By Michele Murphy
The things they have to offer to Sheffield Lake residents may vary, but the reason for starting and maintaining their locally focused small businesses there is the same: They like the community. As importantly, they trust, if they provide a good product and good service, residents will become, and remain, loyal customers.
Sheffield Lake’s finest – Sam Zafir (l), owner of the recently-opened Little Caesar’s Pizza at Shoreway Shopping Center, and Dennis Vollick, owner of Bi-Rite Express on Lake Rd., show off some of their fare. (Press photos – Michele Murphy)
Sam Zafir recalls driving around one Saturday morning a year or so ago “wondering where I should put a pizza shop.” He was drawn to Sheffield Lake and, specifically, to Shoreway Shopping Center.
He says he went into Driftwood Cafe, located in Shoreway, to talk with the owner. After that discussion, he felt encouraged and contacted city services Superintendent Pat Hastings, then Mayor Dennis Bring.
In short order, he believed them when they said “We can make this happen.”
Zafir’s Little Caesar’s Pizza is now Sheffield Lake’s newest business, having opened in December.
Dennis Vollick owns and operates Bi-Rite Express on Lake Road just west of Shell Cove Park. Vollick started in the grocery business as a packer and stocker while in high school. After a stint with the Navy, including 13 months in Vietnam, he returned home and pursued a career in the grocery business. His reason is pretty simple: “I liked it.”
He and Linda, his wife of 45 years, first opened at the Lake Road address in 1979 as a Convenient Food Mart. They sold the business 11 years later while maintaining other grocery businesses in Cleveland and Avon.
In 2001, Vollick was thinking of selling one of his Cleveland stores. The city had just announced the bridge over which 10,000 cars traveled every day past the store would be closed two years. He told the city about his concerns. He says they did not share those concerns. Explaining he believes God has always been good to him, he had a potential buyer walk into the Cleveland store on the exact day he received a call from the owner of the Sheffield Lake store property asking if he would be interested in coming back and establishing a new store. The Vollicks opened Bi-Rite Express a short time later.
Both of these business owners, one less than a year in the city and the other decades, believe their success lies in offering residents something they want – hot pizza with just about any topping you can imagine, chicken wings and specialty bread sticks, or grocery items plus fresh deli selections and homemade prepared foods like fried chicken, Swedish meatballs or a selection of fresh salads. All are made at the store by Linda Vollick. Vollick will even deliver groceries or meals to folks who are shut-ins.
Between them, they provide 30 part-time jobs – 14 at Bi Rite, which includes the Vollicks and their two grown children, and 16 at Little Caesar’s.
Both are happy to be in Sheffield Lake, even though they live outside of the community. Over the years, Vollick became involved with both local veterans organizations, Amvets and VFW Post 6868. He said the initial contact came as a result of one of the groups placing an order at the store. “We just got talking,” he recalls. “I like them both,” he grins, saying he likes how “everybody at the post works together to make it succeed.” In fact, he has served as Post Commander for the past eight years.
Both Zafir and Vollick have positive things to say about having their businesses in the city. Zafir says he was very happy with the assistance he received from Hastings and Bring. He wishes the city was in a position to do more to help new businesses like his. Vollick understands how strapped the city has been and thinks it would be a good idea to figure out how “businesses promote each other,” adding it’s getting tougher for “brick and mortar” stores.
As a brand new business owner in town, Zafir, who also works as a sleep disorder consultant with teams of doctors, is interested in building a loyal customer base. Vollick works to maintain relationships with his long-time customers while figuring out ways to draw new ones.
Vollick summed up his belief about how today’s small, local businesses succeed this way, “As a ‘little guy,’ we have to do different things and be better.”
Contact Michele Murphy at email@example.com
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