The last remaining location of the venerable Charlie & Barney’s restaurant chain has closed after 36 years in business.
The Indianapolis company’s flagship restaurant, at 225 E. Ohio St., had served up the same signature chili since the privately held chain debuted in 1977.
Founder Richard Hogshire told IBJ he closed the location March 25 because he did not want to commit to another long-term lease. The restaurant occupied 4,500 square feet of space in the parking garage next to Market Square Center, better known as the "Gold Building."
“We just decided we wanted to retire on that store and focus on other things,” he said.
At its peak, Charlie & Barney’s had a total of eight restaurants, with locations in Indianapolis; Atlanta; Denver; Charlotte, N.C.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Lexington, Ky.
Its other downtown location, on the first floor of PNC Center, closed late last year. In previous years, Hogshire also operated local Charlie & Barney's locations in Broad Ripple and at 86th Street and Ditch Road. The chain also had a franchise location at Keystone at the Crossing in the early 1980s.
Hogshire said a Charlie & Barney’s restaurant eventually could re-emerge, albeit as part of a small-store concept. He wants to open a few “express” eateries that don't included a bar or full wait service. He declined to divulge potential locations or specifics of his plans.
And despite the closing of his last restaurant, Hogshire plans to continue selling Charlie & Barney’s self-serve chili at convenience stores such as Village Pantry in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
Hogshire turned to express chili service after the idea of franchising restaurants nationwide didn’t exactly take off. In 2004, C&B management boldly predicted that the company would open some 200 such locations within four or five years. But the concept never gained steam and some of the early franchises closed.
The more modest expansion idea involving frozen chili was the brainchild of both Hogshire and Bill Church, the company’s former president and chief operating officer. Formerly a vice president at Roly Poly Rolled Sandwiches, Church met Hogshire when Roly Poly started offering Charlie & Barney’s chili.
Church left Charlie & Barney’s a few years ago and is president of CZ Growth Strategies LLC in Carmel.
Hogshire said he launched Charlie & Barney’s with the Ohio Street location, and it “just kind of progressed from there.” He named the restaurant after his two cats.
“It's kind of a sad time," he said. "I hate to see it go."
The restaurant had about 10 employees at the time of its closing, Hogshire said.
Crystal Houston, a broker at CBRE, is marketing the downtown space to other restaurant operators. The location, which is next to the Gold Building, seems to be attracting interest. Houston said she might have a tenant signed soon.