One Hot Cookie, Joe Maxx Expand to Grove City Outlets

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Two familiar homegrown brands are making their debuts at the Grove City Premium Outlets, just the latest stage in the two concepts’ growth plans.

Joe Maxx Coffee Co. will hold a grand opening Monday for its shop in the food court of the outlet shops while one Hot Cookie LLC is targeting an Aug. 15 opening date, near the Polo Ralph Lauren and Old Navy stores, according to their owners.

Grove City is one of two sites in Pennsylvania that One Hot Cookie will open over the next two weeks, owner Bergen Giordani reports. She spent much of this year looking in both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland markets.

She received the keys for Grove City earlier this week and “minor customizations” to the space are underway. “We’re slated for a health inspection on the 14th and hope to open on the 15th,” she said.

Before that opening, she plans to open a storefront in the Ross Park Mall just north of Pittsburgh. Construction there was completed earlier this week and equipment was installed. “We’re hoping to be opened by the end of next week,” she said.

“It’s a bold move but the time is right,” she remarked. One Hot Cookie didn’t open any new stores in 2016, instead taking the time to perfect its internal systems.

The openings will bring the number of One Hot Cookie sites to five: the original at Erie Terminal Place in downtown Youngstown, which opened in 2013, and the Niles and Boardman shops that both opened in 2015.

Giordani describes Grove City as “a good fit” because of the logistics, traffic patterns and demographics. The outlets were one of the first places she worked after high school, she said, and she walked there with her daughter in her stroller because they lived nearby. “We spent quite a lot of time at the outlets, back in the day,” she said.

Giordani characterizes Ross Park as a higher-end mall. Its mix of tenants mix includes retailers such as Armani, Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton, H&M and Forever 21.

“Our hook is that we have a lot of unique stores. To get the merchandise mix that we have under one roof you would have to travel hours,” said Ross Park manager Lisa Earl said.

Giordani had planned to get into Ross Park by Christmas but space occupied by a food and beverage store became available and needed “very minimal construction,” she said, so the goal became opening in time for the back-to-school season.

“These two [Grove City and Ross Park Mall] happened to work out at the same time,” she said. The Ross Park store is one Hot Cookie’s first location within a mall. “It’s a chance for us to get our feet wet in a mall and in a larger market,” Giordani remarked.

The Grove City Joe Maxx Coffee had its soft opening nearly two weeks ago, owner Mike Avey reported. It is the sixth for the growing specialty coffeehouse chain, which got its start in 2011. It also has outlets in the southwestern Florida, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Denver markets.

“We’ve been rapidly expanding,” Avey said. “Our most senior expansion store is only about 18 months old, and I would say they’re performing right on par with expectations.

“Anywhere you go in new, you have to develop a clientele, and the coffee business is very dependent upon a blend of repeat customers and new people discovering you,” he continued. “It takes a little bit of time to build up those face numbers of your repeat customers.”

The Grove City outlet came about because of his chance stop in the food court last spring, where Avey saw that the kiosk formerly operated by Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffees had closed. Several potential tenants inquired, but the outlet center’s operators liked the Joe Maxx model of upper-end pastries and coffees, and Avey’s experience in the industry. “So they felt more comfortable inviting us to rent the space,” he said.

The outlet center draws more than six million visitors annually, and some 1,500 work there every day. “There’s a very nice built-in traffic flow,” Avey said. A Starbucks sits around the corner, but not inside the food court, and he is confident there will be enough business to support both.

“Even though we’re both in the coffee business, we have somewhat different models,” Avey remarked. “Our specialty drinks are more complex than theirs because as a big, worldwide chain they have to move very slowly to implement new ideas, where we can definitely go much faster just by our scale.”

Avey has five employees at Grove City, but plans to increase that number to 12 or 14 by fall, leading into the holiday shopping season. “From my understanding of the flow, the back-to-school [season] is really big,” he said.

“At Grove City Premium Outlets, we’re always looking for new and exciting food and beverage options to offer our shoppers,” said general manager Carmen DeRose Jr. “We’re thrilled to have Joe Maxx Coffee and One Hot Cookie join our lineup, giving our guests the opportunity to snack and sip while they shop.”

One Hot Cookie falls in Ross Park’s category of uniqueness, Earl said. It doesn’t fall under the typical cookie category but more of a “luxurious desert,” she remarked.

“This space was a perfect opportunity for both of us,” she said.

Pictured at top: Bergen Giordani owns One Hot Cookie.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.