CLINTONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – What was supposed to be a one-off offering of bold burger bites is about to blossom into its own brick-and-mortar location.

Preston’s: A Burger Joint is preparing to open its first standalone storefront on North High Street in Clintonville after serving North Market patrons for two years. Although Preston’s owners, Matthew Heaggans and Letha Pugh, said they will miss the customers and support of the market, they’re both excited for the restaurant to expand.

“We get to curate the experience, you know, from beginning to end here,” Heaggans said. “We can provide people with the service and the experience that we really like for them to have.”

Preston’s public debut more than five years ago wasn’t actually under the name “Preston’s” – it was a temporary pop-up to experiment with different flavors and ingredients for the other restaurant Heaggans co-owned at the time, Ambrose and Eve. What did he offer? Flavorful, midwestern twists on an American staple.

The food was so popular, Heaggans said, that he worked to keep it going. Preston’s moved from one pop-up location to the next across Columbus, and at one point even operated out of a food truck.

Although successful, the pop-up method had its downsides: The smash-style burger shack’s daily revenue was at the whim of the venue, the event and the type of customers around. Heaggans said he could spend a day slinging burgers by a bar’s outdoor volleyball court and the next day doling out food to ravenous concert-goers, never sure where he might land.

So, when an opportunity presented itself in 2020 to move into a spot at the North Market, Heaggans leaped at the chance for more stability and structure. It’s also when Pugh joined Preston’s.

“As long as I’ve been interested in operating a food business in Columbus, I always wanted to be in a space in the North Market,” Heaggans said.

Heaggans and Pugh said they cannot over-emphasize the appreciation they have for the North Market, especially its loyal customers. But as Preston’s popularity has boomed, it has also experienced some growing pains – and now, Heaggans and Pugh are ready to venture out on their own.

“We are more seasoned business owners, and so while the support of the market was great, you know, there’s not a lot of room for decision-making outside of their parameters,” Pugh said.

Rick Harrison Wolfe, North Market’s executive director and CEO, said in an email he was proud of Preston’s success.

“This is a prime example of North Market’s mission to incubate and support the growth of our merchants,” Wolfe said.

With its own location, Preston’s can now stay open later to serve dinner, have access to a parking lot and accommodate more customers with outdoor seating. Preston’s is also taking the extra legroom to build out its beverage offerings.

And Heaggans and Pugh now have the space to dedicate a separate area of their kitchen to gluten-free options, something they’ve longed to be able to do.

“[We’re] really wanting this to be that place where everyone can sit down together,” Pugh said. “And now, you know, we could actually have that – where just because one person is gluten-free doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to enjoy a gluten-free burger or chicken tenders or even, say, fries.”

Preston’s: A Burger Joint will open at 2973 N. High St. in Clintonville in January.