Renovatio’s Takes Step into Past for Dining Inspiration in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – Stepping into Renovatio’s Tap Room & Restaurant, newly opened in downtown East Liverpool, customers find themselves immersed in the city’s history.

Renovatio is the Latin word for “rebirth,” and co-owners Randy Schneider and Craig Cozza hope the new enterprise will be the cornerstone of the city’s emergence from years of decline. 

Schneider, an East Liverpool native, described the fortuitous way his partnership with the Pittsburgh developer came about and how they decided to spend $1.1 million to renovate a nearly century-old building, originally Potters Bank & Trust, into the city’s most modern attraction.

While in the process of buying five PNC bank buildings in Pennsylvania, Cozza expressed interest in the Renovatio building at 200 E. Fifth St. He offered $50,000 for the building, although the owner wanted $100,000 due to its historical architecture, Schneider says. However, Cozza held out, saying he would buy the Pennsylvania bank buildings only if the East Liverpool one was included at his stated price. The offer was accepted. 

Schneider was previously involved with marketing other Columbiana County ventures such as Numbers Brewing and Coaches Burger Bar and, as a dispatcher for the city police department learned squatters were living in the Fifth Street bank building Cozza had purchased. He called Cozza to notify him of the situation. He also told Cozza of his idea for a tap room and restaurant and offered to purchase the building from him for double the price. 

“[Cozza] called me a couple days later and said he didn’t want to sell me the building – he wanted to be my business partner,” Schneider says. “He said to draw up the plans and let’s get started.” 

Work began in earnest, using local contractors such as Sanford Plumbing, Veterans Energy Group and D&J Construction, and wholesalers such as Milligan’s Hardware.

“Everyone we could possibly use locally, we did, and people loved it. A lot of local  businesses were hurting due to COVID and we tried to pull everyone together,” Schneider says.

Co-owner Randy Schneider says that wherever Renovatio’s has had the chance to buy locally, they have – including the beer.

The pandemic nonetheless made an impact on the project, with various permits and liquor licenses delayed, pushing the completion from July 2020 to Jan. 30, when the doors opened.

Renovatio, which has an atmosphere more typically found in restaurants in large cities, opened to an appreciative crowd.

The original aesthetic of the original Potters Bank and Trust was kept intact, with the soaring ceilings, gigantic pillars and opulent architectural details of the 1924 building complimented by more modern touches.

The wood paneling in the dining and bar rooms was repurposed from the former safe deposit box viewing room, with use of the boxes now offered to customers in the restaurant’s “pint club.” The vault door stands open, surrounded by lights, and a wood-fired oven resembling a kiln hearkens back to the days when the city was the pottery capital of the world. 

The room is so large that sound panels are necessary, Schneider says, but they are traditionally unattractive, so he had them designed as canvases featuring black and white photographs depicting the city’s history.

“People are not just coming in to dine. It’s almost like a museum. They come in and the usual questions are, ‘What’s that picture?’ and ‘How old is this building?’” he says. “I told the servers they’re almost like tour guides and have to be able to answer those questions.”

With Cozza’s connections to Pittsburgh and East Liverpool’s pottery-making past, the restaurant has an industrial flair. Steel is featured prominently, with rusted wall panels, and the bar is made from concrete. The dishware is from local potteries, including Hall China and Homer Laughlin China Co. Even the pints used are from Commercial Decal in nearby Glenmoor, Schneider says. 

“We could have done it cheaper, but it wouldn’t be local,” Schneider says. “These are local taxpayers, paying into the local economy.”

The restaurant offers a menu created by Devon Andre, a self-taught chef with 15 years of kitchen experience. He describes the menu fare as “new American and French influenced with a homestyle feel and a touch of gastropub.” 

Entrees include garlic herb New York strip steak with gouda chive mashed potatoes; a Cajun mustard seasoned pork chop topped with bacon apple chutney; blood orange beer battered cod; and the Fireman Special, which consists of chicken and hot sausage with baby spinach, heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers in a blush arrabiata sauce with ziti pasta. Wood-fired pizzas are baked over oak and cherry wood, also gathered locally.

Dessert offerings include a wild berry-topped cheesecake, carrot cake and wood-fired apple crisp with bourbon caramel and vanilla bean ice cream.

“We make as much from scratch as we can – the salad dressing, the pizza dough,” Andre says. “As much as we can source locally we will.”

The kitchen at Renovatio’s is led by Devon Andre.

Local farmers have been benefitting from the new restaurant, which purchases produce and meat from them. Beer from local breweries is used in many of the recipes. 

“I’m not a chef who walks around with a clipboard; I’m very hands-on,” Andre says. “I couldn’t do anything without my staff. We take a lot of pride in what we do. My following expects a certain standard and I maintain that standard wherever I go.”

Every Columbiana and Mahoning county brewery is represented among the 30 craft beers served, including Numbers Brewing Co., Birdfish Brewing Co., Sundog Cellars Ciderhouse & Winery, BrewLounge Beer Co., Noble Creature Cask House, Penguin City Beer, Biker Brewhouse and more, as well as regional craft beers and wine. Two domestic beers on tap are also offered. 

The owners are expanding into an adjacent building to create banquet rooms that can accommodate large crowds, which Schneider says are sorely lacking in the area now that other banquet facilities have closed. 

Schneider points out that residents travel to Youngstown, Boardman and Pittsburgh to enjoy such dining experiences, so why not offer the same opportunity here, where they can contribute to their own community.

“I grew up here. No matter how many times this city has been beaten down – Crucible Steel closed, the potteries closing, the drug epidemic – it’s the people’s resiliency that pushes it to survive,” Schneider says. “I’ve been in the military nine years, traveled the world in different countries and cities and never saw a more resilient bunch of people. That’s what drives us to keep doing this. They still rise up from the ashes and are still proud of where they are and where they’re from and it gives us all the reason to put something like this here, in a historical building they call their own.”

Already, Schneider says, they are seeing customers from Pittsburgh, Beaver, Midland and other communities coming in and making East Liverpool a destination, stopping in at the antique mall across the street, for instance, which he says will help the city become a travel destination.

Renovatio’s is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and  closed Sunday and Monday. 

Live music is offered on Saturday nights.

Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends, although not required. The phone number is 330 932 0568.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.