A second life

Restaurateur finds new home for Bohannon furniture

By Jennifer Holton ’12

Jonathon Sawyer believes in an old saying: The greenest building is the one that’s already built. The Cleveland chef planned to design the atmospheres of his two restaurants with this ecofriendly mind-set, but it was with the help of another building that he achieved it – John Carroll’s Bohannon Science Center. Several pieces of furniture and laboratory equipment help define the atmosphere and décor of Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th St. and the newly opened Noodlecat restaurant on Euclid Ave.

As the University commenced razing the 43-year-old building, Sawyer was one of many who took furniture and other items from Bohannon to help fulfill the University’s construction waste management plan to recycle or salvage 50 percent of the demolition debris.

“For us, it’s about being as green as we can, and the less you purchase new, the better off everybody is,” Sawyer says.

Inside Greenhouse Tavern

According to Carol Dietz, associate vice president of facilities, 2,950 cubic yards of material was removed from Bohannon before demolition. Items the University didn’t have room to store were made available for sale to faculty, staff, and administration. Items included furniture, most of which was original to the building, such as desks, chairs, metal cabinets, and computer and laboratory tables. After the demolition, items that weren’t taken were put toward the recycling effort.

The metal that came from the building was recycled elsewhere, melted in a scrapyard, and sent to other companies, while the wood and ceiling tiles were mulched to sell for landscaping.

Before the demolition, Sawyer heard word of the Bohannon site through the Cleveland Green Building Coalition and, along with a few of his Greenhouse Tavern cooks and Noodlecat bartender, spent a few days rummaging through the furniture and remaining pieces. It was the solid, English Oak wood that caught their eyes.


“We were looking for this type of old English Oak, which was popular when Bohannon opened,” he says. “Anytime we found anything in that color scheme we took it because we could use it.”

Many of the long tables, counters, and cabinets in Greenhouse Tavern are the solid English Oak pieces that were removed from Bohannon and given a new life by Sawyer and his staff. At the entrance of the restaurant rests a tabletop, vintage Toledo scale salvaged from Bohannon. The chef even saved old wooden laboratory storage drawers and converted them into a storage unit for his chefs’ knives. It’s a piece of furniture other chefs would be jealous of, he says.

In addition to the pieces from Bohannon, myriad other recycled elements give Greenhouse Tavern its farmhouse look. The restaurant’s main bar top is homemade, made of high-fly ash concrete mixed with pieces of recycled beer and wine bottles and windows broken by Sawyer and his staff. Recycled bicycle rims and a postconsumer vinyl shades with LED lights comprise the chandeliers that light the restaurant, and 41 recycled wooden doors were used to front the main and kitchen bars and restroom partitions, among other areas.

“If we were to build a farmhouse from all recycled material, I feel like that’s the narrative behind Greenhouse Tavern – it’s 100-percent upcycled,” Sawyer says.

Inside Noodlecat

Inside Noodlecat, the vibe is less farmhouse and more retro, but it’s still filled with its own green masterpieces. Bohannon’s presence resides with the lab stools and long lab and smaller classroom tables. The nicks and etches show the gentle wear and tear of the pieces once used for note-taking and lab dissections or experiments. However, the reused furniture is fitting for the laid-back, low-key vibe the restaurant’s atmosphere exudes.

“This place is all about not taking yourself too seriously, that’s what the casual seating is for,” Sawyer says. “Noodles in general are pretty casual, and it’s hard to do fine dining when you’re slurping.”

While Sawyer and his staff found various pieces of furniture at John Carroll ideal for their restaurants, limited storage space hindered them from taking everything they wanted.

“It was one of those opportunities where you hate to see those things go to waste,” he says. “There were many more tables that were unique and would have had a beautiful place in a home or restaurant. We just didn’t have the space for everything.”

Judging from what Sawyer salvaged, it was as if he brought the old saying to life – building the greenest buildings he could with what he managed to take from Bohannon, among other recycled items from elsewhere. It was a plan well executed. JCU

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