Jimmy Occhibove is grateful to the community that he says welcomed him with open arms more than 27 years ago when he moved his business here from Youngstown. To say thank you, the owner of Jimmy's Italian Specialties accepted the township's offer to sponsor the more than 10 oases and bus stops that line Belmont Avenue between Gypsy Lane and state Route 304.
''It is wasn't for Liberty community giving to us, we wouldn't be where we are today,'' Occhibove said.
Early this spring, township officials asked local businesses to sponsor the small areas where trees and flowers are planted along Belmont Avenue and benches are provided to those waiting for bus service. The township named these areas ''Oases,'' but landscaping and upkeep can be time consuming and expensive.
Liberty Community News / Kathleen Evanoff
Jimmy Occhibove, left, and his son, Frank, of Jimmy’s Italian Specialties, stand in front of one of the Liberty Township oases the business has adopted along Belmont Avenue.
Occhibove offered to sponsor all of the bus stop areas by calling in a landscaping company to trim the shrubs and provide mulch. The trees will be trimmed later in the summer or early fall, Occhibove said.
''I like things to look nice,'' Occhibove said.
Jimmy and Irene Occhibove moved to Liberty township in 1982 after closing their Italian gift shop and pastry store in the Briar Hill area of Youngstown. They originally moved their business to the Colonial Plaza where they opened an Italian specialty shop and deli, offering authentic Italian grocery items, meat and pastries.
In 2007, the business moved to the site of a former Ponderosa Steak House, but not before spending more than a year renovating the building, including adding on an indoor dining area and most recently an outdoor patio.
With the help of store manager and son, Frank Occhibove, menu items have increased to include sandwiches, salads and original oven-baked pizza with a never-ending list of toppings.
''Everything on our menu is homemade,'' said Irene Occhibove, who believes the success of the business is based on the family atmosphere it provides.
''It is always about family. It is the most important thing,'' Irene Occhibove said.
Members of the Liberty community have watched the Occhibove children grow up in the store, Irene said. The couple have four children and one granddaughter, Gianna.