An unlikely restauranteur creates a delicious spot north of Mayfield
Jim Barle is something of a serial entrepreneur. “I’ve never—quote, unquote—had a job in my life,” said the humble 43-year-old, with a smile, as he took a brief respite from a typically busy weekday.
The 1987 Cleveland Heights High School graduate owned a successful landscaping business for more than 20 years, which he later sold, and currently owns several local properties, including the iconic Rockefeller building. Even childhood classmates recall he had a penchant for business from a very early age. His most recent venture, Barlē Soup & Sandwich, just north of Mayfield Road on Lee Boulevard, is a labor of love—love of the Heights, that is.
“We’re trying to revitalize down here because there’s not a lot down this way. Once Lonesome Dove left, there was no reason for anyone to come to the Rockefeller building,” said Barle, who operates the shop with his wife, Samantha Glickman. “Because I own the building, I sort of opened the sandwich shop to help the building and help the corner. I wanted to bring some life to the building, life to the area. Over time, the increase in the number of people we bring to the building will to help me rent units.”
Barlē’s, which opened last April, offers a selection of soups, artisan sandwiches, gourmet salads and fresh baked goods, and has already cultivated a loyal customer base in the short time since it opened.
“One of the good things that I’ve seen . . . we have certain people that come in four times a week, three times a week, five times a week and twice a week, and, when we opened, our goal was just to become part of people’s routine because people are very habitual,” said Barle. “Once you become part of people’s routine, I think you can have a successful business”
Barle, who grew up in the Noble-Monticello neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, had no prior background in the restaurant business, but knew how to update a space. As a landlord, he had accumulated plenty of experience in that area. His landscaping background enabled him to build out a beautiful courtyard dining area, complete with water features, of which he’s justifiably proud.
But, what about the food? “The actual menu . . . our manager set all that up from scratch and she did a great job,” said Barle. (The manager he's referring to, Erin Petre, has since moved on.) “Some soups come from Souper Market (a local soup store chain), and we’ve just started to make a few of our own, and it’s going over pretty well. We’ve taken away and added stuff on to the menu. It’s evolved.”
Barlē’s recently reduced its operating hours and is now strictly a lunch restaurant, operating from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“Right now we just want to be a good lunch place,” said Barle. “Because we’re open shorter hours, we [Barle and his wife] can be here the whole time we’re open so it kind of makes it more personal. We do a great lunch, we’re very busy and there are times when there’s nowhere to sit”
Though Barle may be an unlikely restaurant owner, he’s enjoying some of the unforeseen pleasures that his new venture brings.
“I would never be around 22-year-olds or 23-year-olds for five, six hours a day if I didn’t have the business, and it just gives you a different perspective. It’s interesting,” he said.
Richard Stewart is a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors and owner of Digizoom Media.