Here’s the Scoop: Cockeye Ice Cream Poised for Growth with New Building

WARREN, Ohio – “We love to sell food that people like to eat,” said Ben Hoover of Cockeye BBQ and Creamery.

That’s an understatement.

The Hoover family’s company is known for its delicious barbecue and ice cream. Soon, it will add pizza to that list.

The four members of the family are keeping up with rapidly growing demand for their ice cream at their new production building at 387 Chestnut Ave. NE. The building is also used as a distribution hub for the barbecue restaurant.

The company purchased the 12,000-square-foot structure in 2022 for $300,000 and spent well over $250,000 to renovate it and purchase equipment for ice cream making and storage.

Cockeye Creamery’s new production building is located at 387 Chestnut Ave. NE, Warren.

With the ice cream line shored up, pizza will be the next project.

Ben Hoover runs the kitchen at Cockeye BBQ, 1805 Parkman Road, on the city’s West Side.

He will also run Franky’s Pizza and Deli, which is slated to open in September in a prominent building near the intersection of North Park Avenue and Scott Street, just north of downtown. It’s a well-known building, because of a mural on its side wall that welcomes visitors to Warren’s Garden District neighborhood.

Ben’s parents, Erik and Stacey Hoover, launched Cockeye BBQ in 2015, and it has since become one of the Mahoning Valley’s favorite restaurants.

His brother, Max, launched Cockeye Creamery in 2019 in a building the family built next to the restaurant. It has since expanded into retail distribution, winning numerous awards along the way.

The Hoovers have created Edgar Joseph Group as an umbrella corporate entity for their holdings. Edgar and Joseph are the middle names of Max and Ben.

Chef Erik Hoover founded Cockeye BBQ & Creamery with his wife, Stacey.

Cockeye Creamery produced 10,000 gallons of ice cream in 2023 and is on pace to make 15,000 to 20,000 gallons this year, according to Max Hoover.

The ice cream is sold not only at the scoop shop on Parkman Road, but also in Giant Eagle and other local markets, farm markets, pizza shops and coffee shops. Cockeye also produces a specialty ice cream exclusively for a group of high-end Cleveland restaurants.

Plans call for opening a second scoop shop in Mahoning County that would be the first of several, Max said.

The creamery currently has just one employee other than Max, but he expects to eventually have a staff of 10.

Pizza Shop

Franky’s Pizza will be the Hoovers’ first foray into pizza, but the decision was a natural one for them.

“It’s a market where Italian food has such a strong foothold and is so important to our community,” Ben Hoover said.

While a student at Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he grew fond of the many pizza shops in New York City.

The traditional New York pizza is a giant slice from a circular pie with a thin crust. But Franky’s will produce a pizza that blends the best of the New York and Mahoning Valley styles.

“Our pizza will be Sicilian style, which is more familiar to the Mahoning Valley,” he said. “The crust will be lofty, light and crispy,” he explained, and cut into rectangles.

Ben Hoover will launch Franky’s Pizza in the fall.

Between the real estate, equipment and remodeling, Edgar Joseph Group will sink about $350,000 into the startup, Ben said.

The company purchased the Scott Street building with the assistance of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

With its location not far from Courthouse Square, Franky’s will have a few tables available for downtown workers who want to have lunch at the shop. But it will lean more heavily on takeout and delivery, Ben said.

Cockeye Creamery ice cream will likely be sold at the new pizza shop. “We’re also thinking about developing an Italian ice or gelato for it,” Max Hoover said.

Coffee Roasting

The aromas of ice cream cones and flavorings blend with the smell of fresh roasted coffee in the new Cockeye production building.

That’s because the Hoovers are renting a portion of the building to Anthony Bellatto, owner of Youngstown Coffee Co. Bellatto uses the space to roast, grind and package his imported coffee beans.

Youngstown Coffee Co. outgrew its previous roasting space at the rear of Havana House cigar shop in Boardman Plaza. Bellatto has long been friends with the Hoovers and jumped at the chance to move into the Cockeye production building.

Anthony Bellatto stands near some of his coffee roasting equipment in the Cockeye production building. Bellatto is the owner of Youngstown Coffee Co.

Youngstown Coffee Co. is now roasting 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of coffee per week, Bellatto said. His coffee is sold in Giant Eagle markets, Havana House and online through the company website.

“It smells wonderful,” said company founder Erik Hoover as he walked through the building Thursday.

What started as a small restaurant now has a regional footprint and keeps on growing.

Erik said the new production building was necessary to keep up with the family business’s need for more space.

Storing inventory and finding a safe place to park the freezer truck used for deliveries was a constant battle.

The new Cockeye Creamery production and distribution building gives the company some breathing room, Erik said.

Pictured at top: Max Hoover holds a container of Cockeye Creamery ice cream inside the company’s new production building in Warren.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.