An established business in downtown Riverside is getting a fresh start, after it was sold last month. On April 28, Riverside resident Frank Ringo purchased Fresh Express, 35 E. Burlington St., and said his plans are to expand the store’s hours and menu offerings.
A popular coffee spot for commuters, Fresh Express had previously been open six days a week until 1 p.m. Ringo has expanded the hours to seven days a week, and Fresh Express is now open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.
While the menu hasn’t yet been extensively changed, Ringo said that the muffins, scones and cookies are now baked daily in the store’s kitchen.
“Lunch fare will include sandwiches, soups and salads,” Ringo said. “But we’ll always be open for espresso and cappuccino. I’m very anxious to get the kitchen open, get the food supplies in, get lunches and morning fare for commuters.”
Ringo is a former Fresh Express customer who worked for the past nine years in the telecommunications industry. Before that, he acquired experience in food service, and was looking for ways to make the switch back.
“I was friends with a former employee,” Ringo said. “I used to go in there, and I always liked the place. One day we were having a conversation, and I learned it was up for sale.”
After confirming that rumor with the previous owners, Bebe and Steve Ferenac, Ringo began an eight-month negotiation period that ended in him buying not only the business, but the storefront property as well.
“Frank and his wife were the perfect candidates for the store,” said Bebe Ferenac, who explained that she and her husband decided to sell the business to spend more time with their two children. “They are duplicates of us; I wouldn’t have given the store to just anyone.”
Since the sale, the Ferenacs, who opened Fresh Express in March 1999, have remained involved as consultants of sorts, teaching Ringo about the operation and helping him organize the store.
“I worked there when we were doing the negotiations and learned the operation,” Ringo said. “And they’ve remained post-closing; they’ve been wonderful.”
Ferenac said that she imagines that they will be involved in the operation in some way for the next several months.
“He knows we’re only a phone call away,” she said. “We’re doing this so it doesn’t affect the customer satisfaction, and so we’re all on the same page.”
As for the Ferenacs’ future plans, Bebe Ferenac said she’s not sure.
“Food service is a good industry to be in, but we haven’t made any decisions.”Wine bar may be open by July
Meanwhile on the west side of the downtown area, construction is underway in the space that will be home to Parallel 42, a wine and cheese cafe that received enthusiastic support from the village board in March.
The wine bar will be located in a storefront at 34 East Avenue, just across the street from the historic water tower.
In April, the village board voted to amend its liquor license code in order to accommodate Parallel 42. The business has not yet been granted a liquor license.
“We’re just waiting for the paperwork to be finalized with the village,” said Riverside resident Jennifer Beranich, who handles marketing for the wine bar. Carl Choate, a Riversider who is a former manager with the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant chain, will manage Parallel 42.
“We’re hoping to open by July 1,” Beranich said.
Beranich said the wine bar will have seating at tables and a service counter for 35 people. The menu will feature wines from around the world which can be paired with small cheese and small appetizer plates.