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Voyager Specialty Coffee Plans $200K-Plus Project on Mahoning Ave.

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Voyager Specialty Coffees & Teas will relocate its main operations from Canfield to a pair of buildings on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown, Levi Smith, chief roaster and owner, said Tuesday afternoon.

The company, which brews and cans cold-brew coffees and imports coffees and teas, plans to spend more than $100,000 to convert the former Dave’s Auto Parts and an adjacent building into a new production and distribution facility, Smith said.

“Probably $150,000” on top of the $100,000 he paid to acquire the property, he estimated.

The Western Reserve Port Authority, which acquired the buildings from Youngstown’s land bank last year for $1,601.78, approved selling the 1.6-acre site and two buildings at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave. during its monthly meeting Tuesday. The sale was one of four agreements to acquire, sell or donate property that the port authority’s board of directors acted on at the meeting.

“We’re reaching capacity at our Canfield location,” which is about 1,000 square feet, Smith said. In addition to providing more production and distribution space, he said he plans to develop an event center and café in the two buildings, which are about 6,000 square feet combined.

Voyager’s products include Rambler Cold Brews’ Raven Rock, Double Barrel Bourbon and Pathfinder, Smith said. They are available at locations including Birdfish Brewing Co.

“It’s been a long road,” said Nick Chretien, executive director of Economic Action Group Inc., who worked with Smith to identify a site for his expansion. Though Smith was familiar with the properties through his work as an adviser at the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University, the notion of acquiring them for his own operation did not take form until he discussed options with Chretien.

That road included convincing PNC Bank to remove $125,000 in liens on the property to convince its owner to sign it over, said Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s chief operating officer. The sale price to Voyager factored in the expense the port authority incurred from replacing two roofs, environmental testing, cleaning out the buildings and re-securing the two structures.

“Our goal is to get things going as soon as possible,” Smith said. He is targeting having the buildings fully operational a year from now.

“Such a great client to have there that can offer something to the community,” Trevena said.

“This is what it’s about to us,” he added. “We want to do the big projects, but helping entrepreneurs really turn around parts of our community that have been blighted, sitting vacant is a pretty powerful tool in our belt.”

In a related item, the board voted to donate two adjacent parcels to Melodee Titus, who mowed the lots for 15 to 20 years, he said.

Also during the meeting, the board authorized CEO John Moliterno to enter into an agreement to sell 36 acres of property near Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, 1801 Ridge Road, to Berk Enterprises Inc. Warren, for $295,000.

“Berk’s been looking at exploring and expanding their footprint for quite some time and they’ve looked at a lot of properties,” Trevena said, though he could not provide specific’s regarding the company’s plans.

“We hope it’s just the start of other things that can happen,” Moliterno said.

No one from Berk attended the meeting and a company representative did not respond to a subsequent request for comment.

The board also approved accepting the donation of 200 additional acres of property from BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC, contingent on approval by legal counsel and completion of a successful Phase 1 environmental assessment.

In May, the port authority board voted to accept the donation of about 800 acres of the former Republic Steel property from BDM. A subsequent study of the BDM property – which touches five Trumbull County political subdivisions – by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments found that the 200-acre site that wasn’t included in the original donation provided important access from the property via a bridge and road that goes though it to the Lordstown area and major highways.

The resolution to accept the property – an amendment to the May 19 resolution approving the acceptance of the 800 acres – was amended to include the environmental review provision after board members expressed concerns about accepting the land without such a review. The 800-acre site already had undergone environmental review.

Moliterno informed the board members that the Phase 1 assessment already was underway. He acknowledged a Phase 2 assessment might be required, depending on the findings of the Phase 1 study.

“We’ve spent 18 months on this, working out the environmental side as well as the legal side and we’re still doing that,” Moliterno said following the meeting.

He also praised the level of cooperation from BDM’s ownership.

“I believe they’re comfortable with where we’re at. Our board is too,” he continued. “They see the tremendous upside of developing the property and creating jobs out into the future. This final piece is an add-on so it’s understandable that there’s still some final work that has to be done on it.”

Pictured: Levi Smith of Voyager Specialty Coffees & Teas shares plans to convert the former Dave’s Auto Parts and an adjacent building into a new production and distribution facility.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio. September 15, 2021. George Nelson.