First Piece of Salem Entertainment District

SALEM – The OG, a casual and upscale restaurant and bar, will add another option to the downtown Salem nightlife scene when it opens this spring.

Located in the former Schwartz Department Store building at 138-146 S. Broadway Ave., The OG will feature a long bar across its rear wall, with table seating in the front part of the room and a retail area along one wall where wine and beer will be sold by the bottle or six-pack.

The south wall of the roughly 3,000-square-foot restaurant borders on Burchfield Alley and will have a door from which patrons can walk outside on warm days.

Burchfield Alley is a pedestrian walkway that was recently covered with a decorative roof structure. Downtown Salem is a Dora (designated outdoor refreshment area), which means it is legal for adults to consume alcoholic beverages outdoors there.

Scott Larrick, owner of The OG, says the name of the nightspot plays off the brewing term “original gravity.” The phrase refers to the solids content in the wort (the liquid that will become beer) and is a key to measuring the future alcohol content of any particular batch.

Joe Hovorka is redeveloping the buildings he owns.

The OG is just one part of the redevelopment of the building. The Black Cat Café will open this spring in a smaller space at the north end of the building, according to Joe Hovorka, owner of the building and the developer of the project. The cafe, owned by Heather Trotter and Kimberly Coleman, will have its own entrance.

The second floor of the building is being transformed into an apartment that either will be rented to a tenant or marketed as short-stay lodging.

Talks are underway with another entity to open an ax-throwing entertainment complex in the basement.

The OG is merely the first project on South Broadway that will restore a vacant building and put it back into use, according to Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, the city’s redevelopment agency.

“In the next six to 12 months, this avenue will look very different,” she says. “It will be a great place to visit in our little big city.”

The cost of The OG building project is $700,000, says Hovorka, whose Teldar Real Estate Co. owns 10 downtown buildings. He has been rehabilitating and reopening the buildings over the past five years.

Hovorka credits the state’s historic tax credit program with helping to make his plans come to fruition.

The OG building was built in the late 1800s. Its current façade was put on in the 1920s after a fire. In the 1950s, it became Schwartz Department Store. It is the first of five on the block that he will renovate.

Hovorka collectively refers to the entire project as the Broadway Entertainment District. In total, it will use $1.7 million in state and federal tax credits and grants, he says. That sum, coupled with private money provided by his firm, puts the price tag for the entire South Broadway project at more than $6 million.

The former Goodwill building, the largest building in downtown Salem, is part of the project. When complete, the 18,000-square-foot structure – which is across the street from The OG – will have more than a dozen apartments on its upper floors and retail space on the ground floor.                                                                                                                                   

Larrick, the owner of The OG, is a Columbus native who moved to the Mahoning Valley in 2011 and to Salem in 2019. He has spent most of his life in the wine and beer business.

Larrick was the general manager of a brewery in Norway and also opened a beer importing and distribution company in that country. The OG will be his first business in the United States. It will offer both on-site consumption of alcohol and retail sales – a blend of Larrick’s two areas of expertise.

“Starting a business that mixes retail with a restaurant has been germinating in my mind for a long time,” he says.

He is shooting for a May 1 opening.

Larrick stressed that he will not brew beer nor make wine at The OG. “There are already many great breweries and wineries in the area,” he says, adding he intends to offer their products.

Pictured at top: The exterior of the future site of The OG restaurant and bar on South Broadway Avenue in downtown Salem. Burchfield Alley is at right, adjacent to the building.