Company News

Mocha House to Triple the Size of Its Bakery

WARREN, Ohio — There’s nothing half-baked about The Mocha House Café and Eatery.

Indeed, the longtime restaurant and catering service in Warren is moving full steam ahead on expanding its bakery over the next year as demand for the establishment’s original and artful cakes, pastries, desserts and cookies hits new heights.

“We’re going to be tripling the size of our bakery over the next six months,” says Vice President Nick Liakaris. “Our bakery is growing at an unbelievable rate. Our catering and food service has grown tremendously too. We’ve run out of space – which is a good problem to have.”

Bakers arrive early in the morning – about four o’clock – to start the day’s work, Liakaris says. The downstairs bakery, he relates, is far too small to accommodate the surge in demand for the café’s baked goods. To solve this problem, The Mocha House plans to extend the operation into an adjacent space once used as a banquet hall.

“We didn’t have a choice,” he says. “This will allow us to triple or even quadruple our production.”

Some of the desserts and baked goods are based on family recipes, others were created with some of the employees’ culinary skills, Liakaris says. “We have a great staff, and they really know what they’re doing,” he says. The Mocha House today employs between 50 and 60, about 30 of whom are full-time.

Lindsay Porter, who started as a baker 12 years ago at age 18, is busy applying a thick icing on a double chocolate fudge cake. “This is one of our more basic items – a chocolate sponge cake with icing,” she says.

Liakaris says the cheesecakes are among the most popular items in the cafe. “I would put our cheesecakes against any others in the country,” he says with a smile.

The Mocha House, 467 High St., was established 25 years ago as Liakaris’ father was preparing to retire from Copperweld Steel Co.

At the same time, Liakaris, his two sisters and brother-in-law were completing their degrees in business administration at Youngstown State University. At the time, the financial markets were still reeling from the savings and loan crisis of two years earlier, and job opportunities were slim.

“We were all graduating at a time when the economy was down and my dad owned this building,” Liakaris recalls. “He provided the building. We provided the muscle. We didn’t want to let him down.”

At heart, The Mocha House is a family business that thrives by paying attention to customers, says Liakaris’ sister, Kitsa Axiotis. “We had a dream, and we went with it,” she says. “It’s been very rewarding and challenging at the same time.”

Over the last 25 years, The Mocha House has evolved into the go-to place for Warren dining patrons – whether for breakfast and coffee, lunch or dinner, Liakaris says. The restaurant has expanded with its own catering service while operating a banquet hall in the Hippodrome building.

“When we first opened, we had just five or six hot dishes on our menu,” Liakaris says. “It was very light.”

As The Mocha House attracted more patrons, the owners made sure they listened to any suggestions their customers proffered – be it a dish they happened to see on vacation, or perhaps standard fare that could enhance the menu. “You can’t be too proud,” Liakaris says. “You’ve got to listen to your customers and offer what they want.”

This led to the opening 18 years ago of the Boardman store in Tiffany Plaza. That operation, now separate from the Warren café, is run by a cousin, Liakaris says. “It’s doing very well,” he reports.

The success of the Warren operation allowed the owners to acquire the former Hippodrome and convert it into a banquet center. And, in 2011, Liakaris and his brother-in-law, Bill Axiotis, bought the Chase Tower building downtown.

The Mocha House runs its catering services out of the first two floors, Liakaris says, and has hosted several successful events. Most recently, the building served as a venue for a murder mystery dinner theater that attracted more than 140 people. A second murder mystery dinner, Oct. 27, sold out.

Pictured at top: Nick Liakaris.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.