The new Molly's Pizzeria in Chillicothe has opened and, yes, there really is a Molly

Nick Vlahos
Journal Star

CHILLICOTHE — Molly Strong operates and co-owns Molly's Pizzeria. But she wasn't a fan of "Molly's Pizzeria."

Strong has had a couple of weeks to get used to seeing her name above the door of the new business at 223 Cedar St. in Chillicothe. If Molly's grows its customer base, the name might grow on her, too, as another attribute has with another co-owner.

"Molly Strong is the face of the restaurant," Terry Ruhland said.

Pizza with a personal touch

Molly's opened Oct. 28 in the space once occupied by The Grille 2, a branch of Germantown Grille in Germantown Hills. Pizza is the main focus of the new place, although the menu includes a few sandwiches and appetizers.

Chillicothe already has a couple of pizzerias that are outlets of national or regional chains. But Ruhland said he and business partner Jeff Admire believe their hometown needed someplace that emphasized pizza with a personal touch.

For that, they turned to Strong. The longtime Lacon resident who recently moved to Princeville has more than a dozen years of area restaurant experience.

Molly Strong, left, and her second-in-command, Jenna Keinath, run Molly's Pizzeria, 223 Cedar St. in Chillicothe. Strong, formerly of Lacon and now living in Princeville, is a veteran of the pizza industry and well known in the region, prompting the other owners to use her name in the restaurant's title.

Ruhland said his brother recommended Strong, who was interviewed to be manager. But after Admire and Ruhland spoke with Strong, they made her a business partner and decided to name the restaurant after her.

"We kind of felt like a place like that has identity, and it takes years to create that," Ruhland said about their rationale. "It's her name, and when (customers) walk in the door, they're going to see Molly. They're going to talk to Molly, and they're going to see her at their table."

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Regarding the name, Strong couldn't see it, at least at first.

"I'm not a public person," she said. "I kind of keep to myself, and I didn't really want my name out there. But they said people knew me and my face and my personality, and that I would be able to drive people to come in."

Keontez Hobson pulls a piping-hot pizza out of the conveyor oven at Molly's Pizzeria in Chillicothe.

'They believe in me'

Ruhland owns a construction company, and Admire is a software analyst. Both have some food-service experience, but not as much as Strong.

According to Ruhland, that's part of the reason it made sense for Strong to have an ownership stake.

"So many operators in the restaurant business are not rewarded for running a restaurant owned by someone else," Ruhland said. "Maybe it's a little bit of a leap of faith, but it's worked out to this point."

Strong affirmed that so-far-so-good feeling, despite a few early bumps. She emphasized the pizzeria's family orientation, right down to the balls of dough she gives kids to play with while they wait for their food.

Molly's Pizzeria in Chillicothe features a spacious dining area and bar surrounded by windows, plus another, more intimate dining room next door.

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The hands-on approach is what Strong and her partners hope will set apart their new joint venture. That and the name, of course.

"It's an awesome feeling that somebody believes in me enough and knew that I could do it, and that they believe in me enough to back me to do it," Strong said.

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