The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will honor nine businesses and individuals at the annual Chamber Awards Gala on Friday, June 8, at the Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston. The annual awards gala begins at 6 p.m. and includes an evening of live music, a silent auction, table wines donated by local wineries and businesses, and hors d'oeuvres, followed by a sit-down dinner and awards program.
Youngstown Business of the Year
The Youngstown Business & Professional Association has chosen Ashker's Café and Ice Cream Shop as the 2012 Youngstown Business of the Year. Ashker's is located at 400 Main St., in the heart of the Village of Youngstown and has been a favorite of residents and tourists for the past six years. Additional Ashker's locations are found in the Village of Lewiston and on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.
The YBPA is an active organization and Cheryl Butera, association president, provided some of the reasons why Ashker's is so deserving of the award. "The businesses in Youngstown chose Ashker's due to their presence in the village as a family-oriented and family-friendly business," says Butera. "The consensus with all of the local businesses is that with improved municipal parking coupled with the adjunct of dinner cruises being offered by the owners of the 'Black Pearl' (the Alexanders, Ashker's will be then able to extend their hours past 3 p.m., as well as extend their menu. During the summer months there is a need for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dinner offerings. With more people visiting Youngstown, Ashker's has agreed to extend the menu to accommodate the needs of the community.
"The idea is 'if we build it they will come' and the spirit of being a team player is not lost on the Ashker family!" Butera continues. "When 'they do come' Ashker's will step up to the plate to make visitors feel welcome and walk away feeling they really did visit 'Mayberry' - the term the late Mayor Neil Riordan used fondly to refer to Youngstown."
Ashker's is truly a family-run business, with Angelo at the helm overseeing all aspects of the business, Ron and Angie seen daily in Youngstown, and Margie who splits her time between Lewiston and Youngstown. You can always find a member of the family at one of the locations at all times. The business model has a unique approach. It is based on Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you." This verse has guided the family in creating a business that is centered on their faith, family and community.
Around six years ago, the intention was to sell ice cream in Youngstown. They stripped the building of the restaurant interior, and replaced the floors, equipment and ceiling, but wanted to try to retain as much original character as possible. The familiar boat counter was kept, and the original 1840 brick wall was exposed. The kitchen was re-designed to suit a menu of homemade breakfast and lunch options. Ashker's also brews top quality coffees and serves specialty coffee and teas, and fresh juice and smoothie beverages. Ice cream is sold seasonally, making Ashker's a favorite stop for kids who participate in soccer nearby.
Providing a welcoming atmosphere is important to the Ashker family. The Youngstown location is host to many church groups who meet, and is popular among families and children after programs at the library, pre-school classes and dance lessons. Baby showers, birthdays and business meetings also have been scheduled after regular business hours.
Free Wi-Fi is also available, which creates an added benefit to patrons to linger a little longer on their laptop, while enjoying a hot cup of fresh coffee. Many summer tourists on their way to or from Fort Niagara find their way to Ashker's and enjoy breakfast or lunch on the outdoor patio.
Ashker's has hosted many Youngstown Business & Professional Association meetings and is an active member in the association. They participate in supporting many local events, including the Village Picnic, Here Comes Summer Street Dance, the upcoming Town of Porter Founders' Day Festival, and many other community events.
The business is always looking at ways to grow and expand, proving that their business model works. The next step for the ice cream parlor is to increase the seating area for customers and create a larger room where children's birthday parties can be held. The Elmwood Avenue location will host a dinner theater program on April 14 and the Lewiston location will open in the next few weeks. Ashker's is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the ice cream parlor open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in season.
The Youngstown Business & Professional Association and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce proudly congratulate Ashker's Café and Ice Cream Shop as the 2012 Youngstown Business of the Year.