Cultivate Cafe: Fresh Food Close to Campus

By Samantha Phillips

For those who are tired of eating fast-food at Youngstown State University’s campus, the new Cultivate Cafe is open and ready for business.

Cultivate Cafe is owned by the Lake to River Cooperative and features locally sourced ingredients for menu items like veggie wraps, soups and salads.

Susan Payton, the kitchen manager of Cultivate Cafe, said that there is meaning behind the label ‘co-op cafe.’

“The whole idea of the cafe is so we can source locally from the lake to river co-op … it’s about supporting local businesses and farmers,” Payton said. “We’re their café. That’s why it’s called the co-op cafe.”

The only time ingredients aren’t locally sourced is during the off-season.

“We try to get as much locally sourced as we can, things like flour and sugar, but there are other things that aren’t in season yet,” Payton said. “I still haven’t gotten cabbages, so we’ve had to see other sourced cabbage. So as it comes in, we are trying to stay as locally sourced as possible.”

There hasn’t been a ‘grand opening’ yet, but the cafe is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tom Phibbs, manager of Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator, said the cafe works closely with entrepreneurs who want to sell their products like baked goods.

“It’s success is crucial for the Kitchen Incubator’s entrepreneurs, as it’s an easy introduction into the marketplace,” he said.

Payton said they haven’t attracted too many students yet, but they plan on directly advertising by walking through campus and handing out flyers, introducing themselves to the campus population.

The cafe is only a short walk from the Cafaro and Lyden Houses, so it is in an ideal location for students living on campus.

“We’re going to have a grab and go station, so our prepared items they can take out, like today I’m working on little pies and quiche, but I’ve also talked to some of the farmers to see if they would be interested in putting fresh fruit in there as well,” Payton said.

Phibbs said gaining business from the university is a vital key to their success.

“I think that the support of YSU will really help this project to take off. Our goal at the Food Hub is to help revitalize our community through food. The cafe acts as the perfect gateway between our Valley’s local farmers and the inner city. I can’t wait to see how it’s received this semester!” he said.

Payton said it will be challenging getting more students to come.

“We are a little, tiny bit off the beaten path, but hopefully they will make their way up here to have delicious, locally sourced food,” Payton said.

Commonwealth, the property that Cultivate Cafe rents off of, holds Farmers Markets on Saturdays. The cafe partners with people who want to sell their goods.

Gina Kontur, an assistant at the cafe, said they have been received well by the community.

“It’s really nice. Everyone is excited about it,” she said. “There’s nothing like this around here, so it’s exciting to see everyone’s excitement about it, seems like more students are starting to come. It would be nice to get the word out and get more students in here.”


  1. This article is so frustrating. It drops tantalizing little hints as to where this cafe might be, but then leaves it to the reader to google or look on facebook to know for sure. Would it have killed anyone to put an address so people can find it? As a public service, here’s their contact info:

    901 Elm St
    Youngstown, OH 44505
    (234) 855-0175

    1. I agree, I read most everything I see posted and never an address, our what their hours were, that is all i needed …

  2. This place is awesome. Check them out on Facebook so you can see their hours and such, they seem to stay up to date on there. They have great food- Went to a tasting when they were trying their menu. My only wish was that they were open on weekends and evenings since I am in Boardman I cant really ever get there 9-5 on a workday.

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