stuffed burritos and nachos glistening with Cheetos-colored cheese instead discovered braised pork shoulder with green mole, chicken thighs with black mole, and tacos swaddles in handmade corn tortillas and drizzled with chef-made salsas – all bearing prices proportionate with the quality of the food.
“It’s important to make the adjustments needed to achieve the goal of making people feel comfortable here,” Mantica adds. “We have to adapt; I get it.”
It’s very likely that the Rice Shop space will become a gourmet sandwich and flatbread concept, while the Poca home is still open to new ideas. The other two operators, Tinman and Sauce the City, will remain until the end of the year as planned, at which point they will be swapped out with new eateries.
Mantica admits that Ohio City Galley is still finding its audience, something that takes time, but also pointed out challenges he did not anticipate, such as perpetual construction outside, upstairs and all around the building, limited parking, and no patio, things that were not originally planned for. Still, when the dust does finally settle, Mantica thinks that the Galley is bound for glory.
“This neighborhood is rapidly changing,” he says. “In 18 months, it will be a whole different area.”
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