Bricker’s Cafeteria Gets New Family Ownership after 93 Years

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – It was an emotional day Sunday as Bricker’s Cafeteria on Sixth Street served customers for the last time after 93 years.

The restaurant and deli was opened in the 1930s by Lee and Lenore Bricker, and it was operated by the Bricker family until the latest owner, Greg Bricker, sold it to Ray Stephens, who will reopen the iconic eatery Wednesday as 6th Street Cafeteria and Deli.

Surrounded by his family and hordes of customers Sunday, Greg Bricker struggled with his emotions as he spoke to news crews about his decision to sell the business, which transferred from his great-grandfather Lee to his grandfather Harold Bricker for 40 years, then to his uncle Dan Dietz for seven years and then to him two years ago.

“It was a hard decision to make” to sell the business, which he bought halfway through his four-year term as mayor of East Liverpool, Bricker said. His term as mayor recently ended, and he chose not to seek re-election.

He said he now plans to focus on his financial planning business, which is located down the street from the restaurant and deli, denying rumors that he plans to seek higher public office. 

Saying his entire family is happy about his decision to sell the business to local businessman Ray Stephens, Bricker said all 18 of his employees will remain on the payroll.

“Without them, we wouldn’t still be here. Rain or shine, they’re ready to go. They know our customers,” Bricker said.

He also thanked the community for all its years of support.

Dietz, who was there with his wife, Ann, also applauded the decision to sell the business to Stephens, who also plans to incorporate his family into its operation as the Brickers did for 93 years.

“I’m happy it was sold to another family. You can’t have a family business without a family,” Dietz said as he peeled potatoes to make more of the deli’s popular potato salad, which sold out around lunchtime. 

Stephens said he is “very excited” about purchasing the restaurant and deli, which is his third business located within a couple of miles.

Better known as “Chef Ray,” Stephens also owns and is the chef for his first restaurant, Chef Ray’s, located on St. Clair Avenue near Calcutta.

In October, he opened Chef Ray’s Diamond Bar & Grill on Market Street, downtown, about a block from his new purchase.

Asked if he is concerned he might be spreading himself a little thin by purchasing the new business, Stephens scoffed, saying, “I have a great family and great workers. I have family in every operation. We don’t feel we’re spreading ourselves too thin.”

Ray Stephens, right, purchased Bricker’s Cafeteria and will reopen it as 6th Street Cafeteria and Deli. At left is his daughter, Tosha Stephens.

He is a hands-on owner and plans on stopping at each location to check on how things are going each day, noting he lives less than 2 miles from each operation.

“I’m looking forward to doing it,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Plans call for his stepson, Donnie Featherstone, and his daughter, Tosha Stephens, to work with him, managing the project.

Wiping away her own tears, Tosha told the media, “This place has been here 93 years. It already has a clientele who was devastated when they heard it was closing. We hope they will continue to support it.”

She emphasized the restaurant and deli will continue with the same menu as Bricker’s Cafeteria, using the same recipes for the “great staples this place has thrived on.”

Ray Stephens said there will be little change to the interior, other than some cleaning, flooring, painting and some upgrades to equipment, and said prices will also be lowered, all of which he hopes leads to a higher volume of customers. And all employees were given a raise. 

“Every one of them is valuable to the business,” Stephens said.

The recently added dining/event room will be used for events whenever possible, and Stephens said there are already a couple events booked.

The deal was struck between Bricker and Stephens about four weeks ago, and Stephens said he would be taking over at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Initially, the cafeteria and deli will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but in the near future, that will be changed to Monday closures only. 

Meanwhile, as he prepares for opening the new location, Stephens said he has seen an almost record winter capacity at his bar and grill down the street since its October opening. 

Currently, plans are in the works for an event room on the upper level of the bar and grill, which Stephens said was put on hold until the 6th Street Cafeteria and Deli can be opened.

Pictured at top: Greg Bricker, former mayor of East Liverpool and owner of Bricker’s Cafeteria.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.