Jim Barle is already acting on customer comments he's received about his new business, Barlē Soup & Sandwich.
The hours were originally 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, but he changed them to 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. after he noticed a lull in the morning and received requests from people to stay open later. Barlē (pronounced "barley") just opened April 1 in the historic on Mayfield and Lee, which Barle bought into in 2001 with the previous owner and took over in 2004.
"We always said we just hope we become a part of people's routine," he said. "We really try to be service-oriented in terms of making people feel like they're taken care of."
Barle, a grad, is not an experienced restaurateur. He owned a landscaping company for 25 years until he sold it last fall.
"I wanted to concentrate on the building as a whole and on this new business," said Barle, 42. "There was a café here called the Lonesome Dove, and when they moved, it definitely left a void. I definitely think it's filling a need in the building.
"... And I'm glad I don't have to worry about the weather anymore."
The 2,500 square foot space was once home to and and they relocated within the building.
"It was pretty enjoyable decorating the place, and putting your personality into it," Barle said, pointing out the antique furniture and tables and chairs. He ripped up carpeting to expose the hardwood floors, gave it a fresh coat of paint, tore down a wall that separated the two businesses and installed photos and sketches of the earlier days of the Rockefeller building around the restaurant.
His wife, Samantha Glickman, who taught in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights elementary schools, also helped.
There are fresh flowers at each table and a train set on a table for kids to play with. This month's featured artist, Joann Broadbooks, was his teacher at Heights High.
General Manager Erin Petre, who also graduated from Heights, helped select the menu items. As the name clearly states, soups and sandwiches are some staples, but they also offer a variety of salads, baked goods and side dishes. Large salads and sandwiches are about $7.
Petre, 27, studied dietetics in college and tries to use healthy ingredients.
"I try to use a variety of colors on the plates, and our mac & cheese is a healthy mac & cheese that I got from a healthy school lunch class I took in college," said Petre, who is a registered dietitian. "My whole (restaurant) experience started at 16 when I was a server at Oakwood Club."
Barle plans to continue refining the store — he wants to offer outdoor dining in the courtyard soon and he said eventually he'll have a liquor license. "But we want to get our basics down," he said.
The idea for the name of his store is obvious, but there is a reason Barle chose to put a macron over the "e" in Barlē.
"I always felt like I needed it because my name is always mispronounced or misspelled," Barle explained.
Barle said so far he's received support from the community, and he believes the business will succeed.
"When I go to a certain place, I'm very loyal and I go there a lot, so I hope that's what we create here."
For more information about Barlē Soup & Sandwich and to see a menu, click here.