With 27 years of experience in the hospitality industry, you could say that Mike Bradley was born for the job of Manager at City Garden Café. One of those gigs was running the Auxiliary Services Program at Ashland University.
“It was a great learning ground for me,” Bradley said.
His background also includes receiving the prestigious Silver Plate Award from the International Food Manufacturer Association. The award is given to only nine people within various hospitality categories.
“After about 27 years there, I had the opportunity to move onto another institution, after getting an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Bradley said. “After four months, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I semi-retired.”
But it wasn’t too long after resigning that Bradley got the itch to contribute to the community, along with some motivation from home.
“My son works with the IT company that handles Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and I learned of the café that way,” Bradley said. “After being off last summer, and my wife is a teacher so she was also off, she said by next summer I better have something [a job].”
Bradley marries his expertise and extensive background in the food service industry in the role as Café Manager.
“The Café is a partnership with the City of Mansfield [and Richland Newhope Industries],” Bradley said. “They allowed us to have a space in the city building. We are known as City Garden Café, but we are part of Richland Newhope Industries. The Café provides training opportunities for developmentally disabled individuals.”
The Café opened on January 27, 2014, and saw an immediate appeal to employees working in the building, as well as visitors. Even though the Café has been open for a mere four months, it’s already seeing terrific growth in employees and revenue.
“Two individuals have already left us and gone onto other job opportunities,” Bradley said. “This is a training site, so the goal is to train these individuals to go out into the community and take advantage of other opportunities.”
Employees learn skills like food preparation, customer service, money handling and working the cash register—all skills that they can take elsewhere.
“It’s fun to watch the individuals we work with grow,” Bradley said. “I interviewed one young lady. She was chewing gum and had a scowl on her face. She has totally changed her outlook on life. She trusts people now, and she’s already moved onto another job in the community. She’s working for a nursing home in their dietary area.”
Although the goal of the program is to have individuals “graduate” to other workplaces, it’s bittersweet for Bradley and the two other community employment trainers from Richland Newhope Industries that work with City Garden Café employees.
“We have a few more individuals that are getting ready to move on,” Bradley said. “They are great individuals. We get them were they need to be and things [at the Café] are running smoothly, and then we start over with new individuals.”
Bradley and his staff enjoy seeing employees grow, spread their wings, and move onto a new place. However, the Café is seeing growth in other areas too.
“Initially, most of our customers came from folks in the city building,” Bradley said. “But as time goes on, word of mouth has helped it grow. We’re seeing more community folks coming in. We have higher customer counts and revenue.”
The goal for the Café is to get to the point where the restaurant is self-sustaining, and training and equipping more individuals so that the community of Mansfield benefits, too.
Along with relying on standard marketing methods like word of mouth—Bradley believes strongly in the idea that offering great food and unbelievable customer service leads to word of mouth recommendations that grow a business—the Café team also turned to Spire Advertising for help creating a website.
“The website goes live at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and we’re letting people everywhere know about it,” Bradley said. “What we wanted was something effective, of course, and clean. It tells our story, not just about a restaurant but also the connection we have with Newhope Industries. So people can see the story beyond the food.”
Bradley notes the investment in relationship that Spire offers as essential to building a great website.
“They’re just an easy group of people to deal with,” Bradley said. “They’ve come over and we’ve had lunch. We’ve walked around the building and talked with people, to other individuals in the building. When they put [the website] together, they had a real sense of what we were doing and the message.”
The City Garden Café is located in the Mansfield Municipal Building on 30 N. Diamond St. in Mansfield. The upscale café has a contemporary design with a diverse menu featuring deli sandwiches, soups, bagels, salads, desserts, made-from-scratch smoothies and espressos. When possible, Bradley uses local vendors. Offering WiFi and a quick bite for business professionals, customers can also enjoy a leisurely breakfast or lunch from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., taking in the view of downtown Mansfield.