Customer parking represents a challenge for this downtown restaurant.
Bob Schory is, well, exasperated.
Lucca, the restaurant he and his son Josh dreamed of and Josh brought to fruition at 228 Fourth St. NW in Canton, is serving diners all it promised when opened 15 months ago.
“The city’s doing all it can to drive us out with the parking situation,” said Schory. “Where most cities are trying to bring business in, they’re the opposite. They don’t even care if you come out with a bunch of quarters.
“One of Josh’s employees told me if you’re there two hours (on a two-hour meter), you have to move your car or get a ticket. I spend $50 or $60 a week for the employees (parking). It’s a mess. They keep saying they know we have a temporary problem and they’re going to help us out. But it’s not New York City where you park 12 blocks away from somewhere.”
Business meetings over lunch or dinner, he reasoned, can exceed two hours which make customers prime targets for parking tickets. The parking lot directly across from Lucca was the location for the summer’s Saturday farm markets. At this point, it is not open to would-be Lucca customers.
“The problem stems from the call center (VXI Global, diagonally across Cleveland Avenue NW). They park all over. And you have to provide a place for them to smoke or relax or congregate or whatever. You don’t do it on the streets or sidewalks. People don’t want to have to fight their way through. It all starts with that. You don’t see that in front of banks downtown,” Schory continued.
“Josh did this on his own. He made the deal. But there was no call center then. For us to have a successful downtown, you have to give people safety and No. 2 is parking. When you give a person a ticket, it’s a bad experience. We’d like to stay open for lunch but this has to be a destination because it’s a little too far away from City Hall so you have to get in your car and drive.”
When told of the Schorys’ struggles, Canton Safety Director Thomas Ream responded, “This is the first I’ve heard of concerns up there but I would be more than willing to have our parking enforcement and traffic engineering look at the situation if there are complaints.”
Lucca is closed Sunday and Monday. Lunches are served Tuesday through Friday, dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Neither father nor son wants to leave downtown.
“There is nothing that can’t be resolved. There’s always an answer if you take a little time to find it. I don’t want to have to look to move somewhere. We’ve gotten established here,” Bob Schory said. “But it’s tough.”
Page 2 of 3 - OWENS’ VISION NEARS COMPLETION
For years, Larry Owens was department chairman of computer technology at Stark State College. He also was the landlord of a vintage downtown North Canton building where a series of restaurants had leased space.
When proprietors of the last one broke their lease and pulled out, Owens had a decision to make.
He took the leap. His Main Street Grille debuted in July 2006.
With photographs of early North Canton (known as New Berlin prior to 1918) on the walls in the first-floor dining room and, soon after, a cellar bar untainted by restoration, the place immediately became popular with locals.
But Owens wasn’t satisfied with the status quo. He had a vision.
That vision, a two-year project of expansion, is expected to be complete by early 2013.
Already, the kitchen has been quadrupled in size. The new entrance at the rear of the building, when complete with a foyer, will look more like a building front. The back portion will become a wine shop and carry-out with a separate entrance.
“The flooring is in at the wine shop and carpenters are working on the cabinetry now,” said Owens, 66. “We’ll open the south dining room within a couple weeks. That was space, about 1,000 square feet, that was rented out before.”
The original dining room will be outfitted with booths, its tables moved to the south dining room where Owens added soft seating and a fireplace.
The much-anticipated wine-themed patio is an intimate space already under roof that will accommodate 25 diners with 10 seats at an additional bar.
Owens just received approval to add a fenced outdoor dining area behind the patio.
“We’ll do concrete and paving bricks and there will be trees there. French doors will open onto that area,” Owens said. “It’s all been done in stages. And we have the banquet room on the second floor that will seat 49, too.”
The menu has evolved, focusing on seasonal dishes with four daily specials. The cellar now has entertainment four evenings a week. Monday night three-course, wine-tasting dinners are popular.
“It’s a passion,” Owens said, explaining the long hours he devotes. “If you’re still excited by what you do, as long as you have that passion. And I don’t sleep a lot.”
BUT, WAIT. THERE’S MORE
Light Up Downtown and First Friday revelers, prepare. R.J. Van Almen’s Corporate Downtown Bar and Grill, formerly Pete’s at 401 Cherry Ave. NE, will open its bar for those events Thursday and 7 as well as Dec. 8. The full menu won’t make its debut yet but Van Almen says there will be free pizza and appetizers.
Page 3 of 3 - Carpeting and painting is complete. New drinks will be introduced. Veteran chef Don Trubisky still is fine-tuning the menu. The works of local artists depicting downtown scenes will hang on the walls.
Things are looking up at Oakwood Square Shopping Center in Plain Township. Sil Pileggi, a longtime restaurateur there, said all the parking-lot chuck holes have been filled and workmen are readying vacant retail spaces.
“They just put all new sidewalks in front of my place and they’re beautiful,” Pileggi said. Local McDonald’s owner Gaetano Cecchini is Oakwood’s owner and the force behind the changes ... Champs, part of a sporting goods chain of stores, has opened in the Sears concourse of Westfield Belden Village mall. A Hallmark store also is a new resident of that concourse. The mall now boasts 100 percent occupancy.