In a sense, the dozens of restaurants that are members of the Tri-County Restaurant Association feel like family.
“Most of our restaurants are family-owned,” said Julie Carpinelli, manager of the association of 125 or so eating establishments in Stark, Tuscarawas and Carroll counties. “Some of them are part of locally owned chains, but I would put them into the family-owned restaurants.”
The restaurant association, in existence for more than half a century, is “an organization focused on representing, educating, promoting and assisting the restaurant industry” in the three counties it serves, said Carpinelli, who noted that the association accomplishes those goals by awarding scholarships, providing informational newsletters to member restaurants and offering multi-restaurant gift certificates to members of the public.
Legacy restaurants bear a heavy responsibility for fulfilling the association’s diverse mission. They provide an example for what works for restaurants in an area in which people seem to be dining out more than they did in the past, according to Carpinelli.
“I think they’re very important in what we do,” said Carpinelli. “Owners of newer restaurants go to these restaurants to talk and share ideas (about their longtime success).”
The importance of having a proven past in the restaurant industry is perhaps best illustrated by the penchant that many restaurants—even new ones—have for focusing on historical or nostalgic decor. Some hang old photographs on their walls or display artifacts that help patrons reach back in time for a dining experience.
“They try to get a history immediately,” explained Carpinelli.
For family restaurants that have a long existence, that sense of history usually is accompanied by a large customer base—diners coming back to the restaurants for generations—that provides a firm foundation for the area’s restaurant industry in general.
“People want to go to these establishments because they want to see the history,” said Carpinelli.
That desire for a dining experience that is validated by memories of past culinary pleasures is what seems to drive the continued success of the Stark County area’s most familiar family restaurants.
“We do have a lot of family-owned restaurants here,” Carpinelli explained. “I guess that’s because we have a lot of people here who support them.”