BURLEY — It took 12 years of running franchise fast-food restaurants for Blake Ruffing, owner of Burley Burger, to fine-tune his perfect burger joint.
He’s now flung the doors open so the public can enjoy his quintessential burger at 333 W. Main St. He will also participate in a renaissance of West Main Street with two other businesses, H&L Real Estate Company and New York Life, during a block party Tuesday. During the party, the public can tour the buildings.
Burley Burger’s menu, featuring fare aimed at pleasing the locals like the Big and Little Burley and the Big and Little Bobcat, also has fresh salads, wraps with a choice of crispy or grilled chicken and breakfast items like biscuits and gravy and breakfast burritos. They also have sweet potato fries and Burley fries, sourced exclusively from McCain Foods, and milkshakes so thick they can be held upside down, he said.
Ruffing wanted to be loyal to the local french fry maker, so he ordered every product McCain makes.
“I wanted the burgers to represent the town,” said Ruffing, who owns the restaurant with his wife Ginette. “I wanted to start my own brand and this is the perfect place to do it.”
All of the ingredients, including the condiments, are fresh.
Ruffing bought the building in June that formerly housed Main Street Burger and before that a string of similar eateries. It was originally built as an A & W Restaurant with the signature cone-shaped roof.
“I was going to tear it down because it would have cost less to do that than renovate it,” Ruffing said.
But, a neighbor lady approached him and said that her husband had proposed to her at the restaurant, and she asked him not to tear the cone down. Another woman came over and reminisced about her first job at age 16 years at the restaurant.
“I could have built another building a lot cheaper,” he said. “I had to spend a lot of extra money to rebuild this one but I decided to keep it rather than doze it down.”
Ruffing has invested nearly $500,000 in the restaurant that will employ 30 people. The amount was double what he originally intended to spend.
He tore the interior down to the exterior walls to keep the roof line intact and rebuilt from there. The 1950s era restaurant contained a few surprises. Inside the office, his son pulled on a key ring and discovered a hidden room behind a bookcase, and there is a large room underneath the dining space.
The downstairs was full of old A&W items like a 1950s root beer vat they used to mix the brew, cash registers, typewriters and the old carhop trays that fit on car windows.
They also found odd items buried in parking lot when it was re-surfaced including tools and pieces of metal.
“It was really odd,” he said.
Ruffing repaired the restaurant’s original benches that were stored downstairs and used wire brushes to strip the finish and give them a new luster. The old awning outside was torn down and a drive-through window installed.
For inside décor he chose to follow the lead of Teresa Loya, owner of H&L Real Estate Company, who renovated a building next door, 321 W. Main St., by using silver corrugated metal on the walls.
Loya’s building housing her business and an office space that she rents to New York Life. She purchased the building in May 2017.
“I passed by the building, it was for sale and it was just right,” Loya said. “When you start a brokerage you have to have low overhead to stay viable with the competition. The way I do business is really simple. I don’t need fluff or fanciness.”
Business often gets too complicated, she said. Renovating a building on West Main Street was the perfect choice for her.
“I came in and ripped everything out,” Loya said. “And then I went Pinterest crazy looking for ideas that I liked.”
Loya found a few surprises during renovation too like a garage door hidden in a wall.
She wanted to keep the original brick and block in the building so she went with a rustic theme using a multicolored plank ceiling, silver corrugated metal and concrete floors. She plans to redo the exterior of the building this summer.
“Everyone has put money into this block because we believe in this community,” Cammon Wutzke, agent for New York Life, said.
Loya, who has had her real estate license since 2001 and has been a broker since last year has two agents in the office, Marion Wadsworth and Alexis Aldrich.
“Everyone on this whole street is fantastic,” Ruffing said.