Thursday, March 19, 2009

Charley Shin

Ohio is the birthplace of many popular restaurant chains thanks in part to its entrepreneurial immigrants. I can only honor one at a time, so I'll start with the founder of one of my favorite chains: Charley's Grilled Subs. Charley's is known in Ohio and beyond for grilling Philly Cheesesteaks in malls, airports, and gas stations. According to company legend, it all started when an Ohio State student had his first cheesesteak on a trip to the east cost.

Charley Shin immigrated with his mother and sister to Ohio from South Korea in the 1970's. His mother set up a Japanese restaurant in Columbus while he attended school, eventually enrolling at Ohio State. At some point his family is said to have taken a trip to visit family in New York when they found themselves in Philadelphia by mistake. That's when Charley had his first Philly Cheesesteak. The experience was apparently unforgettable; he didn't wait to graduate before convincing his mother to loan him money so that he could establish a sandwich shop next to campus in 1986.

After his first shop, Charley opened new stores in malls close to Columbus. Five years later, he began franchising the chain. Malls, gas stations, and airports were the target markets for Charley's. In recent years they've also had success on Air Force bases. Charley says he likes "captive audiences," but the brand is starting to appear in stand-alone locations.

I've lived in Philadelphia and can attest to the heart-palpitating tastiness of an original Philly Cheesesteak. In my humble opinion, Charley's steak subs are a good substitute. Not as greasy, of course. The service is less... abrasive. And Charley's kiwi lemonade is unmatched by other fast food, or "fast casual," establishments. I'll admit to having gone with a friend to the Columbus airport for the sole purpose of ordering a Charley's sub; I ordered subs from the food court while he drove around the loop. Charley Shin is an obvious Hero of Capitalism because of his entrepreneurial drive and remarkable success, but he deserves special note because those subs are so delicious.

Fast Casual magazine profile
Columbus Business First article
Distinguished Asian American Business Leaders - Charley Shin bio

1 comment:

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