Ohio City Galley
Believe it or not, the idea for Ohio City Galley came all the way from Southeast Asia.
Tyler Benson and Benjamin Mantica became friends as a result of serving together in the United States Navy. During their time abroad, they came up with the idea of hosting multiple restaurant concepts under one roof- allowing emerging chefs to cultivate their brands and gain enough traction to eventually go out on their own.
Building an Empire
After years of planning, Smallman Galley opened in 2015 in Ben’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Due to the raving reviews and immediate success of their first venture, the team decided to expand and began looking around for cities that would proudly embrace the “galley” concept. “We were really interested in going into communities that are experiencing growth and revitalization”, explained Heather Granader, Vice President of Marketing for the Galley Group, Inc. “Cleveland seemed like it would be a really good fit for our concept”.
They were drawn to Ohio City due to the strong foot traffic as well as the growing professional population in the area. The large, historic corner venue where the iconic Massimo Da Milano once resided seemed like the perfect fit. Purchased for a cool $5 Million in December 2017, the Galley Group broke ground in January and was ready for its first service just 9 months later in October 2018.
The four kitchens located inside Ohio City Galley are completely controlled and operated by Cleveland-based chefs. “It was really important to us, coming into a new city, to support local chefs”, Granader says. The four kitchens will stay in the facility for at least 12 months. After the one-year initial residency, each kitchen will be evaluated on their progress and readiness to go out on their own. Extended residencies are granted on a case-by-case basis, allowing for a smooth transition for all parties and ensuring greater success for the aspiring restaurants.
Out of an initial pool of over 50 chefs, Galley Group executives narrowed it down to the top 8 contenders and hosted a “Shark Tank” style cook-off. Chefs were able to pitch their concept and display their branding to a panel of local influencers and media contacts as they evaluated their signature dishes on a rating card.
From there, the Galley Group CEO’s analyzed the results and awarded four restaurant concepts the first residency at Ohio City Galley:
- Poca Casual Mexican – Chef Michael Nowak (You might know Chef Michael from his other restaurant located in Ohio City, The Black Pig!) delivers authentic Mexican dishes prepared from scratch, sourcing a majority of their ingredients from local family farms.
- Sauce the City – Victor Searcy Jr., a Kent State University graduate, features his signature line of seasoning sauces from his company Appling Food Products LLC. The hot chicken dish is the most popular on his menu.
- The Rice Shop – Chef Anthony Zappola, a Cleveland native, found success working in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Las Vegas. Returning back home to develop his unique, Southern Asian restaurant concept, The Rice Shop serves dishes such as BBQ Pork Belly, Kentucky Fried Fish, Mochiko Chicken, and more.
- Tinman – Brothers Michael and Tom Schoen are the perfect pair. Michael has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and has served as a head chef in both Chicago and Cleveland. Tom, a sales and marketing expert for 20+ years, moved back from Chicago to help his brother bring the classic flavors of their mother’s kitchen to life.
It was important to the Galley Group that chefs were local, had a strong sense of their brand, and had a solid business plan explaining their goals and what they aimed to accomplish. The four chosen concepts displayed all necessary signs of success and began recruiting their own teams for their newly awarded residency.
The Crown Jewel
While the four chefs were busy perfecting their menu and building their official teams, the Galley Group was hard at work brainstorming the menu for the other side of the building- the bar. “We put a lot of energy into our bar programs to make them unique and accessible”, says Granader. Based on the rich history of Cleveland, the bar features drinks like “Leo’s Casino” and “Short Vincent”, paying homage to famous Cleveland landmarks and establishments throughout its history. Another unique feature of the bar program includes the list of “Charity Cocktails”, in which $1 of every drink sold goes to a different charity each month.
Embracing the Community
By using social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, the Ohio City Galley team is able to display dishes from all four restaurant concepts while creating an exciting buzz about the venue. “It allows us to really interact with our community as well, it’s not like advertising where it’s in someone’s face one time- it’s like a relationship where you can continue a conversation”, Granader explains.
Although the Galley Group has four locations (soon to be five, hello Chicago!), each “galley” has its own unique feel. “We never want to feel like a chain”, Granader says, “they all have their own identity”. Their goal in creating the Cleveland venue was to allow it to seamlessly adapt to the Ohio City community and embrace the strong sense of pride amongst members of the community.
Judging by the outstanding reviews and constant social media buzz, it looks like they’ve done just that.
For more information, you can visit the Ohio City Galley website or sign up for their monthly newsletter to keep up to date on new events and specials going on in each kitchen.