Downtown experience brings diners to the restaurants

SALEM — Area residents can help the United Way help others in the community by dining in downtown Salem at select restaurants and locations from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 24.

Known as the Downtown Dining Experience, the fundraising event co-sponsored by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Northern Columbiana County features 11 venues and 13 participants treating guests to delicious dishes, fun and fellowship.

There’s also a basket raffle and the ever-popular diamond drop that was always part of the former Taste in Salem, the previous dining fundraiser that had all the restaurants in one spot.

Three years ago, planners decided to change-up the event by bringing the diners to the restaurants in a series of stops, which event chairman Janet Keene said has worked out very well because it gets new people into the restaurants.

United Way Executive Director George W.S. Hays said the restaurants like the new format because they don’t have to pack everything up or try to find enough help to cover both the event and their businesses.

Chamber Executive Director Lori Jewell said there’s plenty of food, too, and feedback on the Downtown Dining Experience has been good. Very positive, Keene said.

She noted that the proceeds have been comparable to the Taste in Salem because they don’t have to rent a venue or buy paper products for the evening.

“We’ve actually saved money on this. The income is about the same if not more,” she said.

Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased now at the chamber, located at the corner of State and Lincoln, or from any United Way member agency. Tickets must be purchased before the event. No tickets will be available that night.

New stops this year include EuroGyro, Ice Cream Parlor, Jalisco pop-up location at the former Huntington Insurance building, 542 E. State St., The Foundry on South Broadway and Affordable Catering at Liebe Wein. Other stops include BB Rooners, Coaches, Heggy’s, LiB’s Market, Ricky’s English Pub and Troll’s Jewelry where Giant Eagle will be set up. Troll’s Jewelry will host the diamond drop, giving visitors the opportunity to purchase a glass of champagne for $10 for a chance to win diamond jewelry donated by Troll’s.

Tickets for the basket raffle will be available at each stop at a cost of six for $5. Baskets are being donated by United Way agencies. Ticket buyers will sign up for a number at their location and use that number all night. Winners will be announced on the Chamber’s Facebook page and notified by phone.

The starting point for each participant will be determined by their ticket, with 15 minutes at each stop before moving on to the next one. If everyone follows the directions on their ticket, there shouldn’t be a crowd at any location. Helium balloons will mark each stop, with Salem Welding providing the helium.

The Quakertown Trolley will be running and pick up passengers at three stops, including the municipal lot at State and Ellsworth across from Ricky’s, South Broadway at the Foundry and the parking lot behind Coaches.

Hays said the money raised is significant for the United Way and used to benefit 19 agencies.

“We are privileged to partner with the United Way of Northern Columbiana County on this event. What better way to support United Way’s local organizations than by offering the public the opportunity to visit local restaurants/businesses, dine on the best cuisine and win prizes. We thank all the restaurants/businesses for their willingness to participate. It will be a night of fun, delectable fare and fundraising,” Jewell said.

All of the participating locations this year are chamber members and Jewell said the chamber is proud of that.

United Way agencies include: A.I.D. Inc. (Action, Information, Direction); America Red Cross; Boy Scouts of America Buckeye Council; Camp Fire Tayanoka; Catholic Charities Regional Agency; Christians’ Concern of Leetonia/Washingtonville; Columbiana Meals on Wheels; Family & Community Services of Columbiana County; Family Recovery Center; Girls Scouts of North East Ohio; Help Network of Northeast Ohio; Project MKC; Quota International of Salem, Inc., Speech and Hearing; Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Salem Area Visiting Nurse Association; Salem Worlds War Memorial; and Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.