Libs Market Expands with New Chef, Food Options

SALEM, Ohio – When Ben and Lindsay Ratner purchased Friends Roastery at 408 E. State St., they had no idea where it would take them.

The space was built as the Thomas-Griener Bank in 1858, and over the years operated as a news agency and finally a coffee shop. Since opening two years ago as Libs Market, the Ratners have transformed it into a restaurant and catering operation.

Ben developed his passion for the food industry while attending Kent State University. “When I started taking classes at Kent State in the wine program, my interest in the culinary arts was vastly elevated,” he said.

Ben managed a winery and worked in casual American-style restaurants throughout his time in college. After a few internships as part of the enology program at Kent State, he moved to Kansas in 2013 to take a cellar master position at a winery.

Lindsay worked in the casual dining industry for over a decade and obtained culinary certification from a program in Pennsylvania in 2012.

When Ben returned to the area in 2014, the couple began organizing in-home dinner parties, corporate catering jobs and custom pastry orders.

When Libs opened in August 2015, it offered pastries made from scratch, locally roasted specialty coffee and loose-leaf teas. Within months, the Ratners started experimenting with more menu options. A “grab and go” cooler was installed to provide healthful salads, wraps, in-house brewed iced tea and local sodas.

“Pastries, tea and coffee are great, but we have to pay attention to the needs of the area. We saw the opportunity to step in and meet a need for Salem: quick, healthy food options,” Ratner said.

A Sunday brunch was added after a patron suggested trying one for Valentine’s Day. The patron, Sara Baer, stepped into a creative and service role at Libs shortly thereafter. Libs continues to serve brunch every Sunday.

Last spring, Libs started testing out the concept of pop-up food events. “We have held four pop-ups here at Libs in the past year,” Ratner said. Customers preregister for the events and in exchange receive a dining experience with a specifically themed dinner.

Six months ago, Libs hired chef Don Ritenour, formerly of the Lake Club in Poland, to take a lead role in the kitchen.

“Having Don at Libs has allowed us to expand our food services,” Ratner said. “In addition to tacos [on Tuesday] and Sunday brunch, we have launched Flatbread Fridays and are offering a daily hot breakfast menu.”

Libs also offers gourmet lunch boxes, vegetarian and gluten-free options and catering.

“I‘m glad to have a place to pursue my goals and dreams and bring creative food ideas to the Salem community,” Ritenour said. “Because Libs kitchen is small and we are always coming up with new dishes to utilize fresh and local ingredients, it’s an exciting and challenging space to work in.”

This summer, the Salem Community Center will feature Ritenour for two grilling seminars and the team was invited as a featured food vendor for the Stambaugh Summer Concert Series. Libs’ next in-house pop-up dinner will take place July 28.

Pictured: Chef Don Ritenour and co-owner Ben Ratner.

Editor’s Note: This story was submitted by Libs Market and edited for publication. To submit a story to The Business Journal click here.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.