In an age in which dining fads come and go, Akrons Ken Stewarts Grille has maintained steady growth over the last 10 years.
Every month has been better than the same month in the previous year, says owner Ken Stewart. The restaurateur gives SBN a glimpse at some of his successful practices.
What is the most important key to getting repeat business?
I start off with hiring great people. If theres one thing that I really do well, its hiring really good people. I hire absolutely everyone who works here, from the dishwashers right up to the managers. I use the same standard for all of them.
We also pay tremendous attention to every detail. Our whole intent is to overwhelm the customer with service, food quality, quantity and value. We have a great training program for the servers and employees. What you have to go through to actually become a server here takes so much work that unless youre really serious about doing this, you wouldnt want to spend the time or make the effort.
So that kind of weeds all the people out who want to just carry food and see how much of a tip they can get, but not really be concerned with the operation.
If theres a problem here and there are problems in the restaurant business, we serve hundreds of people a day and not everything goes as everyone would like no one will leave here unhappy if we know about the problem.
We far exceed anyones expectations of what is considered fair when theres a problem.
What is the most important piece of advice you were given when you opened your business?
The best advice someone gave me was, Dont take any advice. Go with your gut feelings, dont listen to a lot of different people. Go with what you think is basically what you want to do, because as soon as you get a lot of input from a lot of different people on how things ought to go, you lose sight of what your overall goal was.
And our goal is to just have a fantastic restaurant.
What is the most important piece of advice you share with other business owners?
We always try to concentrate on doing a good job and not worrying about the money aspect of it. If you do a good job, pay attention to the details, give great value, the money comes.
But if youre running your business just based on watching the bottom line every single second, youre going to lose sight of why youre really doing the business in the first place.
If you were to open a new restaurant tomorrow, what would you do differently this time around?
I would not make any major changes. The most difficult part about a business is keeping it running all these years, and weve been in business 10 years. Weve never had a year that wasnt better than the previous year, and weve never had a month that wasnt better than the same month from the year before.
Thats really unheard of in the restaurant business. It worked so well, I dont think I would adjust it.
Could your restaurant run itself without you, or is your presence critical to its success?
I think all of the elements and all of the people involved are essential to the operation. Im here every lunch and every dinner. Im here because I like to be here. Sure, I have good people, and it would run very well, but I think my involvement certainly is necessary to keep it absolutely focused, so we dont lose our direction.
I like to think Im an important part of the operation, as is everyone who works here.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself involved with other Ken Stewart Grilles and other Ken Stewart restaurant concepts.
Connie Swenson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN.
Proposed ticker: OLCB
Exchange: OTC (Nasdaq)
Proposed offer price: $10/share
Shares offered: 1.2 million
Offering amount: $12 million
Fiscal Year-End: December
Underwriters: Charles Webb & Company
Issuers Law Firm: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP
Banks Law Firm: Silver, Freedman & Taff, LLP
Auditor: Crowe, Chizek and Company, LLP
Sources: Equity Analytics, Ltd.; ipodata.com.
The Canton ad agency used a dedicated Web site to survey area fans about the Super Bowl’s best and worst commercials. Among the winners were Anheuser Busch, Mountain Dew and FedEx for their traditional themes. Losers included Healtheon/WebMD, Monster.Com, DowJones.com and OnMoney.com
Innis Maggiore was a winner, too, landing exposure on ZDNet, Cleveland TV and radio, and a variety of Canton-area media for its Web survey.
In addition to Innis Maggiore Group, sponsors of the survey were Fishers Foods, a leading regional grocery store chain, and Data Direct, a Canton-based e-commerce and Web solutions provider.
Stephen Mears of Plain Township has formed StrategyONE, a marketing communications services provider. Mears uses technology and a network of fellow entrepreneurs to manage the spectrum of marketing communications tactics, from the strategic plan to the finished product.
Covey & Koons Inc., Canton, has been named advertising and public relations agency of record for OMNI Orthopedics, D&L Energy Group, International Utilities Revenue Protection Association, Dresser Nilcor Operations and Allen Keith Construction Co.
Canton-based Innis Maggiore Group won the Canton Advertising Clubs American Advertising Awards Best of Show award for the print campaign it developed last year for Smithers-Oasis, a global provider of floral foam and other floral products.
Bob and Melany Minney have opened Platos Closet, a resale teen apparel store in Canton.
Margaret Manley has opened a new company, 5 Elements, Ltd. Feng Shui, in Canton.
Liquid Control Corp. of North Canton has been awarded final approval to participate in Foreign-Trade Zone No. 181 as a site operator and site user.
When The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. wanted to tout the advantages of its new Mud Runner Run-Flat tire for all-terrain vehicles, a courageous crew at Akron-based Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. went more than the extra mile to produce a convincing promotional video and brochure for the product.
In fact, the team went all the way to the Everglades, where Hitchcock creative director Bob Clancy, account manager Amy Freed Humbert and art director Tony Carter found themselves up to their necks in alligators.
“Amidst hundreds of gators, we demonstrated how the Mud Runner Run-Flat gets you through the muck, even with a few holes created by razor sharp jaws,” Clancy exclaims.
The point of the promo, says Clancy, is that jagged obstacles in the off-the-beaten path of a speeding all-terrain vehicle can bring a thrilling ride to a disappointing and even dangerous halt.
The good news, says Goodyear’s specialty product manager Ed McMahon, is that the Run-Flat technology enables ATV drivers to keep on trekking, despite what may run under the wheels.
“You can have a gaping hole two inches in diameter, and continue to run on it for up to 50 miles at 25 miles an hour,” McMahon says.
“And you can go even farther if you go slower,” says Clancy.
But it’s doubtful that an ATV operator would want to slow down when stranded in the middle of nowhere especially if nowhere is a festering quagmire that happens to be home to slithering, 800-pound swamp things with razor-sharp teeth.
There’s comfort in the fact, says Clancy, that the brawny Mud Runner has a computer-enhanced tread design that keeps it from clogging, and the slotted lugs have a “biting edge” to prevent the wheel from becoming bogged down.
To corroborate the claim in the most persuasive manner possible, Clancy gathered a group of professionals from Akron and beyond and traveled all the way to Gatorland, the “Alligator Capital of the World,” in Orlando, Fla.
Included in the entourage were Akron photographers Jim Martin, Scott Earhart and Ray Langston of Studio Martone Inc., and commercial production photographer and director George Remington of Cleveland-based Remington Productions Inc.
Along with the Hitchcock team, the crew pulled on their khaki pants and pith helmets and partnered with other Florida and California-based production professionals to capture the action.
McMahon says that since ATVs are intended for fun and excitement, he wanted to avoid traditional advertising slants in which a vehicle glides along a paved road, spiraling autumn leaves in its path. What Hitchcock came up with, he says, was perfect for the product.
“It was a natural because of the popularity of shows in which the Australian adventurer is always out hunting crocodiles and reptiles,” says Clancy.
Through a California casting firm, Humbert hired young Australian actor Eric Finney to play just such a part for Goodyear’s video. Then she made arrangements for the use of an ATV manufactured by Minnesota-based Polaris Industries and operated by Polaris stunt driver Ritch Ragle.
Pooling their talents in a mud swamp swimming with prowling razorbacks, coiled rattlesnakes and stinging insects, the Hitchcock team, the Akron photography and film crew, the stunt driver and the actor succeeded in producing a promo that has pure bite.
The objective, of course, was to show that Goodyear’s tire is completely at home in the mud, and credibly illustrate its remarkable capabilities to savvy sports enthusiasts, hunters, farmers and other ATV users.
Humbert says the sheer essence of the product itself was enough to make that impression there was no need for special effects.
Even Clancy, who’d written the script for the actor and narrator, was amazed.
“I’m an ad man I’ve heard all the claims and I thought I’d seen it all,” says Clancy. “But the stunt driver drove so far out into the swamp that I thought the ATV was going to sink into the water and disappear. He was up to his waist in water, mud and muck, and this tire just churned through everything it never once got stuck.”
Ant it wasn’t just the Mud Runner’s marsh muscle that was impressive, says Humbert. She was surprised when the tire resisted the power-locked jaws of a hungry alligator. Lured by horsemeat placed in the tread grooves, the 20-foot amphibian tried to bite into the tire.
Humbert relates that Gatorland officials are accustomed to working with production crews, and the trained alligator handlers have accommodated about as many requests as an alligator has teeth.
“It’s the same location where the James Bond sequence was filmed, where Pierce Brosnan walks across the backs of alligators,” says Clancy. “Any film that has gators in it was probably filmed at Gatorland.”
Humbert says that when she initially viewed capabilities videos provided by Gatorland’s public relations department, she was mesmerized by the daring and expertise of head trainer Tim Williams. Referred to as the attraction’s “Dean of Gator Wrestling,” Williams is a 25-year veteran of swamp creature exploits.
“Once we got there, he instilled such confidence in us and made us feel so comfortable that within an hour, we were standing literally up to our necks in alligators and not feeling the danger that really is there,” she says.
Clancy confirms that after three days in the swamps, hundreds of pounds of horsemeat and some close calls with prehistoric pea-brains, the Hitchcock crew brought back some dramatic advertising, which they’ve since dubbed, “Swamp Thang.”
The group also came home with a few stories to tell their friends and Kodachrome memories for the office bulletin board such as the photograph of Humbert straddling one of the ferocious beasts.
“As long as you have a big bucket of horsemeat near you and you’re throwing it in their mouth, they seem to obey pretty well,” Clancy laughs.
Humbert says that about 3,500 dubs of the video were made available for ATV and tire dealers, and the promo debuted at Goodyear’s annual dealer conference in January at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Airing continuously in a large screening area at the convention, the video drew the attention of 4,200 Goodyear, Kelly-Springfield and Dunlop dealers who attended.
The response to the four-minute action spot and the four-page color brochure was as expected, says McMahon: Viewers agreed that Goodyear’s Mud Runner Run-Flat is “the meanest, nastiest thing to crawl out of the swamp.”
“We’ve won awards for these things in the past, but I think this is the best one we’ve done so far,” says Clancy. “But you can only be creative to the point where your client allows you to be creative. Ed and his team at Goodyear did a terrific job in that sense.”
How to reach: Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc., (330) 376-2111
Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, Akron, has elected four new shareholders: Kevin A. Denti, Dirk E. Riemenschneider, John P. Slagter and Terry W. Vincent.
Bruce H. Fahey has joined the Akron law firm of Kastner Westman & Wilkins.
Michael E. Markowski has become a partner in the Akron office of Bruner-Cox, an accounting firm with offices in Canton and Akron.
Anthony Manna is leaving the Akron law firm of Amer Cunningham Brennan to start a new law firm with partner David Brennan. The firm will specialize in business transactions, and will be located at the former Akron Art Museum building on East Market Street.
Mobility Works of Akron has hired Allen Grota as production manager.
CBIZ/Spector & Saulino, Akron, has hired AnaLuisa Shockey as a CPA in its Mergers & Acquisitions Group and has named Lester S. Sherman as new managing principal.
H.M. Life Opportunity Services, an Akron-based transitional housing organization that assists homeless, single-parent families, has added Francis Dick-Campbell as development director and Nancy Likens as caseworker.
Michael J. Lorenzo is the new owner of Akron Valve & Fitting Co.
Mitchell A. McCoy has been appointed president of McCoy Associates, an Akron-based engineering and consulting services firm.
Geri M. Cistone has been appointed senior sales executive at The Crawford Co., Akron.
Jack Hayes, president of Connecting Touch Therapy & Wellness Center Inc. in Cuyahoga Falls, was awarded the Sertoma Service to Mankind for his commitment to community involvement.
Steven G. Seigfrid has been named residential mortgage representative for Chippewa Valley Bank in Rittman.
RCS Management Group, an integrated database marketing and consulting services firm in Cuyahoga Falls, has hired Bryan M. Grimaldi as an account executive.
Akron General Health System has named William C. Epling president of HomeTown Health Network.
Cambridge Home Health Care has promoted Pam Bell to senior care specialist.
Bob McCann of Moore Stephens Apple, Akron, earned the Accredited in Business Valuation designation.
Baerlocher GmbH has named Nirmal S. Jain president and CEO of Baerlocher USA in Dover.
Hasenstab & McCarthy Architects Inc. has added three registered architects: Zoltan M. Balogh, Mark A. Dlekmann and Margaret M. Zezulewicz.
Jim Lenahan has been appointed executive director of the Society of the Blind, Akron Center.
Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co., an Akron CPA firm, has hired the following: Emily Shacklett as supervisor; Sean Buck as network engineer and programmer; Sarah Lautzenheiser as senior software engineer; Wendy DAngelo and Dana Howell as staff assistants; April Martin as administrative assistant; and Sarah Popa as receptionist.
Janet Moritz of Walker & Jocke, Medina, is president of the Ohio Association for Legal Professionals.
InfoCision Management Corp., Akron, has promoted Jerry Harris to the position of director of creative services.
Matthew W. Oby has joined the Akron law firm Oldham & Dowling.
In 1998, Robert Miller decided it was time he registered the name of his familys then 4-year-old store with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The manager of Thinker Toys, an educational toy store located in Fairlawns West Market Plaza, envisioned at one point starting a mail-order Web site, and he knew the move would take the store name into areas far beyond its sole west Akron location areas where other entrepreneurs might adopt the catchy moniker as their own.
As it turned out, someone already had.
Local intellectual property attorney Roger Emerson discovered the proprietors of a California toy store had beat his client to the punch by submitting an application to register the same name a mere two months earlier. Common law, he explained to Miller, entitled the family to use the name in the Akron area and, if it was found they had used it on their Web site before the California counterpart, in the rest of the country as well.
Trademark rights are based on who used the trademark first and, secondly, in which geographic location the trademark was used, Emerson says.
Theres even a 5-year period between the time a registration is issued and the time its deemed incontestable, when anyone believing they have a claim to the name in question can petition to have the registration canceled.
In the end, the family contented itself with retaining the rights to the Thinker Toys name in the Akron area alone.
We just decided it was easiest to leave it at that just because of the expense, Miller, now 25, says. Roger was very straightforward about it, that this was not going to be an inexpensive [thing] for us to do.
The cost of going to court, he adds, could well have put the toy store out of business.
The problem is a growing one, thanks in part to the Internet explosion. Businesses with identical or similar names that once operated within different geographic areas, blissfully unaware of one another because of the miles that separated them, are now bumping into each other in cyberspace.
Once you hang your page up on the World Wide Web, you no longer have little strip mall jurisdictions, says John Garred, an intellectual property and patent lawyer at Arter & Hadden in Cleveland. You have broadcast that trademark to virtually everybody in the world.
Problem can often be avoided by researching and registering a trade name (the name by which a business is known), trademark (a word, symbol or slogan identifying a good or service), and/or domain name (commonly known as a Web site address) with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and securing rights to it, preferably before going into business.
Most people think of a name they like for their store or for their product, and they just adopt it, Emerson says. They dont do any checking at all to see if its available.
Business owners can do the work themselves by logging onto the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices Web site at www.uspto.gov, where visitors can access the offices database to see if the trade name, trademark or domain name in which theyre interested is available. It also allows them to fill out an application to register it online. (Registration packets can also be obtained by calling the Trademark Assistance Center at (703) 308-9200.)
Garred suggests amateur sleuths also check local trade directories, telephone books, Yellow Pages, and other resources to make sure the name theyre considering isnt already being used by someone who hasnt registered it.
According to Jessie Marshall, an attorney adviser in the Arlington, Va., office of the U.S. commissioner for trademarks, the federal government charges $325 to file an application. It takes four to five months for an examining attorney to review the application.
Emerson does the job for $850 $250 to do the research and prepare an availability opinion and $600 to prepare and file an application a price he regards as standard in the area. He allows that most people can conduct an adequate search of the trademark and patent offices Web site database on their own; in fact, he highly recommends doing a self-search to those who cannot afford a professionals services.
However, he points out that most people do not have access to all the databases, some of which require a membership or fee, that he and other attorneys use. And Marshall says private search firms peruse state records, corporate filings, any kind of commercial listing they can.
Emerson believes many people do not have the knowledge and experience to interpret their results for example, whether the name chosen for a new business or product is too similar to an already-registered counterpart for legal comfort.
Thats usually where the attorney is providing the value, he says.
He refuses to interpret information submitted by clients, mainly because he fears it is incomplete.
For those who can only afford to register one item, Garred suggests registering the name of the main product or service in block letters with a thorough description of basic goods and services. He explains that logos and slogans come and go and, in many cases, consumers are infinitely more familiar with the name of a product or service than that of its manufacturer or provider.
Also at the top of the to-register list is the domain name, along with any common misspellings. It is far more expensive to obtain a domain name already registered by someone else, he points out, than simply registering it first. And the sooner a business starts a Web site with that domain name, the better.
Business owners with cash to spare may want to consider registering what Garred refers to as pejorative alternates to the domain name. Common examples include yourdomainnamesucks.com and yourdomainnameblows.com.
Its not unusual for someone to post a whole Web page as to why your products so horrible, he says. It happens all the time.
Marshall stresses that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not dispense legal advice or wield enforcement powers. It is up to the owner of the registration to police and take action against anyone who uses his/her property. But she calls the federal registration a huge piece of ammunition in the fight to defend ones right to a name or mark.
A cease-and-desist letter to a later user saying, I have a federal registration for this mark, so back off, means a lot more than, I used it before you, she says.
How to reach: Thinker Toys, (330) 665-3860; Roger Emerson, (330) 535-9999
When Jamie Cain founded her Akron computer firm in 1995, she wanted to convey her companys mission in her business name. So she went to great lengths to secure the identity that Internet companies are now clamoring to call their own.
If youve driven near the intersection of Arlington Road and I-77, youve likely seen her buildings 50-foot-high, 10 feet by 16 feet sign touting the company name: Dot.Com Technologies Inc.
Were a computer consulting company that does all the really complicated stuff in back-end Internet development, so I picked out Dot.Com Technologies and acquired first-use rights on April 4, 1995. But today, its an ongoing battle with other companies trying to say theyre Dot.Com, she says, explaining that although the trademark remains unassigned, her attorney assures her that its her baby, due to her first-rights claim.
Unfortunately, Cain was too late to seize the same moniker for her Web site. So she settled for DTIServices.com. On the up side, she says the business name has boosted the value of her company.
When a patient recently attempted to schedule minor surgery recommended by her doctor, the appointment clerk expressed surprise that the procedure was being scheduled before the insurance company approved payment. The patient was, in turn, amazed that anyone would wait to see what insurance would pay or even care if it did.
Hugh McLaughlin, D.O., of Cuyahoga Falls Family Practice, explains that managed care insurance has changed everything.
Its a whole different scene than five years ago. Today, many patients get so frustrated because their insurance wont pay for certain procedures, and if its not covered, theyll go without the procedure even though they know their medical condition will worsen.
But theres a twist, says McLaughlin.
Often, these are the same patients who will argue about a $10 co-pay and show up in my office three months later with a $6,000 breast implant paid for out of pocket!
Personal calls on company time?
Why would a business owner enlist the help of a private investigator?
Besides rounding up the usual suspects in cases such as embezzlement and missing inventory, Design Safety Investigations Inc. in Fairlawn gets some strange calls from CEOs. Company president Joe Forgach and his partner Andy Kasarda recently closed a case that involved some very personal calls on company time.
Alarmed at outrageous charges on his firms monthly telephone bills, a CEO asked Forgach to solve the mystery.
It sounded like someone was going to porno sites on the Internet and billing it through the Internet Service Provider. Turned out, an employee was disconnecting the computer from its dedicated service line and putting a phone in its place to make calls to a porno establishment, Forgach reveals.
Rather than providing a credit card number to pay the 900 number fees, the employee had the charges reversed.
When Demetra and Larry Smith asked Larrys parents for a loan in 1977 to buy what was then Mikes Main Entrance, they saw it as a long-term opportunity to make a living together.
Today, 23 years later, Larrys Main Entrance is a West Market Street landmark known for its handmade burgers and 3 a.m. steak and eggs breakfasts. Owner Demetra Smith spoke to SBN about longevity in an industry known as much for overnight successes as for sudden bankruptcies.
What is your key to longevity?
Stubbornness. You have to get up every day and you have to go in and do whatever has to be done. You cant just say one day you dont feel like it or you cant say, This is going to be a vacation day. Its not like working for somebody else you dont have vacation unless you plan around yourself.
All these are keys to longevity. Also, flexibility. Since Larry and I do not have children, weve had more time to spend in the business. I was able to keep the business a priority, and I think women going into business need to consider this. If you have a strong enough support system, you can cover for those things. A business like this requires a lot of hours.
Both you and Larry have masters degrees in the fine arts. How much did you know about the restaurant business when you opened Larrys?
I grew up in the restaurant business, so I had a pretty large background. Larry had some business experience. I think it [an arts background] helped us in the decor of our restaurant, and I think the more education you have, its going to help no matter what you go into or what field.
When I was a child, I used to help my parents in the restaurant, cleaning, making drinks and taking money. This is a piece of cake compared to that their place was much bigger.
Is there any advice you remember getting that has helped you run Larrys?
No. I feel I got a lot a bad advice, and luckily never listened to it. People always want to be negative. Everyone can give advice and tell you what they think your restaurant should be, but you have to do what you want.
Basically thats what we did, but we did it very slowly. We were young starting out in this and I think we were open to a lot of criticism. We took it slowly so that we could reach our vision of what we wanted this to be and even at that, its always changing.
What advice would you give someone today who wanted to open a restaurant?
They should have a clear vision of what they want it to be. They do have to search for their own market niche, which is probably deciding who their market is going to be and go after it.
While you are doing all this, you need to have lots of energy and determination.
How do you keep your customers coming back?
I think people keep coming back here because they feel good about their experience. This is not just about being a restaurant serving food and serving drinks but its also an experience for people because its a little more personal, even if Im not here.
I have people here who customers can relate to. A lot of people will come back because they like their server or they like their bartender. Also, the food is consistently good.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Im sure Ill still be here. I definitely will not be retired, living on an island. Ill always be working once its in your blood, you dont stop.
How to reach: Larrys Main Entrance, (330) 864-8162