AKRON, Ohio — The restaurant industry had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been closures both temporary and permanent, and with the spread of the virus heading into Winter, things are looking pretty bad.
But in downtown Akron at the intersection of Main and Bowery, things are about to get cooking. Long time restauranteur Ed Sutter is opening a new brick and mortar restaurant. It's called "Eddie's on Main."
Sutter can barely hold in his excitement.
"Who opens in the midst of a pandemic? Eddie's does!" he said, laughingly.
But it's not just the virus he's battling.
"We have, as we speak, no phone, no internet," he explained, opening a restaurant any time has its challenges.
Sutter began his restaurant odyssey in Akron thirty years ago with Eddie's Pizzeria. Through the years he rolled through many changes, including using mobile grills he could set up at events all over Northeast Ohio. He also spent ten years in Panama City, Florida during Spring Breaks.
That's where his cheesesteak sandwiches got noticed.
"We had a segment on the Travel Channel. We made the Top 10 places to visit during Spring Break. In 2015, we sold fifteen thousand cheesesteaks in four weeks. Kids were waiting for an hour, hour and a half for a sandwich," he recalls.
But Akron is home, and the landmark-painted walls inside the restaurant reflect that. COVID-19 means carry out and limited delivery for now, but customers are ready. Lindsey Adair showed up the day before Eddie's opened to the public.
"It's nice in the wake of all these places closing down to have one open, you know something to look forward to. They are ooey-gooey good," she describes.
Sutter understands he's walking a fine line. The risk of opening during a pandemic isn't lost on him, but he also sees opportunity.
"Of course, we're carry-out only, but we're hoping that doing that and the holidays and sales of gift cards and stuff will bridge the gap through this to Spring," he said. "Everyone in this industry is sitting on pins and needles." Ed's thirty years of experience have prepared him for this challenge and he knows getting through it will be a marathon, not a sprint.