Belleria brings 46 jobs to Kent

Will Wells

New restaurant opens despite bad economy

Located on the strip of state Route 59 that hosted the demise of restaurants like Damon’s and Ponderosa, Belleria Pizza and Italian Restaurant opened its doors earlier this month in the former Denny’s building with hopes of weathering the current economic storm.

Owners Tom and Gina Gavozzi realize running a new restaurant amid a climate of bank failures and home foreclosures could be disastrous, so they’re taking a business approach that reaches past Kent State and into the surrounding communities’ residents to keep Belleria afloat.

“We’re employing people who live in the Kent area all year round, not just nine months out of the year,” Gina Gavozzi said. “There are a lot of good-working Roosevelt kids and locals who can’t usually get jobs, and we’re finding them.”

Belleria brings 46 new jobs to Franklin Township, and the Gavozzis hope to expand the staff if business booms.

Franklin trustee Mark Beckwith said the township encourages new establishments to move into the community by “letting businesses be businesses” and not stifling them with ultra-restrictive regulations. The township administration understands a business’ opening weeks can often spell success or failure.

“We’ll sometimes even allow things like 30 to 60 days of more signage than code allows, Beckwith said. “They can advertise with big grand opening signs and tents to kick-start their business.”

Tom Gavozzi said surviving the recession also means going against some of the day-to-day practices of a restaurant owner.

“We’ll get deliveries and go to pay for them and the driver will say ‘Oh, you’re Belleria. Don’t worry about it right now,'” Gina Gavozzi said. “We’re not having it. We pay for things immediately.”

“Debt adds up in places quicker than you realize,” Tom Gavozzi added.

The couple also cut opening costs by painting the building themselves, occasionally getting help from their two children and their children’s friends.

“We really feel like a new flower in a dead bed sometimes,” Gina Gavozzi said, referring to past restaurants that closed their doors on the same building.

“It’s refreshing to see someone working on something new instead of boarding it up and tearing it down.”

Contact public affairs reporter Will Wells at [email protected].