CLEVELAND — For the past 20 years, Scotti’s Italian Eatery has been there for the Collinwood community. With every meatball sub, pizza and perfectly breaded eggplant Parmesan, patrons have showed up for this local Italian gem. Now, the community is returning the favor, offering support to a longtime business owner who announced the difficult decision that he was closing, until he had a change of heart.
“I wasn’t expecting it. It’s overwhelming, emotional even, for the past 24 hours, grandmothers, friends and neighbors have told me not to do it,” said owner Scott Hanson, about the overwhelming support he has received from the community. “I also had people reach out to me offering financial aid and staffing support.”
This week Hanson announced he was closing the restaurant, but after seeing how the community and patrons reacted to the thought of it closing, he changed his mind.
“Our dining room was packed last evening with customers who are so upset about this and have expressed their feelings, it’s a bit overwhelming. Because of you all I have decided to not give up and fight this. I cannot guarantee I will succeed but I have 2 weeks to do so,” he said in a Facebook post.
Talking to News 5, Hanson said there were many reasons for his original decision to close, calling it “a perfect storm.”
He says the closure of the East 185th Street ramp, off I-90, hasn’t made it easy for patrons, particularly the older ones coming from the East Side, to travel to his restaurant.
“The older crowd are creatures of habit. With the closure, they have to take a different ramp and get off on a different street, so it can be disorienting,” Hanson said.
Couple that with six of his employees who attend nearby St. Joseph leaving for college and add the loss of two kitchen managers, he said it became a struggle to make money and work with less staff.
“In the last seven months, my profits have been cut in half. I wasn’t getting a paycheck and I couldn’t keep working and not getting paid,” Hanson said.
Hanson said the last couple of days have caused him to take a pause on any sort of closure, at least for now, trying to make a full-fledged effort to make it work in the next two weeks, before his kitchen manager leaves.
“Business was down. I wasn’t making money. I felt defeated. I thought, ‘Maybe I had my run’ and if you were in my shoes, you would be crying with everyone telling me how much they love this place,” Hanson said.
Hundreds of comments from concerned patrons flooded Hanson's Facebook feed following his decision to stay open.
"Obviously no one wants to see you go. If all it takes for you to remain open is packing the joint every night, I'm sure we can all chip in and lend a hand!" said patron Kelli Jones.
Others chimed in reiterating the food at Scotti's is simply the best.
"I told the staff a few weeks ago that the pizza I had that night was the best I ever had," said patron Mike Cash.
With time and fixing the problems he is experiencing, Hanson is keeping his fingers crossed that that traffic picks up again after the freeway reopens in about a month and the business he gets during the lunch hours comes back.
“Hopefully in the next two weeks I will be able to manage this and stay open to serve the wonderful neighborhood here in Collinwood who we consider to be our family.”
In the mood for Italian? Visit Scotti's at 882 East 185th Street, Cleveland.