2 Downtown Entrepreneurs to Expand in Boardman

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Two popular businesses that got their start downtown are expanding to Boardman this fall, but both entrepreneurs are quick to point out they have no intention of abandoning where they started.

Bergen Giordani, owner of One Hot Cookie, is looking to open her fourth store on U.S. Route 224 by late October, “definitely before Thanksgiving,” at 1315 Boardman-Canfield Road. About the same time, restaurateur Christian Rinehart intends to open his second Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts at 1393 Boardman-Canfield Road, where he’ll introduce a new concept.

One Hot Cookie, which opened its first shop in Erie Terminal Place three years ago, “received such a warm welcome” when its store in Niles opened in May, Giordani said. Initially modeling the bakery on the Youngstown shop, she soon realized one size doesn’t fit all.

“Patterns were different and the sheer volume of customers was greater than what we were experiencing here in Youngstown,” Giordani said. “We were not prepared for the volume and traffic that we received.”

Boardman seemed the “next natural step” to meet the demand in the market.

The new store in Boardman will offer additional space for birthday parties. The bakery in Niles, which has a larger kitchen, will also process bulk orders such as holiday and corporate gifts, she said. A revamped website, which she hopes to launch next month, will feature an online ordering component and those orders will be processed at Niles as well.

The new Suzie’s in Boardman is just one component of ambitious expansion plans Rinehart shared about his company and its brands, which include O’Donold’s Irish Pub & Grille and the new Mission Taco.

“We see an opening in that market,” says Rinehart, CEO of O’Donold’s, Suzie’s and Mission Taco. “We bring a unique sense of — I guess — adventure for dining that really isn’t in the Valley.”

In Boardman, he plans to build an “exact duplicate of Suzie’s,” which he describes as a “growth brand. We want to see it go at least regional so we’re going to be pushing to open a few more stores over the next couple of years.”

Two weeks after Suzie’s makes its debut in Boardman, Mission Taco will open next door, he said. The adjoining store will feature locally sourced and organic ingredients, with cilantro and jalapenos grown onsite organically.

“We’ll be doing the same concept as Suzie’s: You pick how you want us to build it,” he said. “It’s just kind of a fun, interactive craft movement.” The food will be “way more healthy,” he said.

“The mission of Mission Taco is to eat food like our grandparents ate, to eat food prepared and raised like it was in the 1900s, before there was all the chemicals and things that are making us sick,” he said.

The Mission Taco in Boardman is a “test center,” he added. “We’re coming right back downtown to do another Mission Taco” as well as another concept he is introducing, an authentic Japanese ramen noodle bar, he said. By the end of February, he expects to have five restaurants in the downtown, including an existing one he is negotiating to purchase.

Expansion of O’Donold’s beyond the two in downtown Youngstown and Austintown is being eyed as well.

Beyond further restaurant growth – four are planned over the next year and 15 in total over the next five years – Rinehart said he is engaged in a site search for a corporate headquarters downtown.

“People in Youngstown are used to being left in the lurch” when someone who starts out here does well and forgets about his base, he said.

“It’s important to remember that I’m not leaving. I’m staying down here,” he remarked.

Giordani doesn’t rule out further growth, although the Mahoning Valley market will be “pretty saturated” with the opening of the Boardman store, “so if we are to continue to grow, we will have to look outside of the footprint of the Valley,” she said. Western Pennsylvania, where she and her daughter, Morgen, are from would be a “natural progression” for the chain, she said.

One Hot Cookie has grown beyond her early expectations. “We were just trying to do something fun that my daughter and I could do together and it has since morphed into something much larger than we ever could have imagined,” she said.

Shortly after she opened One Hot Cookie, the end of Phelps Street near her shop was shut down because the steps that connect Youngstown State University to downtown were torn out and a bulldozer was parked in front of her shop.

“We’ve been blown away by the support that we’ve received from the downtown community, which has allowed us to continue to grow, and the response from the general public in the Valley has been phenomenal,” she said. “It’s blown away my wildest expectations.”

Pictured: Christian Rinehart.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.