First Sylvania, now the Midwest — Bar 145’s eye is on the franchise prize
Business partners Jeremy Fitzgerald and George Simon have hit the big time.
After opening Bar 145 in May of 2011, their “high-end food at bar prices” captured the hearts of many in Toledo. But Fitzgerald wants more.
Legally able to franchise in Ohio and Michigan, the two have their sights on new locations in Kent (set to open before the year ends,) Columbus, Ann Arbor and Perrysburg. Fitzgerald and Simon are also in the process of getting approved to franchise in Indiana, Kentucky, Florida
Their entry into the world of restaurant franchising has kept them busy. “Running the Toledo store, opening a second store and then trying to do all the franchising as well, it’s a lot more work than expected,” Fitzgerald said. Even so, he has many goals with his new feat. “The sky’s the limit,” he said. “My goal is to open a corporate store every six months. I’m just looking for good, aggressive entrepreneurs that are willing to grow with the company. We should have three [additional] stores open within twelve months.”
Fitzgerald said he planned to franchise when he opened the bar. “We definitely wanted to move as quickly as we could,” he said. “It’s moving a little quicker than we had planned.”
Fitzgerald grew up in the industry, entering the workforce with his father at age 15. Now in his 30s, he said he saw a void in Toledo's bar scene that spurred the opening of Bar 145. “[Toledo] needed a nicer bar and grill with live bands,” he said. “I just thought it would be a good fit.”
One of the most important parts of their expansion is the cuisine. Chef Robby Lucas joined Bar 145 after stints at Johnny’s Downtown in Cleveland, an apprenticeship with the illustrious Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in California, and cooking dinner for Metalicca after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lucas travels between a new Kent location and the Toledo spot, and is working hard to keep the menu true to its roots with every new franchise opening, leaving some room to for local owners to highlight each individual city’s cuisine. He will write 80 percent of the menu, allowing chefs in the new locations creative freedom. “Each chef will be responsible for bringing in certain aspects to highlight their own regional and local food,” Lucas said.