CANFIELD, Ohio – Stepping out of the car at JR Grinder, throwback themed music can immediately be heard playing from the speakers. Inside the small diner, vintage themed artwork can be found covering the walls, accompanied by a vibe, which James Rounds says, transports customers to a “time where everything wasn’t so crazy.”
The ’50s-’60s-themed diner opened in 2011 at 400 W. Main St. in Canfield. What began as a place that served a limited cuisine expanded to offer classic American entrees when co-owners Rounds and Patrick Allen took over in 2018.
Both co-owners had about 15 years of experience working with pizzas and had become very close with JR Grinder’s previous owner, who eventually offered to sell them the place.
“It was mainly just sandwiches and ice cream and we branched it off to make it more of lunchtime type of thing,” Rounds says. “We were trying to aim towards family. We get a lot of kids and a lot kids don’t want complicated sandwiches.”
Beyond the original menu, they added pizzas, gyros, burgers, pepperoni rolls, hot dogs, chicken strips, french fries and mozzarella sticks. All of the original grinders and Katie’s Korner Ice Cream options remain available, as well.
Rounds says the realization that he and Allen wanted to open their own restaurant was during their time working together at Belleria Pizza in Austintown. Allen offered Rounds a job as a manager there, which he held for 10 years before buying JR Grinder.
“Sometimes it would be just me and him and we could just do everything together,” Rounds says. “I was like, ‘We should just do it for ourselves.’ We knew the pizza game and the business game and we would just need a couple missing pieces.”
While the theme of the restaurant makes it unusual, Rounds says it is the customer-employee relationship that sets it apart from other businesses.
“The quality of food is great. But the service is what sets us apart from other businesses,” Rounds says. “The way we talk to people – when you walk in, you’re supposed to feel like you’re at home.”
All of the original artwork on the building has been left intact, with only some minor adjustments to the patio ordering window area, which opened during COVID-19.
Rounds says the Canfield community made him feel most welcome. “Everything revolves around the community and they’re great to us. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
JR Grinder is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. You can learn more at JRGrinder.com.