For the past 21 years, he has risen early in the morning to make baked goods and open his delicatessen for breakfast at 7, staying inside while the sun makes its daily appearance.
But that is set to change with his retirement and the closure and possible sale of his downtown delicatessen, Gardner’s Market, this fall.
He said he will post a sign announcing the change in his store window this September. By then, he said, he hopes to have sold his business to a new owner — “the whole ball of wax,” including the name, recipes and customers, “provided they treat them right.”
Hain plans to conduct the sale of the business by owner and said he has already had four interested parties contact him about it.
“I’m sure it’ll go to some folks who will take it to a whole new level,” Hain said.
Hain said he attributes his success to “selling a quality product not available anywhere else in town.” Popular items include made-from-scratch chicken salad and lemonade. Photos of customers eating barbecue with testimonials printed underneath also line the business’ front windows. In addition to the breakfast and lunch foods made every day, there are a number of imported items like English teas available for sale along the walls of the market.
Originally from Michigan, Hain said members of his family have run delicatessens for a combined 171 years. In 1992, Bill moved to Cleveland from Miami, Fla. with his wife, Billie.
Since then, he said, most of the recipes he started with have stayed the same.
“Don’t change what works,” Hain said. “Change what doesn’t work.”
But what he said has most contributed to the business’ success is repeat customers returning to the delicatessen and telling their friends about it. Proximity to Lee University and the Bradley County Courthouse hasn’t hurt either. The business is located at 262 Broad Street N.W., just blocks away from both places in a building owned by Jones Properties.
He said an average day brings between 300 and 400 customers to the delicatessen.
One weekday afternoon, well after the lunchtime rush, Hain sat at a table just inside the business’ front window as people walked by. He paused to smile and wave at passers-by between questions, explaining how he knew each one.
“I know my customers’ names, and they come back,” he said, explaining the friendly interruptions. “The community’s been very good to me.”
As he looks toward retirement, Hain said he and his wife are planning to stay in Cleveland and allow time for things like watching sunrises and exploring new hobbies.
He had thanks to offer for the support of his customers, to Lee University president Dr. Paul Conn and wife, Darlia, and to his landlord, Allan Jones.
Whatever the future brings for Gardner’s Market, Hain said he hopes his commitment to consistent quality in the food and service is something a potential new owner shares.
Hain is of the opinion that there are two main things that can hurt a food business. He said the second worst thing an owner can do is change the location, and the absolute worst is to change for what the business stands.
“I would like to see it continue as it has,” Hain said. “It’s just a really nice place for Cleveland.”
For more information about the business’ sale, those interested can call and ask for Hain at 478-3906.