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Squeezed for space, Lemon Grove plans move to former Rosetta Stone

Published: Sun, April 29, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick



It was less than a year ago that the Lemon Grove, a downtown bar and restaurant that also serves as a meeting place for artists and community activists, was paying about $1,200 a month in overdraft fees unable to balance its bottom line.

Now it’s preparing to move to the former Rosetta Stone Cafe and Lounge, two doors east of the Lemon Grove’s current location.

The purchase will be finalized next month, said Jacob Harver, Lemon Grove owner since it opened at 122 W. Federal St. in August 2009.

The Lemon Grove, in the city’s downtown, “broke the first rule of business: We had no working capital,” Harver said. “There were some really bad times with no idea what to do.”

Harver spent $130,000 to turn 122 W. Federal St., which once housed a shoe store and a pharmacy, into the Lemon Grove, an artist coffee house/restaurant.

But a greater focus on growing the business “and the maturity to do what we do” has turned around the fortunes of the Lemon Grove, he said.

“It was lawless mayhem,” Harver said.

He credits Amy Lisi, the Grove’s general manager, for the turnaround.

“It’s always a work in progress,” she said. “There’s a little dance that has to be done, and I was willing to tango. That includes bookkeeping, keeping track of overhead, managing labor and keeping control of the cost.”

The improvement is so significant that Harver is in the final stages of purchasing 110 W. Federal St.

For 21/2 years, a five-floor building with 10 times the space of the Lemon Grove, housed the Rosetta Stone, a popular restaurant that closed in August 2010.

Harver said he’s secured a loan from Huntington Bank to buy the building.

Harver declined to say what the purchase cost is, but acknowledged it’s six-figures but well below $1 million. Three months before going out of business, the owners of the Rosetta Stone unsuccessfully tried to sell the business, asking $2.9 million for it.

The Lemon Grove relocation is largely twofold, Harver said.

Harver rents the current Lemon Grove location from Jeff Kurz, owner of the Imbibe, located next door heading west, and Harver would own the former Rosetta Stone property.

“It provides us with long-term security,” Harver said.

He added he’s unsure what will happen to the Lemon Grove’s current location. There’s a chance he may continue to rent it.

The second reason is the increased space will allow Harver to do much more with his business.

Harver said he plans to open the new restaurant, after giving it a “Lemon Grove-ization,” on the ground floor with a target opening date of June 21, his birthday.

“The Rosetta Stone building is a turn-key; we need to give it our character, but not much is needed to transform it into a restaurant,” he said. “To me, atmosphere is the most important aspect of a caf .”

The 110 W. Federal St. location also has a larger kitchen, Harver added.

There will be much more space at the new location for concerts, poetry readings, art exhibits and discussions about social issues and the arts, he said.

Also, Harver plans to operate a catering business at the new location in the fall.

The basement needs work, but Harver said he wants to transform it in to a performance place by Christmas.

To help pay for the “Lemon Grove-ization” of 110 W. Federal St., and for other work to the building, Harver is looking for contributions through a “Kickstarter” online campaign.

To donate, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lemongrove/project-110 online. As of late Friday afternoon, the project had raised $2,555 from 26 donors. The campaign ends May 14.

In the future, Harver wants to use the second floor as a banquet room. The upper two floors would be turned into living space for bands and artists in need of a place to stay with a communal kitchen area and seven to eight rooms.

The Lemon Grove currently employs about 25 people. About 10 to 20 new jobs would be created by the fall, Harver said.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Comrade Jacob Harver banged and yelled the loudest about banks and the 1% as he and his Occupy Crowd protested.

There are a lot more questions than answers about 'his move'?

Why would a bank make another six figure loan on a location that has failed?

If Harver is doing so well where he is, he should thank the Gods and probably stay there. Look at what happens to most successful bars/tavers/bongo clubs/poetry gathering locations when they they think they outgrow their size and have to move to larger digs - they FAIL.

If The Lemon Grove is such a good risk, why does he have to raise money on kickstarter?

The liquor license from Rosetta Stone LLC is in bankruptcy and was just cleared by the receiver on 04/12/2012 to be sold, yet in other news locations, Harver says he is obtaining a transfer?

The building is being foreclosed on by Huntington.

The buildings owes back property taxes (seems a lot do in Youngstown).

Is it possible that Harver was able to bring Huntington, the bankruptcy court and the state of ohio department of liquor control to the table to make a great deal with no money down?

Yes, especially if his silent partner Bob Hagen was twisting arms.

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2silentowner(4 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@ author50. Give the kid a break. It's amazing what he's done so far with little to no experience in the bar/restaurant business. 1st off Bob Hagan is not the silent owner, I AM. Bob has been a friend to Youngstown business for years. It's in his job description. 2nd the purchase of The former Rosetta Stone was my idea. I pitched it to Jacob almost 2 years ago. He was reluctant at first and then embraced the idea. 3rd It was my infusion of capital and 25 yrs experience in the business that allowed this to happen. There is no conspiracy. It's just good business sense. Finally the kid is barely 30 years old. How many people can say they accomplished as much as he has thus far with as little as he had to start with? And in Downtown Youngstown to boot!!!!!

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3Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Wow. Look at all these political mongers trolling about a restaurant transfer of business. Harver must be annoying republicans if they're showing up in here to spray their venom and hiss. What other restaurant changing locations would receive this kind of commentary?

This town certainly does make for such a good show!

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4author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@Silentowner: I have no problem with Mr. Harver making an honest profit (although at one point I thought he and Comrade Bob despised such a word). I have a huge problem with downtown places getting fabulous monies, tax breaks, etc at the expense of the neighborhoods. Why can't bars on Mahoning Avenue or South Avenue get a fair shake of the goodies that ALL the bars get in the downtown area?

Are you obtaining a SBA loan through Huntington or conventional financing? If it is an SBA I will be requesting freedom of information paperwork, because the taxpayers will be on the hook.

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5redeye1(5656 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Tigerlilly I'm an indepent, I too don't want to see my tax money being thrown around freely. But maybe they will have a ring for Buckwheat Bob to get his arse kick after he retires from politics If you are going to give someone a break then you should give everyone a break. Isn't that the democrat party way? So quit picking on the GOP , just because they are smarter then you , don't blame them.

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6peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

*grabs some popcorn to watch the show*

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7bmanresident(607 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I just enjoy the fact that a year ago Mr. Harver was protesting all of the free enterprise types as well as the big banks that are handing him the loans. $130,000 sounds like a one percent number to me.

And this SilentOwner sounds like just another one of those shifty owners that own half the bars in the south and west side.

As far as the bigger space goes, that makes more room for the vagrants of downtown to lounge about. They gladly let the vagrants of the city sit for hours on one cup of coffee, and that includes the Bobby Hagan.

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8bjomalley(2 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Wow, some of you are something else! You don't want your city to have cool places to go downtown? I may not live in Youngstown anymore but when I come home to visit my family I am glad there are great places like the Lemon Grove to play music and hang out.

I'm from Youngstown but I've been living in Nashville for four years. My favorite place here is called Cafe Coco. You can go hang out regardless of whether or not you buy a single cup of coffee but the java is great if you have a couple dollars to spend. If you'd rather have a beer they have a great selection of that too! I also LOVE the food! You can go there to do homework, see live music or have a smoke on the patio. I love it there. (I just spent the past 5 hours smoking on the patio studying for my finals this week).

Lemon Grove is the closest thing I've ever seen in Youngstown to Nashville's Cafe Coco. Why on Earth would anyone not want a place like that to go relax, eat, write, study, etc? I just don't get the negativity.

I would also like to point out that I highly doubt $130,000 puts anyone in the 1%. I believe it's more like a $350,000 A YEAR salary that is necessary to make that claim. I also assume a good bit of that $130,000 came from his silent partner.

I am not a close friend of Jacob's. I know him only from the times he has booked me to play at the Lemon Grove. He has always treated me with respect and behaved very professionally in every way... which was very surprising to me considering his young age and considering the unprofessional treatment I have received from another Youngstown venue that has a lot more time in the business than young Mr. Harver.

I kindly suggest if you don't desire a cool downtown place to hang out then don't go to Lemon Grove. Stay home and be miserable and continue to complain that Youngstown sucks.

I will send my congratulations to the Lemon Grove lovers! They will soon have a new place to eat, java and Rock and Roll. (Yes haters, I realize Java is not a verb but it seemed like a good way to put it).

Whenever someone tries to rain on my joy... my mom always says "They are just just jealous".

Moms are so wise.

BJ Omalley

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9bjomalley(2 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

PS Vagrants are people too and are entitled to have a mother freakin cup of coffee and a place to sit. I'm glad I raised my son to be kind and caring towards all people including but not limited to those who are freakin HOMELESS!

Good grief Charlie Brown!

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10MrYikes(14 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Geez louise, I agree with the gentleman above, some of you people are ridiculous.

Finally Jacob's business is successful enough to expand and all you people can do is make jeers about socialism? For a "socialist" he sure makes a better business owner than any of you.

Like you Mr. Flick "Anyone investing money downtown is a complete jacka$$." You really think that? The business incubator is expanding and it already has several multi-million dollar companies in its portfolio. There are four banks and a number of government offices downtown. That makes for a lot of morning coffee and a lot of lunch breaks. Mr. Flick if you don't see the investment value created by all this demand, please revisit capitalism 101.

You people deserve the the chain restaurants and boredom of BOREDman.

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11Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

redeye1, you don't want me to pick on the GOP because they are smarter "then" me? really? "then"? that is word to denote time, not comparison. You are looking for the word "than".

Not that I am smarter than you or anything.

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12chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't be so tough on Mr. Harver. He aspires to be a 1%er and will use any means to occupy ytown.

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13author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


Where does the $130,000 number come from? Mr. Harver wouldn't disclose the purchase price.

Why, because as of yesterday per the Ohio Liquor Control THERE is no tenancy affadavit or purchase price application sent in as is the LAW for any establishment that seeks to move their liquor license or buy an existing one.

Why all the bluster by Mr. Harver?

Maybe in Tennessee the banks loan hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who have to raise their equity via kickstarter but not in Ohio.

Go back to Cafe Coco and listen to a reading of 'Howl'.

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14JME(802 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

More importantly, is there going to be a Buckwheat Bob Belly-dancing wing?

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15MrYikes(14 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


I don't think the purchase has begun yet, hence the lack of paperwork.

The Kickstarter campaign seems to be more of a publicity stunt to build buzz for the project. As Jacob has mentioned in the media this is a long term project. And lasted I checked 10k is not nearly enough to secure of $130,000 bank loan. I suspect, like anyone with a brain, the bank sees the value of this project if it's executed well. But nonetheless, I'm sure the bank made their decision based upon whatever the LG was able to put down and their existing cash flow.

I still don't see why everyone is so critical of the LG? Would you really rather the downtown look like it did even 5 or 10 years ago? Geez, no wonder Youngstown is a $hithole. You people take something good and pi$$ all over it.

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16Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

They'd rather see downtown fail if it would mean a progressive/liberal type like Harver would succeed.

Clearly, they are very logical people, MrYikes, clearly.

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17here(17 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@author50 $130,000 is the amount Jacob stated he invested in 122 W Federal. This was over the course of at least for years. No one is linking that number to the new property besides you.

The application to transfer his permit was filed March 12th.

He hopes to used the Kickstarter money to decorate the interior, not to purchase the building. The Lemon Grove is moving to 110 W Federal regardless.

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