By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Barb Abbott and Elaine T. Cicora
In 1994, at the age of 43, Ann Reichle opened a pizza shop. Two years ago in May, she finally paid off a quarter-million dollar debt and started to turn a profit.
"It's a difficult business," the energetic entrepreneur told members of the Cleveland chapter at our Jan. 22 meeting. "But I love it."
In the years between 1994 and 2016, Ann and her family faced both challenges and accomplishments. Her business, Angelina's Pizza, brought home first place in a state-wide pizza competition in 1996, just two years after opening. (Ann's "Specialty Pizza" was the winning pie, a tender crust topped with meatballs, mushrooms, onions and sausage.) She also launched Angelina's locations in North Ridgeville and Elyria, started a successful catering operation, and took over a next-door coffee shop, "on a whim." Warm and welcoming, the Village Bean Cafe has been operating under Ann's direction since 2014, and was the site of our Monday night meeting. The cafe has also grown into a community gathering place, hosting book signings, meetings, and concerts.
But along the way, there were struggles too, including limited capital, a lack of experience, and a devastating lawsuit.
Through it all, Ann told us she never doubted her career path. "My goal has always been to be part of the fabric of this wonderful community," she said of the town she clearly adores. "I'm very supportive of our entire food community, and I don't consider other restaurants in town to be my competition. I've been covered in grease my whole life, first as a mechanic – and then I opened a pizza shop! It's a tough business, but you just have to keep going."
Clearly, Ann's perseverance paid off. In fact, things are going well enough these days that she recently purchased property at the opposite end of town, where she plans to build an 80- to 100-seat restaurant. "There are no chains in Olmsted Falls," she explained, adding that the town's restaurants strive to keep it that way. "We are all a little different, and it all works," she said.
Of course, inspirational stories like Ann's are known to work up an appetite, and the spread Ann laid out for us after her talk was a delicious representation of her craft. Among the treats were four pizzas, including her popular Breakfast Pizza with scrambled eggs and bacon, which she serves at the cafe; a salad bar with a selection of greens, vegetables, and charcuterie, along with grilled chicken breast or sliced portabellas for toppings; a lovely cheese and meat platter; an Ancient Grains Salad and a Tri-Color Couscous Salad; and a dessert tray.
Altogether, the evening was a worthy reminder of the power of female entrepreneurship – and the power of pizza too.
Our next meeting takes place in March at the downtown Cleveland Ritz-Carlton. Watch our website and Facebook page for details.