Charlie’s: Still cooking after five years locally

Monday, February 26, 2018
Charlie’s Restaurant at 424 Bloomington St. in Greencastle has served the local community and Putnam County Comprehensive Services clients for five years with a mission of creating a vocational training site for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities.
Banner Graphic/Eric Bernsee

In March 2013, Putnam County Comprehensive Services (PCCS) opened Charlie’s Restaurant at 424 Bloomington St. with a mission of creating an inclusive and integrated vocational training site for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities.

The restaurant was designed as a fully accessible building, taking care to provide necessary adaptations to ensure employees, and customers alike, an environment that was friendly and allowed for full mobility. The board of directors and management set a goal for having the restaurant staffed with 25 percent of the employees living with a disability.

In December 2013, Charlie’s joined forces with the locally owned brand Beefcake Burgers, which had a set menu and set procedures that provided a standardized framework and supply chain which freed up management to focus on employee training, customer service and local marketing. Sales improved at the time and the mission of providing a vocational training was able to flourish.

As Greencastle saw the introduction of new casual dining restaurants, many with alcohol offered, and with a major push to have more consumers visiting downtown, Charlie’s began to see a decline in business. At the same time, the “fast food wars,” with special pricing and value meals, provided more competition for Charlie’s.

Finally, with the Beefcake corporate brand becoming defunct this past year, Charlie’s was at a difficult turning point. With a decline in winter sales Charlie’s chose to go to a five-day schedule, open only Wednesday through Sunday. While it was a risky move, the reduced hours allowed management the time to increase employee training, examine the menu and pricing structure, and address the inevitable repairs and maintenance that come with a building turning five years old.

In preparation for the five-year anniversary many changes are taking place.

Operating hours at Charlie’s will return to 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week on March 1.

The kitchen grill ventilation system at the restaurant has been completely replaced and the interior has been repainted.

Parking lot lighting was also improved to provide increased visibility and safety for the employees and customers.

The digital display boards in the building have been reprogrammed and will be maintained by Area 30 students, allowing for real world application of their skills.

Soon the restaurant will be decorated with artwork provided by Greenlight Art Studios, PCCS’s art program, and all of the wall art will be available for sale at the restaurant.

Employee training has been ramped up to focus on customer service, speed and accuracy of orders.

The menu has been expanded to include vegetarian options, more daily specials, and even the “$1 any size drink” so popular at other venues. And with a goal to locally source some items, the signature burgers will now be made using local beef provided by Greencastle’s own Myers’ Market. A new menu is provided as an insert in today’s paper.

The restaurant will also be increasing its effort to provide fundraising opportunities for local non-profits and philanthropies, and local charity leaders are encouraged to work with General Manager Troy Scott on opportunities to collaborate.

Charlie’s will also continue its efforts to attract DePauw University students by continuing to honor the Tiger Card used by students for purchases, and by encouraging philanthropy drives for the many campus clubs and Greek organizations. Charlie’s will also continue to be regular sponsors of local athletic teams and provide show sponsorships on both WGRE and WREB.

PCCS Executive Director Andrew Ranck explains, “The restaurant industry is a brutal business. Many restaurants don’t survive but a few years of operations. Charlie’s is fortunate to have a mission behind it that drives our decisions. We will continue to be an integrated employment site, but we also want to be the community’s restaurant.

“With a mission driven goal to provide a family friendly atmosphere, freshly prepared food that’s priced right, and crew ready to serve, we want people to join us on the South Side,” Ranck added. “We want local charitable groups to partner with us to advance all of our missions. We want you to come visit us on U.S. 231 in Greencastle and get to know us again.”

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  • Glad to know that your mission is still the same. People need to go see what Charlie's is all about!

    -- Posted by small town fan on Tue, Feb 27, 2018, at 8:40 AM
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