Charlie's, already an award-winning success of style and concept, is rebranding itself with the idea of becoming a bigger player on the Greencastle dining scene.
After opening last spring with the dual role of providing a training site for Putnam County Comprehensive Services (PCCS) clients and a local restaurant to serve the Greencastle public, Charlie's will begin a bold, new venture this Thursday.
After being closed for a day on Wednesday, the restaurant (located on the west side of Bloomington Street across from Robe-Ann Park) will reopen Thursday as Charlie's but now with the proud subtext "Serving Beefcake Burgers."
The rebranding includes the addition of the ever-resourceful Bobby Hopper, who spent six years as Bob Jedele's right-hand man in the local McDonald's empire operated by Jedele Enterprises. He comes on board as managing partner in a move approved only last week by the PCCS Board of Directors.
Hopper, who left Jedele Enterprises Oct. 1 to purchase and develop Beefcake Burgers, a restaurant off State Road 135 in Greenwood, will be training his new staff on Wednesday for the new venture.
Having such a signature sandwich is "huge for a restaurant," he said. "If a restaurant doesn't have an identity, people are confused coming in and don't know what to order."
With a signature sandwich or meal, the restaurant "becomes a destination," he added. "A signature identity is of marquee importance for a restaurant."
Also of major importance at Charlie's is that it employs 14 or 15 PCCS developmentally disabled clients, Executive Director Chuck Schroeder noted.
"The mission," Schroeder said, "has been to have individuals with disabilities doing a minimum of 25 percent of the work at Charlie's. It's more like 40 percent right now."
Those clients, Hopper stressed, will continue to be "contributing members of the team and the community as well."
Along with that mission, quality, cleanliness and friendliness will be high priorities for Hopper and his staff.
"We have got to concentrate on service and cleanliness," Hopper said. "The product will speak for itself."
The burgers, he said, are made from 100 percent angus beef, rolled out daily and grilled with no seasoning. A water/steaming process on the grill steams the cheese into the beef, giving the sandwich its unique flavor.
"It's a high-quality burger," Hopper assures, claiming its quality exceeds even other fresh-cooked burgers like Steak and Shake, Culver's and Five Guys, of which diners may be more familiar.
Part of the success, he said, also comes from the wheat, cornmeal buns that aren't toasted but kept in a warmer so they are routinely soft, warm and pliable and help create the overall burger recipe and taste when customers bite into them.
"We want to get away from the idea of fast food," Hopper stressed, noting that fast food often implies "lower quality and insinuates there will be a time frame involved."
"We can't do that," he said, "because everything is cooked to order."
In fact, Hopper is shifting the emphasis on a drive-through window to a pick-up window, preferring customers to phone in their orders (301-9142 is the number) and pick the food up if they don't wish to get out of the car.
Charlie's hours will continue to be Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and 11-11 on Friday and Saturday.
Opening last March 1 and employing PCCS clients capable of doing food service work, Charlie's was heralded as the first business of its kind to provide a dining experience alongside training for disabled clients.
The restaurant is part of a long-term PCCS plan started three years ago. Charlie's primary intent is to provide an integrated training opportunity and possible job placement for individuals with disabilities. It also stands as the first PCCS operation outside non-for-profit status.
The 9,000-square-foot restaurant even won two awards in the past year from the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities for its creative concept.
This fall, Charlie's was recognized by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana and Kentucky for its design and construction as the Commercial Building of the Year built for less than $3 million.