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Local Chef fires up brand, gives back to communities

Chef Eric Rogers









Since opening his first restaurant in 2013, Eric Rogers has achieved a rare status in the food industry: he's become a thriving chef-owner. Coming off his first two successful ventures, he's now on track to establish his third at 2195 Lee Road, Fix Bistro — an upscale Cajun-Creole eatery, as a Cedar Lee staple, while expanding the offerings of what is fast becoming his "Fix" brand.  
 
It was more than luck or even great food that's positioned him so well. Rogers’ experience in both the food and business industries primed him for success.
 
“I worked in restaurants from age eight to seventeen,” says Rogers, whose grandparents were restaurant owners. “I learned early on that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
 
Rogers, a Cleveland native, attended Collinwood High School. “I wasn’t an educational dude,” says the '97 grad, adding that he spent plenty of time back in the day playing football and basketball. Even now at well over six feet, Rogers has lost none of the athletic build he had in high school.
 
While the restaurant business was like home for Rogers, life had other plans for him. He married young and had his first child when he was 21. Rogers took a job as a file clerk for University Hospital (UH) working for $7.50 an hour. He worked his way up the ladder and eventually parlayed that humble beginning to the position of financial manager, which put him in charge of multi-million dollar accounts.
 
Returning to the far-from-secure food industry might not seem like a natural career move, but Rogers was driven. “It took me till my mid-thirties to realize my passion,” he says. And so he pursued it.
 
He left his job at UH in 2011. Rogers opened Nevaeh in South Euclid in 2013. Nevaeh is “Heaven” spelled backwards and for many of his customers, the food was just that.
 
“People kept coming in saying, ‘I need my fix,'” says Rogers.

In his mind, something clicked: Fix.
 
The Black Box Fix, Rogers’ second restaurant, opened in the Cedar Lee district in March 2015 and was an immediate success. The unique sandwich concepts — the surf-and-turf LBJ, the chicken-based OMG Philly — brought customers and praise. But it was Rogers’ sleek, black take-out boxes, which were supremely Instagram-ready, that helped the corner sandwich shop attain social media fame.
 
Rogers’ appearance on Food Network around the opening only added to the new eatery's popularity.
The Sweet Fix 
Now, Rogers is in the midst of building a restaurant group powerhouse. A third Fix restaurant, The Sweet Fix, also in the Cedar Lee district at 2307 Lee Road, came about when he partnered with Robert Craig, his wife’s cousin, to launch a sweet shop and bakery. Two more Cedar Lee eateries will follow shortly: Soul Fix, which will focus on soul food, and Fawaky Fix, which will offer vegetarian/vegan cuisine and fresh juices (Fawaky is Arabic for fruit). While Soul is still in development, Fawaky, in collaboration with Fawaky Burst, is slated to open at 2234 Lee Road later this year.
 
Rogers and partner Larese Purnell also signed a deal earlier this year to re-open Black Box Fix (which closed when Fix Bistro opened) in Legacy Village. For those counting, that will make seven restaurants openings for Rogers in four years. Call that an impressive ramp up since just 2013.
 
In some cases, such rapid expansion might be disastrous. But Rogers’ sweeping vision isn’t based on ego; he’s building a restaurant franchise built on collaboration. The Fix brand aims to be an alliance of local restaurateurs benefitting from a shared label. Owners joining The Fix get “a jump-start on marketing,” while new establishments help get The Fix brand “pushed to another level” on the local culinary scene.
 
“Good business is built on honesty and integrity,” says Rogers. “We’re just riding the wave of that.”
 
The entrepreneurial chef also sees The Fix concept as a way to give back to the communities that contributed to his success, including the Cedar Lee neighborhood, the African-American community, and his thousands of loyal fans and social media followers. He and Purnell have made philanthropy an integral part of The Fix, organizing a fundraising event for a local charity at least once a month.
 
“We want to push the blessings,” says Rogers. 


 
Rogers frequently references his faith and his family in conversation and online. He and wife LaToya will celebrate their 15th anniversary in September. The couple has three children.
 
For all his successes, Rogers maintains a humble demeanor. He and Purnell rarely discuss the money end of their lucrative ventures. “We’re too busy to spend it,” says Rogers. Yet with the expansion and popularity of The Fix brand, they stand to make their share.
 
Might The Fix brand become something like a Cleveland restaurant record label? Rogers laughs.

“Don’t give us any ideas.”
 

Read more articles by Billy Hallal.

Billy Hallal is a freelance writer and a native of Cleveland's east side. Locally, he has written for Thrillist and Cleveland Scene. Find him at @HillyBallal for more on Cleveland dining, drinking, and culture.
 
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