Add Crust (1020 Kenilworth Ave., 216-583-0257, crusttremont.com) to the long and growing number of Cleveland food startups poised for growth and expansion. The two-and-a-half-year-old Tremont pizza shop will open a second location on the east side of town, joining what’s becoming a budding food scene in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.
“I always try to find properties that I can actually purchase, and one came up in Midtown by Slyman’s,” says Crust owner Mike Griffin.
That parcel formerly was Bada-Bing strip club (3000 St. Clair Ave.).
On a busy weekend day, Crust can fly through 300 medium, large and 10-pound Destroyer pizzas – all crafted in a kitchen the size of a McMansion pantry. Despite the shop’s diminutive dimensions, Crust makes all of its sub buns, pizza crusts and desserts from scratch.
“It has far exceeded anything that I ever thought it would become,” Griffin says. “We had one little table when we started. Now we’re maxed out at seven tables.”
A patio accommodates another dozen or so diners in nice weather.
In addition to the quality, part of the reason Crust is killing it, adds Griffin, is the fact that he is his own landlord.
“Because I own the property I can keep the costs down because I don’t have to pay high rents. That way I’m able to charge $3 for a 15-inch, two-pound slice of pizza with Grande cheese.”
The new location, which should open in late spring, will easily accommodate 75 diners. But more importantly it will allow Griffin to centralize dough and dessert production. One of the factors preventing expansion thus far – and there have been many offers to do so, he says – has been the level of baking skill needed at each shop.
Like Tremont, Crust Midtown will sell salads, subs, pasta, pizza and desserts. But it will only do so at lunch and through its growing catering operation. The demand for chef Jeff Fisher’s desserts alone merit a commissary.
To undo the strip club-chic décor, Griffin gutted the interior and added windows.
Griffin believes that his new neighborhood of St. Clair Superior is poised for big growth in the coming months and years.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the area with more residential on the way,” he says.