Local restaurant prides itself in being just different enough; Offers upscale environment with reasonably priced food.
Not many people have the good fortune of being business partners with great friends while having the opportunity to work with family every day.
Rick Taylor knows he’s blessed.
Taylor is a partner in Kozmo’s Grille, 37 First Street, SW in Massillon, with Maury Sullivan and Chuck Thompson. The three men have been friends for decades.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Rick said. “But we always said we’d never let business get in the way of our friendship.”
Taylor’s son, Aaron, is executive chef. Aaron’s wife, Mandy, is general manager. Aaron and Mandy met at Kozmo’s and are both passionate about the restaurant.
“We’re here a lot,” Mandy said. “And even when we’re not, we’re thinking about Kozmo’s.”
Kozmo’s offers hearty American fare, pizza and spirits served in a historic space with a warm, pub-like atmosphere.
Kozmo’s is known — and has won numerous awards — for its specialty hearthstone-oven-baked pizzas. But there’s so much more.
The menu at Kozmo’s is voluminous. From steak to seafood to pasta to sandwiches to soups to appetizers and desserts, an unofficial count totaled nearly 80 menu items.
“This flies in the face of the ‘specialty restaurant’ theory,” Rick said. “But everything sells. When we want to make a change, it’s difficult to determine what menu item to transition.”
Mandy said the menu is refreshed a couple times annually.
“We like to keep it just different enough to keep people interested,” Mandy said. “But we don’t want to mess with customer favorites.”
In addition to the pizza, people come back for Spinach & Artichoke Dip, French Onion Soup, Moe’s Clam Chowder, Cedar Plank Salmon and Asian Pangasius. For dessert, Otis’ Key Lime Pie is a favorite.
Chef Aaron studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University.
“We offer outstanding food at a great price,” said Rick. “It works out very well for us.”
Kozmo’s also takes pride in its selection of Ohio craft beers.
The restaurant constantly rotates brands, which include Columbus, Jackie O’s, Millersburg, North High, Paradigm Shift and Royal Docks.
Sullivan has more than 40 years in the restaurant business.
“Maury found this beautiful building in downtown Massillon,” Rick said. “His expertise in the restaurant industry has been instrumental in making Kozmo’s work.”
Kozmo’s has received numerous Massillon Independent and Canton Repository Readers’ Choice awards as well as the 2018 Business of the Year award from the city of Massillon.
In March, Kozmo’s won Visit Stark’s “Restaurant Madness” contest, beating out local favorites Papa Bears, TD’s Tailgate, Taggarts and well-respected Bender’s Tavern.
Customer service is vital to Kozmo’s success.
“We hear from a lot of satisfied customers,” said Rick. “If someone’s unhappy, we want to know about it so we can fix it. It’s an opportunity to build upon. “
Internal communication also is important to satisfying customers.
“Staff members communicating well with other staff is so important in our success,” said Mandy.
Generations of families come to the restaurant.
“Customers who were in high chairs when I started working here are now teenagers and going to prom,” said Mandy.
Kozmo’s employs nearly 50 people. Most are service staff. Kitchen staff is well trained, as the restaurant works with R.G. Drage Career Technical Center and other local schools.
The restaurant handles large events like showers, reunions and rehearsal dinners in two banquet rooms upstairs (one holds 80 people, the other holds 40).
A few famous faces have come into Kozmo’s over the years, including former NBA player Jalen Rose, former Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, sportscaster Joe Tessitore and Iron Chef Cat Cora.
There are signs of Seinfeld inspiration throughout the restaurant — the profile of Cosmo Kramer in the logo, a framed print of George Costanza in the ladies’ room and The Newman Angus sirloin. The restaurant also celebrates Festivus.
Kozmo’s holds Dine to Donate events to help local schools.
“We support under-funded programs, like the golf team and choir,” said Mandy.
Kozmo’s also supports the Lincoln Theater and Massillon’s City Concert Series by donating food to the performers.
“Giving back to the community is something my father instilled in me,” said Rick. “We do what we can to help the community that supports us. We established Kozmo Charities in 2018, and kicked off funding with the donation of all restaurant receipts on a day we hope to run annually called ‘Kozmo Charity Day.’”
Many new ideas have been discussed, but Rick says incremental steps for growth are being taken, including new food items and additional banquets.
“We’ve been blessed,” said Rick. “Our business continues to grow steadily. We’ve got something people seem to enjoy.”
Who wouldn’t enjoy great food, amazing people and a place that’s just different enough?