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New businesses restore tired, commercial strip near University of Toledo

After falling into vacancy and abandonment, a small commercial plaza on Bancroft Street near the University of Toledo is being revived thanks to three businesses breathing new life into it.

Jo Jo’s Pizza, Sunrise Skillet, and Arnie’s Toledo are committed to making a go of it in the plaza located in the 2600 block of Bancroft Street, which once housed Rick’s City Diner and the Stein and Pitcher. It is located east of the University of Toledo’s main entrance and across from Ottawa Park Golf Course.

“It’s just a great location to be here by the university,” said Ali Mahmoud, who three weeks ago opened Jo-Jo’s Pizza, which offers carry-out and delivery pizza service. Without much advertising thus far, Mr. Mahmoud said business is, “good and getting better,” and with half-off pizza on Monday and Wednesday, and plans to expand the menu, he hopes to grow his pizza business along with his adjacent partners who are also banking on getting things up and running from that location.

“I’m just learning and learning every day,” Mr. Mahmoud said.

Sunrise Skillet, which is located at the opposite end of the plaza strip, will open to the public Friday. It is the 12th restaurant that owner Jennifer Hessling has opened from scratch, and the second Sunrise Skillet location. The original Sunrise Skillet opened in 2014 on Reynolds Road near Glendale Avenue in the Diamond Plaza.

“I am very lucky, I have an amazing staff, and we are super busy and I am very thankful for that,” Ms. Hessling said. “I have done all of the training for the Bancroft location at that (Reynolds Road) location for the past two months, and that has been helpful.”

It has taken two years for Ms. Hessling to get the Bancroft location ready with an overhaul that has included adding new floors, new ceilings, a new patio, hand-crafted tables, and bar seating for 12. The breakfast and lunch diner is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. everyday, with menu items that include specialized skillet options featuring meats, cheeses, and vegetables, along with eggs benedict and a variety of flavored waffles.

“This particular location I am very excited about, West Toledo feels like home to me, I love this neighborhood,” Ms. Hessling said.

She also coaches volleyball and track at Ottawa Hills High School, and has built a network of supporters in the community.

“I spend a lot of time here and I have a lot of friends and clients who live in this area,” she said.

Once the Bancroft location is up and running, Ms. Hessling will focus on a third Sunrise Skillet site, which is planned at the former Parkway Lounge at Parkway Plaza in Maumee.

Arnie’s Toledo, which is situated between Jo Jo’s and the Sunrise Skillet, should also “open soon,” according to owner Balsharan Singh Grewal, who is in the process of training new staff for the space that once housed several popular college hotspots including more recently, the Library Bar. He has spent the past two years working to get the 3,500 square-foot space renovated, which has included adding a full kitchen and an outdoor patio.

Neither he nor Ms. Hessling would say how much they invested in their projects.

Mr. Grewal intends to open Arnie’s Toledo in the same vein as the previous Arnie’s Eating and Drinking Saloon, which was previously located off Secor Road. Mr. Grewal purchased that longtime establishment from founder Arnie Elzey in 2008, but had to close it in 2014 to make way for planned development. He later opened an Arnie’s location in Perrysburg, but that has closed as well.

Several former staff from the Secor Road restaurant have helped train the staff at the new Bancroft location, he said.

“It took us a while to get going here but I’m excited about it,” Mr. Grewal said. “I had a really good staff and a lot of pictures from the old Arnie’s are here. We will be offering a similar menu, but our new chef basically took the menu and made it better.”

Arnie’s Toledo will open at 4 p.m. daily, with lunches available for private parties. Mr. Grewal also plans to add a rooftop patio at some point.

“I want to go forward with the good feelings and give a good establishment to Toledo because I grew up in this place and I went to the University of Toledo,” he said. “I’ve had I don’t even know how many emails from my old Arnie’s crowd who are looking forward to this.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on June 8, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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