A Slice of Entrepreneurial Pie

 A Slice of Entrepreneurial Pie

Local business owner Eric Soller shares how building up fellow businesses is part of successAbby Hofrichter Every day (except Monday) starting at 11 a.m. people from across Dayton start lining up for a piece of Eric Soller’s pie.

As founder of Old Scratch Pizza, Soller owns and operates two Neapolitan-style pizza restaurants in the Dayton area. The first location at 800 S. Patterson Blvd. opened in 2016 and was recently joined by a second, Centerville shop in October 2019 at 440 Miamisburg-Centerville Road.

Each store offers a selection of hand-crafted pizzas, salads and sandwiches in addition to local beer, wine and cocktails. After dinner, guests are encouraged to enjoy free soft-serve ice cream that functions as the motivator for their charitable giving program, Cones for A Cause, which raises thousands of dollars for local charities each month.

In addition to operating two restaurants with a steady stream of bustling crowds and supporting local nonprofits, Soller and his business partners own and manage a number of properties surrounding the 800 S. Patterson location, including the buildings that house RINSE CYCLE, an indoor-cycling studio, and Ghostlight Coffee Midtown, the second coffee shop and café of the beloved Dayton coffee staple.

“Lots of people looked at those buildings and wanted to do a variety of things in there,” Soller explains. “But in the end these are what made sense and felt best.”

When making decisions for his business Soller looks for a blend of logic and belief. He often acts a volunteer business mentor and adviser to friends and tenants, adding to his long list of job responsibilities, because creating those kinds of partnerships is a part of the business plan.

“We want something that is unique and authentically local but at the same time we’re only betting on things that we think will be successful,” Soller says.

The RINSE CYCLE building, a former gas station, was originally bought for overflow parking, Soller says. He and his business partners had always envisioned doing something with the building but it was owner Kari Carpenter who first approached him with a business that fit his local and logistical requirements.

“(Carpenter) has a great energy and her business has a great vibe to it,” Soller remarks. “It has an independent, entrepreneurial vibe to it just like Old Scratch and she could also envision how to use the space so it just made sense.”

For Carpenter, the supportive landlord has been a greatly appreciated while unexpected perk to renting her dream space. Carpenter set her sights on a downtown location early on in her planning for the indoor cycling studio and was inspired by the risk Soller took with placing Old Scratch in a developing neighborhood. It was only after the leasing process began that she realized what she had truly gained through her choice.

“Eric was very involved in the process of leasing the building,” Carpenter says. “He was my direct contact for all negotiations, was at all the meetings with contractors and architects, would regularly update me on the progress. He knew this was a first for me and coached me through a lot of the process.”

Carpenter reflects on a particularly hard day during the process of opening her now 2-year-old business (though she had operated her business in a temporary location prior to 2017); stressed by unexpected delays and hiccups, Carpenter remembers having a particularly bad attitude met with a hug and words of encouragement from Soller.

“Eric gave me a hug and just the most encouraging words. He said, ‘Kari, but isn’t it so great that we get to do this? We are incredibly lucky to get to create a business and fulfill a really big dream. It will all come together.’” Carpenter reflects. “Maybe not exact words but I’ll always remember that perspective that he gave me.”

It is this same style of presence and encouragement that eventually pushed Ghostlight Coffee owner and founder, Shane Anderson, to start the process of expanding into Ghostlight’s second location at 800 S. Patterson Blvd., in the same building as Old Scratch Pizza, after two years of contemplation. Soller and his business partners first came to Anderson with the idea of opening next door in 2016, hoping to add a complimentary day business to the area.

“When it comes to (Ghostlight Coffee) we always knew we wanted coffee,” Soller adds. “Frankly, we wanted to add a complementary day part and if we were going to do it we hoped it would be someone well-known and well-respected in the community.”

Anderson confesses he usually prides himself on his ability to tap into his entrepreneurial vision but that Soller and his partners saw an early potential on Patterson Avenue that Anderson could not.

“They walked me through the Old Scratch space and the space we occupy in 2016 and I honestly couldn’t see it,” Anderson admits. “I was like why would you open a restaurant here?”

“I’ve kicked myself several times since then,” he laughs.

The vision for Anderson and his plans for Ghostlight started to change gradually over the next year. Part of the change happened as he saw the growth in traffic around the Patterson Boulevard location, he explains, but the other factor was having the support of a knowledgeable friend.

Soller has over 20 years in the restaurant and food industry since graduation from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.

He has worked in restaurants, hotels, as a food service consultant and even in marketing for Hobart Food Equipment Group. This background provides a breadth of understanding on running a hospitality-based business that Anderson says he is fortunate to share in.

“Eric has been in the industry for a lot longer than I have and he’s always happy to share his reasons for doing things,” Anderson says. “He knows the numbers and the business and he’s not afraid to share how he made it work or why he makes decisions.”

Whether it’s a quick pep talk, data-tracking tools and food-cost-analysis plans or a classic Mr. Scratch pizza it appears this local entrepreneur is happy to share the pieces, or slices, of his pie.