Arby’s Celebrates the Return to Its Boardman Roots

BOARDMAN, Ohio — In the early 1960s, Gerald Peskin and his father designed a sign for a small business in Boardman called Arby’s. The sign they created, in the shape of a cowboy hat, perfectly suited the Western concept that owners Leroy and Forrest Raffel envisioned for their fast-food restaurant.

“At one point in the design stage, there was even talk of having the poles that support the sign shaped like cacti,” Peskin said Wednesday.

The cactus poles never left the drawing board, but the Peskins’ cowboy hat design has become an iconic symbol of the fast-food empire that grew from the Raffels’ first store.

Peskin and Arby’s officials gathered Wednesday for the grand reopening of the new Boardman Arby’s, 29 Boardman-Canfield Road. A half-century after the Raffels opened their first restaurant, Arby’s new “Inspire” design has arrived at the newly rebuilt “Unit One.”

“It’s a nice sitting in a building that represents the future of the brand just a few hundred feet away from the building where it all started over 50 years ago,” said Arby’s CEO Paul Brown.

Brown and a host of Arby’s representative cut the ribbon to the new building and were feted by Boardman trustees who proclaimed that the township would be renamed “Meat Town USA” for the day.

For some who attended, the celebration looked familiar. George Nadvit, who once served as executive vice president of operations at Arby’s, is today a franchisee in northeastern Ohio. “I was here for the first grand reopening after the Raffels moved from the original location,” Nadvit recalled. “The buildings today have the same hard surfaces in them, but there’s more wood now in the dining rooms and more seating.”

The menu and amenities are also far different in today’s Arby’s, Nadvit said.

“We’re putting Wi-Fi in, and people can now plug in their computers,” he elaborated. “There are televisions — all of the new restaurants have those. We’ve expanded the menu from the early years into sub sandwiches, deli-style sandwiches, gyros, chicken and many other items. So the menu has really blossomed, and it’s brought a lot of new and different customers into our stores.”

The Atlanta-based Arby’s is undergoing an expansion, targeting coastal areas. Arby’s has more than 3,300 restaurants in four countries with stores slated to open in the Middle East.

Around 600 stores with the new “Inspire” design will open by the end of this month. The design features wood in the interior, white brick, new lighting and “chalkboard graphics,” according to the company website.

“We’re now expanding the number of restaurants for the first time in several years,” CEO Brown said. “In fact, this year will represent the first year since 2008 that we end the year with more stores than we started.”

Brown sees the new store designs and the company’s plans as an outgrowth of the legacy of the Raffel brothers.

“We’re really just doing the 21st-century incarnation of what the Raffel brothers’ vision was back in 1964,” he said.

Pictured: Paul Brown, center, holds the proclamation declaring Boardman “Meat Town USA” Dec. 7. With him are franchisee George Nadvit and Boardman Township trustees Larry Moliterno, Tom Costello and Brad Calhoun.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.