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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sarelli's Catering Moves Out, Summit Martial Arts Moves In

Sarelli's Catering has moved to Northside and Summit Martial Arts has taken over its storefront. Photo by Maggie Dickow. 

After almost 8 years of business in Fort Thomas's Midway district, Sarelli's Catering has moved north of the river, to Northside. But the storefront at 1045 S. Fort Thomas Ave. didn't stay empty for long. Summit Martial Arts, previously located just a few doors down at 1049 S. Fort Thomas Ave., opened its doors in the space Sarelli's used to occupy Monday.

Fort Thomas resident and owner of Sarelli's Catering Sarah Cole says she liked the Midway district because of its location—close to home for her family and many of her employees. She also said she enjoyed working with The Fort Thomas Business Association and fellow local businesses. So why the move? Tickle Pickle.

Sarah Cole's newest venture, Tickle Pickle, in Northside. Photo by Tracy Davis.

Cole grew up in Clifton, Ohio, and says she's always enjoyed the area. She came across a commercial listing in Northside, and she put an offer on it. She got it, and that was the beginnings of Tickle Pickle, a cafe serving organic grass-fed burgers; handmade vegan and veggie burgers; organic slaw, taters and sides; organic and vegan milkshakes; and more.

For a short while Cole owned her Northside storefront while also operating Sarelli's Catering in Fort Thomas. "It's really silly to pay double bills, so I went ahead and moved everything over here for the pure ease of not having to be in two places at once," she says.

Cole says from the beginning, a storefront with a lot of foot traffic wasn't necessary to Sarelli's Catering's success. Her clients are corporate clients (think P&G and U.S. Bank). "The cafe was only open because I was paying people to stand around and prep for catering," Cole says. While prepping, her employees sold sandwiches to those who stopped by for lunch. But her $400,000 a year in sales came from her catering, not the eatery, she says.

So Cole moved Sarelli's Catering to her Tickle Pickle kitchen in Northside. From 5am to 11am employees prep and prepare for Sarelli's Catering's clients. At 11am the kitchen switches over to serve Tickle Pickle customers. Tickle Pickle opened February 20. "Since then it's just been nonstop," Cole says.

For Rick Hill, owner of Summit Martial Arts, the sudden availability of 1045 S. Fort Thomas Ave. couldn't have come at a better time. Hill experienced quick growth upon opening Summit and by its fifth month he had more than 50 active students attending classes weekly. Summit's previous location, on the ground floor of a building that mostly consisted of residential apartments, wasn't easily seen. One had to walk through a door and down a hallway to reach Summit's door—there was no storefront. And, the space was small.

"We were outgrowing our space," Hill says. "We needed a larger space and we wanted to be a visible part of the community. People who had heard of us still had a hard time finding us."

Hill says he had been looking for quite some time in Fort Thomas and had gotten to the point where he was considering looking outside of Fort Thomas. "I just happened to be eating at The Olde Fort Pub with my wife," Hill says. "Patrick Casey's wife was cleaning in here [1045 S. Fort Thomas Ave.] and I noticed Sarelli's was gone." Hill then contacted Patrick Casey, the owner of Fort Thomas Pizza and the new owner of 1045 S. Fort Thomas. "It worked out," Hill says. "It's what we were looking for." 

Aidan Schwegman and Rick Hill prepare for the first class in Summit's new space. 

Hill says the move was simple, both given to the fact that it was close in proximity and the help he had. "A lot of families helped," Hill says. "Everybody really pitched in." 

A grand reopening will be held Saturday, March 12, complete with a ribbon cutting at 11am. At 11:15am the Fort Thomas Police Department will be giving a talk about safety and awareness, followed by an additional talk from the Fort Thomas Fire Department at 1:15pm. All are welcome.

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