Rita’s Italian Ice Cream Returns to Mahoning County
AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Rita’s Italian ice cream and ice cream treats will soon be available again in Mahoning County as John Sarandrea prepares to open a store at 6006 Mahoning Ave. here later this summer.
Just in time for a fun outing with the family, with that special someone, or just to treat yourself, the new Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard will include all the treats the franchise has come to expect. Sarandrea plans to offer 16 flavors of Italian gelato and rotate about 16 flavors of frozen custard. Offering the ability to mix Reese’s, Oreo’s and Nilla products into ice cream, Sarandrea said Rita has ties to these “great brands that have stood the test of time.”
Another favorite is mixing Italian gelato and ice cream for Gelati treats, he said.
Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard was founded in 1984 by Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter, who named the company after his wife, Rita, and began selling frozen treats from his porch in a suburban of Philadelphia. According to the company’s website, there are franchises located in 30 states today. True to its mission of spreading happiness, the company offers free Italian ice cream to customers on the first day of spring.
In addition to the relaxing patio, the new Austintown location will include drive-thru, which Sarandrea sees as a necessity for her business in today’s world.
Sarandrea operates a Rita store at 2393 E. State St. in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.
In addition to the terrace, the new store will include a drive-thru, which Sarandrea sees as a necessity in today’s world. He says it’s important to listen to customers and look at marketing data.
Customers told him that although his Hermitage store was close to the Ohio border, they missed having a Rita’s in Mahoning County. At one time there was a Rita in Austintown and more recently in Boardman.
Customers are also looking for convenience, which is why he will offer his treats through Door Dash, noting that his Hermitage store makes $3,000 a month in business through the delivery app.
The new store will be located in the west area of Austitnown Plaza, where customers can find JCPenney’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Planet Fitness, to name a few.
“We are very happy to be in Austintown,” Sarandrea said. “He seems to be booming right now. A Chick-fil-A just opened and another Starbucks store is in the works.
Despite supply chain delays, Sarandrea hopes to open the new store on July 1. He is awaiting the manufacture and shipment of a critical electrical part needed to support the large amount of electricity needed to run all the equipment at the same time.
“You’re really at the mercy of it,” he said of the supply chain issues companies are currently facing.
Problems he’s faced include a lack of contractors, supplies, trucking issues, and skyrocketing gas prices, all contributing to price increases of 8%, 10%, or even 15% for what he needs to open a new store. Suppliers charge a 3% surcharge for using a credit card and those carrying supplies charge a fuel surcharge.
“I fear that will continue, that people will have less discretionary money for a treat,” Sarandrea said. “You have to hang on there. »
Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard company gave franchisees the right to raise prices mid-season this year due to rising operating costs, according to Sarandrea. There are over 600 Rita stores nationwide.
Sarandrea said he chose not to raise prices at this time. He believes there is a cap on how much you can charge for the product. It may reduce his profit margin, but he will continue to make a profit, he said.
“I don’t mind earning a little less and going through those times,” Sarandrea said. “It’s a delicate balancing act owning a business in 2022. It hurts everyone. We’re all in this together and we’re going to get through this together.”
Although many businesses are struggling to hire workers, he has a roster of young people lining up to interview for the new store’s 25 part-time positions.
Sarandrea is a former high school basketball coach, educator, and school district superintendent. He believes in giving young employees the opportunity to help create their work schedule.
“If you want to hire the best and brightest kids, you want the ones who are involved in football, athletics, musicals,” Sarandrea said. “It works really well for them even if I tell them it won’t be like that in the real world, it’s my Rita’s world.”
Employees give the manager their schedule, including when they have extracurricular practices and activities. The employees’ work schedule is then designed around this schedule. He said he didn’t want students to miss activities or leave early just to get to work.
The timing of it opening its first store was hampered by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic – only essential construction was permitted and building inspections were delayed. But Sarandrea and her two sons, also involved in the business, persevered. They also opened a food truck which he calls “Rita’s on the Road”.
Sarandrea said the food truck has become a full-time business in itself. They take the food truck to events and fundraisers, sometimes as a way to give back to the community. The company collaborates with groups, sharing the profits. For example, recently a baseball organization in the Hermitage-Hickory area raised $300 through a fundraiser with Rita’s.
Last year, Sarandrea’s Rita Company donated $40,000 to charities, schools and teams in the Shenango Valley.
“We want to be part of the community,” he said. “We want to let people know, we want to join them and work with people.”
Top of the photo: John Sarandrea at his Rita store in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.