There’s a new restaurant coming to Morningside Heights, and it’s been a long time coming.
Popular New York City-based restaurant chain Shake Shack is set to move into the spot on the corner of 116th Street and Broadway and open by the end of 2017.
The location was previously occupied by Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grille, which was extensively damaged due to a fire in March 2015. But after Barnard chose not to extend Ollie’s lease, the corner spot has since remained boarded up and empty.
The restaurant chain, which was founded 13 years ago in Madison Square Park, already has one location on the Upper West Side at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue—a popular destination for Columbia students since it opened in 2008.
Citing Morningside Heights’ mix of students, locals, and tourists, CEO of Shake Shack Randy Garutti said in an interview with Spectator that the Columbia location has long been a dream of his.
“For seven or eight years I have said to our team, ‘Guys, can’t we get a Shake Shack up near Columbia and Barnard?’” Garutti said. “I have said for years before that this spot, the only spot I really want, is that old Ollie’s spot on 116th and Broadway.”
Gail Beltrone, Barnard’s vice president for campus services, said deciding what would eventually fill the spot on the corner of 116th Street was a lengthy process.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that our office received over 50 different possible tenants who called in completely unsolicited to try and get into this space,” Beltrone said. “We took every suggestion and every potential tenant very seriously, but we really viewed our role as an obligation to the community to make sure that we were establishing what would be the best fit.”
The “best fit,” according to Beltrone, would be something unlike other restaurants in the Morningside Heights area, as well as something that would be attractive to both students and faculty. Because of the high volume of traffic around the spot, the restaurant would also need to hold appeal as a fast-food choice with superior customer service.
Beltrone cited Shake Shack’s superior customer service as the deciding factor for the administration.
Garutti also expressed Shake Shack’s desire to relate to the community with the new location. Although each Shake Shack has a core menu, many items, such as baked goods, coffee, and beer, reflect local specialties. In addition, Shake Shack will be donating five percent of sales from one of the Morningside Heights Shack’s frozen concretes to the Fresh Air Fund.
As construction for the new Shake Shack has already begun, Garutti is working on putting together a menu and unique interior design elements to reflect the chain’s New York-based history, as well as that of its newest addition.
“We want this Shake Shack to be a mirror of the Columbia-Barnard Upper West Side neighborhood,” Garutti said. “If we’ve done that, we’ve done our job.”
Jessica Spitz contributed reporting.