[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — In Youngstown’s treasured Mill Creek MetroParks, amid Fellows Riverside Garden, is Garden Cafe by Kravitz. The scenic eatery overlooking Glacier Lake reopened for business last week for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located at 123 McKinley Ave., Garden Cafe by Kravitz is on the Garden Level of the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center, at Fellows Riverside Gardens. It is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Owner Jack Kravitz is longtime owner of Kravitz Delicatessen, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Belmont Avenue last year. Mill Creek MetroParks offered the space for Garden Cafe by Kravitz about five years ago with the mission to bring more diverse groups of people and families to the park, Kravtiz told Mahoning Matters.
The partnership between the Kravitz brand and Mill Creek MetroParks has benefitted both entities, he said.
“We started off with Aaron Young (executive director of Mill Creek MetroParks) and he talked with us about what his vision was for the cafe and we wanted to follow that,” he said. “We wanted to make this for everybody. I think we succeeded and we bring all sorts of people to the cafe that may have never experienced [Mill Creek MetroParks] before.”
The vision of Garden Cafe by Kravitz shifted as the cafe reopened last week for the first time in more than a year. Now, Garden Cafe is utilizing more technology to ensure a more efficient guest experience.
“We’ve almost reinvented the cafe,” Kravitz said. “We’re one of the first in the area to offer when you go to your table, you can scan a QR code and actually order at your table, and we'll bring the food out to you”
If customers prefer a server to take their order instead of using the QR code, Garden Cafe by Kravitz servers are equipped with handheld electronic devices to take orders and credit card payments while at the table.
According to Kravitz, these devices have both cut down on wait time and have helped speed up service because the orders go directly to the kitchen once they’re placed at the table.
Garden Cafe by Kravtiz serves starters, soups, salads and sandwiches. Diners can feast on mango shrimp salad, reuben sandwiches and Italian and southwest chicken wraps. Additionally, the eatery offers vegetarian options like spinning bowl salad, portabella sandwich and grilled cheese. Kravitz has future plans to expand the cafe’s menu to meet more dietary and allergen requirements.
Reopening the cafe did not come without challenges, Kravitz told Mahoning Matters, including staffing issues.
“Trying to get a crew together is very very difficult. You know, people aren’t trying to work. It's real. You put out a help wanted ad and you'll get 20 applications where people respond, and of those 20 people maybe three will come in for an interview and of those three maybe one will actually come back [to work].”
Through the adversity, Kravitz remains focused on the positives, such as the new technology and government programs that have aided small businesses during the pandemic.
“I think that [our] embrace of technology is really laying the groundwork for the future,” Kravitz said.
“The government has played a really, really big role in allowing a lot of small businesses to stay in business,” he added. “I don't think we’d be in business right now if it wasn't for some of the government programs ...we really appreciate it.”