Former Kitchen Post Owner Keeps it Simple with Pizza Boy
POLAND, Ohio — Ross Fowler’s hands take a fresh ball of fermented sourdough pizza dough out of a large commercial-sized refrigerator. He flips it a number of times into an 18-inch shaped circle and perfectly forms it on a wooden peel.
Sauce and a handful of fresh, hand-prepared ingredients are placed on the circular dough before it’s placed in a hot oven for an eight-minute stint – then sometimes garnished with fresh basil before being placed into a preformed cardboard box and handed to a paying customer.
“I make every ball of dough myself,” says the 30-year-old Fowler, owner of the under 550-square foot Pizza Boy on 90 S. Main Street. “I don’t have a staff. There’s no other hands that touch it.
“I know exactly what it is at all times. I’m at the dough’s mercy. It comes out differently every time.”
The name of the store stems from his sister, Jade, who got the idea from John C. Reilly’s character in “Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule,” and his phrase, “Prizza Boy.” A framed poster of Reilly is seen in the left corner of the store with the word Prizza below, and the Fowlers eventually came up with Pizza Boy.
Ross Fowler, who is part owner of Pizza Boy with his mother, Linda, admits he was not an aficionado of pizza making. It was a challenge at first, but now it’s “fun and therapeutic.”
The two opened the shop near their Poland home approximately six months ago and celebrated its grand opening Wednesday with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
“It’s a great location, high traffic and dead center in the community,” he says. “It seems the most viable place for me.”
Gallery images include the exterior of Pizza Boy, a ribbon-cutting with co-owners Linda and Ross Fowler and Jade Fowler, the inside of the shop and a picture of Ross and Linda by the ovens.
Linda Fowler said Pizza Boy could be introducing online pizza ordering as soon as next week, while Ross Fowler adds it will be on the Slice app, which is downloadable from the Apple Store or Google Play.
Linda Fowler says her son always loved making pizza, and spent the last couple of years working on his dough. “He gets pretty impassioned when he gets into a project,” she says. “He’s always wanted to have a pizza shop.”
The wooden counter adorns the left side of Pizza Boy with a few backless metal stools, while the rest of the shop contains the two ovens, refrigerator, storage for ingredients and a front counter for transactions. The retro look is complete with retro hanging light fixtures and random pieces of art on the walls.
“It’s basically like walking into our kitchen,” Linda Fowler says. “It is tiny, but it’s an intimate feeling. We got everything we needed to get in here.
“It’s perfect as far as running the operation.”
If Ross Fowler’s name sounds familiar to those in the Mahoning Valley, it should. He owned The Kitchen Post before closing its downtown Youngstown location in early 2020 – originally opening in Struthers. He says he didn’t have what it took mentally or organizationally at the time.
“It was a hard lesson to learn,” he says. “I realized that too late. We didn’t have the finances for it. We didn’t have the capital backing us. It was high risk.
“We opened and we had a little over a week’s worth of capital, which we made last for like two years. The market didn’t translate for the relative size of the place. … There were a lot of lessons to be learned. I can’t say one thing.”
Fridays at The Kitchen Post was pizza night, where he started his love of working with the dough – finding which pie was good and terrible and investigating how to constantly make a better product.
He didn’t want to give up on his dreams and work at a country club or a diner when The Kitchen Post closed, but to form what would be Pizza Boy from the grassroots effort that formed his previous restaurant. The Pizza Boy idea sat in limbo for six months.
Eventually, a place became available as LaFrance Cleaners vacated, but there was no hurry as there was with The Kitchen Post to open quickly. They started as a cash-only business open a couple days a week – attracting customers from the Poland area and those who frequented The Kitchen Post – to eventually implement a point of sale system.
“We started chipping away,” Ross Fowler says. “There wasn’t any pressure for the build up. We built it out over seven months. We didn’t have to come up with an insane amount of money.”
Linda Fowler says there were a lot of things to accommodate with the zoning, which took around $30,000. She says they’re not done updating their store. She knew this would not be a typical restaurant with tables and chairs as Ross Fowler convinced his mother it would be more of a takeout place.
“We’re just a small family with not great means to be honest – kind of piecing things together,” she says. “I just think we have a lot of drive.”
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.