Nik Pappas never in his wildest dreams imagined he would be preparing to open the fourth Pav’s Creamery location.
Pappas had moved away from the area where his family was running the original Pav’s ice cream stand on Manchester Road in Coventry Township, which will celebrate 50 years in business next year. He was working in the hotel business before he decided to move back to the area in 2012. Once he moved home, he had to decide what to do with the family business.
He said the stand was well-known locally, but not known to people outside of the Portage Lakes. The decision came to work on the wholesale line in which he developed pints of ice cream. Pappas decided to try and grow the brand that way as the pints made their way onto shelves at several grocery stores including Acme Fresh Market and Buehler's Fresh Foods.
Pappas said Acme officials introduced him to officials at Albrecht Inc., which was developing the retail space in the plaza around the Acme store on Massillon Road in Green. Albrecht officials asked Pappas if he would have any interest in opening a Pav's location in the plaza.
"Green was roughly eight miles away from Portage Lakes," Pappas said.
Pappas said he wanted a location that wasn’t too close to Portage Lakes and Green ended up being the perfect next location and he opened it in 2014. With the opening of the Green location came an entirely new customer base, he said.
The Green brought a new feel to Pav’s as the store is opened all year around unlike the stand in Portage Lakes. After a little more than two years of success in Green, Pappas was already thinking about the next location.
That spot ended up being eight miles from Green in North Canton.
"We knew we had a lot of customers from North Canton coming to Green," Pappas said.
Finding the perfect location in North Canton took some time as he looked at several different spots before he came across a building on South Main Street. Moving forward, Pappas hopes to add additional parking and a patio at the North Canton location and he said he is working closely with the city.
With success in Portage Lakes, Green and North Canton, Pappas’s fourth location, he says, is "the biggest roll of the dice."
He has selected a location on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls, which recently underwent extensive construction to re-open the street to two-way traffic. This location is 15 miles from the original Portage Lakes stand.
"This is the biggest risk in terms of distance," Pappas said. "I’m pretty confident though."
Pav’s is no stranger to Cuyahoga Falls, however, as its ice cream pints are sold at Acme. Pappas said Cuyahoga Falls is an up and coming area.
The location on Front Street won’t be like the other Pav’s, either, as Pappas wanted a 1950s old fashion ice cream shop feel to it. Plans call for booths, a neon sign and a long bar with padded stools.
"I wanted something different," Pappas said. "I don’t want cookie cutter shops. I dare to be different."
Construction of the location has gone slow, but he said there are always hurdles when it comes to construction. Much of the shop is being custom built.
"You sacrifice time to do something good," Pappas said.
His hope is to have the location open by the end of the year, but he said there are several factors that are out of his control on when it will get done.
Pappas isn’t ready to stop expanding just yet.
He hopes to open one more location either in Jackson Township or in Canton near the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"It has to be an area that has a liquor license and is far enough to not impact the other stores," Pappas said.
Pav’s serves adult milkshakes, which is the need behind the liquor license. The adult milkshakes are the second most popular item on the menu behind the small ice cream cone.
Pappas said opening an ice cream shop isn’t easy nor cheap. He said opening the locations has lived up to his expectations and Pav’s continues to grow.
"I’m really pleased where we are at," Pappas said.
Construction has been one of the challenges for Pappas along with having a seasonal business in the Portage Lakes only gives him a small window of time to make money.
Once he opens the fifth location he plans to possible explore selling franchises. One aspect he knows he isn’t making any changes to is the original location in the Portage Lakes.
"That location will always remain what it is," Pappas said.
Pav’s employees about 20 to 25 people part-time at each location during the summer months and then has a smaller staff during the fall and winter.