When the Ohio Art League moved out of their Short North gallery location in September, it didn’t take long for the windows to get papered up and a mysterious new “Coming Soon…” sign to appear. The new store may not have a name just yet, but entrepreneur Yusef Riazi is already working around the clock at filling his new venue with character. His focus for the shop is on French wines and artisan cheeses, but will also showcase a variety of fresh local breads, cured meats, soups, sandwiches, salads, and more.
“My passion is French wine,” explained Yusef. “Nobody in Columbus has really touched upon the French village wine market. I also plan on featuring artisan cheeses, and I have a wonderful baker who uses seasonal, local, product-driven ingredients in his breads. The charcuterie is another big part of this… cured and dried meats are also something just barely touched on in Columbus.”
The evolving concept for the space came together partly through building limitations. “With condominiums upstairs, I was told that I cannot install a hood system here,” said Yusef. “It was a welcome challenge though. This is the perfect amount of space for what I want to do.”
This former art gallery at 954 North High Street is roughly 900 square feet that will be divided into a small kitchen and dining area that will seat around 30 people. Yusef is working with Urban Order Architecture, but is also playing an active role in the design process.
“Some of the words I would use to describe the artistic direction of the space would be Vintage, Americana, Heirloom, and Industrial,” Yusef said. “I just picked up a set of barn doors that were from Burgundy, and I feel like those will be a very key French piece. It’s a touch of France, a touch of New York, but also very much warm and rustic Columbus, Ohio.”
While still a young entrepreneur, Yusef doesn’t have a lack of industry experience. He has worked on the opening crews at other Short North businesses including Northstar and Marcella’s, as well as established restaurants including Rigsby’s and The Refectory.
“This whole concept came about as a result of being in this business for a long time,” Yusef explained. “I’m 32 now, and I started at 18 as a dishwasher and worked my way up. I’m studying in the Master Sommelier program. I pay a lot of attention to what people are doing and where I feel there is a specific void in the market. I’m aiming to keep my doors open and seats filled in a very chic-casual affordable fashion. I want everyone that’s walking down the street to feel that they can come inside to enjoy what we offer.”
While the new store will not be open until February 2010, Yusef plans to put the space to productive use for special events in the meantime. “During Gallery Hop this weekend, we’re going to do a bit of an underground cash-only limited hour teaser featuring some of our breads,” he stated. “We might expand that into a pop-up retail shop to take a few orders around the holidays and Christmas, before officially opening in February.”
As both a Short North resident and business owner, Yusef concluded with a very enthusiastic endorsement of his neighborhood:
“There’s no place in this city or this country where I would feel comfortable enough to do what I want to do, other than in the Short North,” he said.