Northwest News

Savor owner just returning favor to neighborhood

Indianola Avenue becoming mecca for beer lovers as Savor Growl prepares to join successful Savor Market

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Clintonville residents and beyond soon will have another opportunity to "savor" craft beer and fine wines.

In addition, thanks to a change in state liquor regulations, they'll be able to BYOC -- "bring your own container" -- in order to take home brews available only on tap.

Businessman Firas Habli, a former pharmacist, has both ends of the north Columbus neighborhood covered, thanks to the purchase of the old Clintonville Market at 4440 Indianola Ave. and, more recently, his acquisition of the former Weber Market at 2991 Indianola Ave. He's transformed the former into Savor Market and is renovating the latter as Savor Growl.

Habli, who lives on the Northwest Side, is a 36-year-old father of two who, after studying pharmacy, said he decided to go into business. He's been operating markets for the past eight years, but after acquiring the two locations in Clintonville, he decided to take them upscale and add something a little different.

"We are in a good neighborhood, we have nice neighbors -- we need to pay back our neighborhood and the people who support us," Habli said. "We decided to become a specialty place for nice craft beer, local breweries, good wine, fine cigars."

In the wake of the recession, Habli said, people still want to entertain and have a good time, but they're more interested in buying locally or having gatherings at home.

"We figured we'd try to add value for the neighborhood," he said. "It took us a while to study the market and see what we wanted to be."

What he wanted the places to be was a source of good beer to go. That's where "growlers" come in.

A growler is a large bottle or jug that allows customers to take home beers from the tap.

A change in state law last year allowed beer to be sold this way, Habli said. Previously, only brewpubs could fill containers brought from home by customers.

The effort to pay back the neighborhood began last year with renovation of the Clintonville Market into Savor Market as a "very nice, fancy place where people can shop and have fun, have a tasting, communicate with everyone in the store," the owner said. The place caught on after about six months and has gained an excellent reputation among beer aficionados.

"This made us happy and gave us the energy to go forward and change the other store," Habli said.

Savor Growl, eight or nine months in the planning process and now many weeks into renovations, should be completed by the end of April.

Settling on the common name for the two operations was easy.

"It's about the quality and taste and enjoying what you're doing," Habli said. "It's about enjoying the last bit of the flavor. We are about the quality, not the quantity."

He added both stores charge state-minimum prices for beer and wine.

Habli also said he's found it much more fun to run these establishments than the regular local markets they used to be.

"Now we have more communication with the customers, because we can talk about the new beers," Habli said. "Now when they come, there's something new. There's a lot of life in the store now. People are involved, we are involved, everybody is involved. Now we can know if we're going good or not.

"Customers and beer-drinkers are leading us where we should go now."

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