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Better Call Paul

Here at Ohio State, we’ve seen plenty of changes. Just within the last 15 years, we’ve seen three different Buckeye football coaches, two different head coaches for the basketball squad, changes in the university president, and a switch of athletic directors—and all of this doesn’t even include the revolving door of athletes leaving for the [...]
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Here at Ohio State, we’ve seen plenty of changes. Just within the last 15 years, we’ve seen three different Buckeye football coaches, two different head coaches for the basketball squad, changes in the university president, and a switch of athletic directors—and all of this doesn’t even include the revolving door of athletes leaving for the next stage or alternative endeavors. But when it comes to the voice of Ohio State sports, things have stayed consistent.

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate timing of spending your Saturday afternoon in the car during Buckeye football season, odds are high you’ve had the luxury of hearing Paul Keels. He’s been your play-by-play commentator for Buckeye football and basketball on 97.1 The Fan since 1998, meaning it doesn’t matter if you are 16-years-old, 27-years-old, or 88-years-old, his silky smooth baritone voice has graced your car speakers at least once.

Through his time with Ohio State, Keels has had the best seats in the house and his latest book, If These Walls Could Talk, details all the memories—mostly good ones (we’ll just collectively ignore that devastating loss to Michigan State in 1998 in one of John Cooper’s last years at the helm) he’s seen from those very seats.

For Buckeye fans, digging through the history of this program is always a pleasing ritual, but through the lens of Keels, you are invited into a new world where you get a glimpse at some of the behind-the-scenes actions within the locker room while the on-the-field performances serve as backdrops for the story. The 2003 National Championship game. The Thad Five and the Final Four. No. 1 OSU vs. No. 2 Michigan in 2006. The added context and emotion of each individual story provides an extra layer of personality drawing you closer to the legendary figures who have played or coached for the Bucks.

I had the chance to catch up with Keels to dig through his treasure trove of memories and insights, and I’m not going to lie, it seemed a bit surreal hearing his voice on the other side of the phone. I can recall memories of my childhood going out to my friend’s house to watch the Buckeye games and vividly remember Paul’s calls over the radio as we played a pick-up game of football in the backyard. I would always think to myself what it would sound like if an announcer said my name.

I just never would’ve imagined it would be in this form.

If you could go back in time and watch an OSU athlete, who would it be?

I’d probably pick Archie Griffin just for everything that he achieved. At that time, I was becoming more and more aware of what college football was about, and growing up in Cincinnati a few hours away still becoming aware of just how big a thing Ohio State football was. It’s easy for us to look back now, but to be able to appreciate and seeing somebody do something that hasn’t been done up to this point—which is to win two Heismans back-to-back—and to also still enjoy the atmosphere of the Woody Hayes era. You know, the dominance he and those Ohio State teams had. That would be probably the first things I would do. And when you did have the chance to see them on TV, usually it was the Michigan game or maybe a few others, you really appreciated being able to see it. I mean, when I was a teenager, I was able to listen to a lot of the radio and just that whole mystique of you’re listening to the game but creating the image in your mind—what it must be, what it must look like, what it must feel like to the people in the stands—and it’s just kind of nostalgic.

Is that what you keep in the back of your mind? How you would’ve liked to have the game called when you were listening to the radio as a teenager?

Well, I’m not so much thinking about myself—maybe a little bit of that, but honestly…there are people that can’t watch every game or they can’t attend. We get a lot of complimentary feedback from people who are driving their kids to their game, the people that are at work, or the farmers that are outside a lot of the time … there’s just a lot of people who aren’t in the position to see it in person or sit in front of their TV, so you think about those people who are just kind of depending on what comes out of the radio. We take our time to describe it the best we can so they can picture it in their minds while they go about their day. I know what it’s like whenever I’m in the car going back and forth to some place and how it can kind of captivate you, and you hope that what we’re doing—whether they are working, or driving, or sitting on their porch. I think a lot of people that are sports fans that grew up in the generation of listening to games on the radio, they have an appreciation of not being a slave to the TV screen and still be able to do the things that you want to do and kind of have [the game] accompany you.

It seems like a big complaint of fans whenever their team is losing is “these announcers are clearly biased!”, have you had any moments like this?

More than anything, we probably hear stuff about the TV announcers. We hear, “We turned the radio on because we can’t stand listening to ‘so-and-so’ or ‘so-and-so,’ we think they have a bias against Ohio State.” We kind of have the ability to be pro-Ohio State where I think most people understand the network TV really can’t be pro either team.

You’ve served many roles from analyst to friend of the coaching staff giving you an interesting perspective of knowing both on- and off-the-field matters, could you talk a little about the fallout that comes with a coaching change?

I know when Andy Geiger made the decision to let Jim O’Brien go, it was very obvious to see how difficult it was for Andy in so many ways because you personally get so close to coach O’Brien, and then we were able to see how it affected not only the assistant coaches, but other staff people. I remember we had one guy in particular who worked at our radio station because he was interested in getting into coaching, but after seeing that happen, it changed his thoughts on it. … Even more recently with Thad Matta’s time, you saw how it affected his assistant coaching staff. You know, the head coach is usually very well-compensated, but his assistants and the other staff people aren’t. There was one particular guy who was left to lurch while his wife was dealing with serious health issues and you just realized: people want to talk about firing coaches or changing coaches, there’s so many lives that are affected…You see the part that goes beyond sports. It’s the part that impacts people’s livelihoods and their families.

When do you think ESPN is going to do that 30-for-30 on the first Undisputed National Champions?

When Alabama stops winning National Championships [laughs]. Or, maybe they need to do it while [Alabama] is still doing it to remind people that there are other people who have won national titles. 

Paul Makes the Call

More iconic Tressel win: 2006 vs. No. 2 Michigan or 2002-03 vs. No. 1 Miami?

I would probably have to say the 2002-2003 because it ended in a championship. The No. 1 and No. 2 game against Michigan was great, but the end result wasn’t the same.

Better big time shot: Evan Turner vs. Michigan (2010) or Sylvester’s game-winner vs. Illinois (2005)?

I’d have to say the Matt Sylvester shot because that had a long range effect. There were recruits—part of the Greg Oden and Mike Conley recruiting class—that were in the stands that day. I think it validated what Thad and the team was doing.

Classic comeback win: 2017 vs. Penn State or 2015 vs. Alabama?

I guess by default I’d have to say Alabama because it opened the door to a national championship, but it’s a hard one to pick because the Penn State game was at home. I think because of JT Barrett’s great career, it was a great defining moment of his time.

The Sullinger you wouldn’t want to post up on: JJ or Jared?

No question, Jared. JJ was more of a perimeter player who could shoot outside. I thought it was amazing to see how JJ’s game further developed when Thad got here. Jared, and I think he would tell you it’s true, it’s because of his big rear end. Yeah, he’s not the one you want to see.

Keels’ book, If These Walls Could Talk: Ohio State Buckeyes is available at Barnes & Noble as well as on Amazon.

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Community

Nancy’s Home Cooking ensures no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving

Aaron Wetli

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Rick Hahn is passionate; passionate about his restaurant, passionate about his community, and most especially passionate about the assistance he offers to those in need.

Serving hearty breakfasts and delicious lunches (get the chicken and noodles), Nancy’s Home Cooking has been a Clintonville staple since it was opened by Nancy Kammerling in 1968. In 1970, Kammerling sold the business to Cindy King who ran the restaurant for nearly 40 years before niece Shelia Hahn took the reins.

Flash forward three years and both King and Hahn, neither of whom would turn away a customer in need, had passed away, leaving the future of the restaurant in doubt. This is where Shelia’s husband Rick stepped in.

“I married into the King family but still didn’t know anything about cooking,” Rick said. “I learned from watching a lot of cooking shows on television. I just felt that I had to keep Nancy’s going and to continue Cindy and Shelia’s commitment to serving the community.”

On his watch, Hahn has implemented a Pay It Forward program that serves between 10 and 20 customers a day. In short, for $5, you can purchase a future meal for someone in need; the only caveat is that the buyer has to write a message on a post it note that is delivered with the lunch.

“People can write whatever they would like,” Rick explained. “Some messages are funny and some are inspirational. Some are even movie quotes or jokes. The important thing is that the notes brighten the day of the person who receives it.”

It should be noted that these Pay It Forward meals are not just a box with a turkey sandwich, potato chips and an apple. Those who receive the meal can choose from chicken and noodles; biscuits and gravy; a breakfast platter; Southwest chili; grilled cheese; and bean soup and cornbread. The menu is seasonal and changes for appropriate outdoor weather conditions.

At the suggestion of girlfriend Richelle, Hahn also offers personal hygiene kits to those who ask. These kits, which come in drawstring backpacks, aren’t cheap to assemble (about $10 each) and contain a 30 day supply of soap, toothpaste, wipes, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo and other assorted toiletries. Women’s kits also contain feminine hygiene products.

“As for the kits, no one is turned away. You don’t even have to eat here to get one,” said Rick.

The real Belle of the Ball, though, is Rick’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Last year Rick, with help from his staff, family and neighborhood volunteers (different shifts of 50 each), served over 500 dinners to the community. Canopies, tables, and different stations line High St., the attitude is festive, and again, no one is turned away.

“On Thanksgiving, we are probably in violation of a few zoning laws, but I don’t think anyone really cares. All of the other businesses are closed that day and we have High Street to ourselves,” Rick said while laughing.

And what a Thanksgiving dinner it is. Last year’s menu contained the regular Thanksgiving staples—turkey, ham, rolls, green beans and mashed potatoes as well as pizza, shrimp cocktail, brisket, ribs, and lobster. Not too shabby.

“Not everyone who comes to the meal is homeless or even necessarily in need. Some of the attendees are elderly, have no family, or have no other place to go. I’m happy to give them a place to go,” said Rick through a smile.

It is safe to say that Rick has honored the legacy of the King Family.

Nancy’s Home Cooking is located at 3133 N High St. If you would like to donate money towards the Pay it Forward meals or Thanksgiving Dinner, you can do so in person or use PayPal.Me/nancyshomecooking. You can also drop off new/unused toiletries at Nancy’s from 6 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Total ClusterTruck: “Ghost kitchen” focuses on delivery-based dining

J.R. McMillan

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When Chris Baggott returns from a run to the ClusterTruck kitchen, he’s almost always late, and his fellow drivers don’t mind letting him know it. Tight delivery times aren’t just an expectation for the fledgling food service. It’s part of the brand, serving fresh fare to waiting patrons, often in less time than the average restaurant.

So what’s ClusterTruck’s trick to providing such a wide range of high-quality cuisine at a record pace? There’s no restaurant, and their slowest delivery driver, Chris Baggott, is also the CEO.

“I don’t go out as much as I used to, just to keep my hands in it. But when I get back minutes later than our more experienced drivers, they laugh at me,” Baggott confessed. “If you’ve been doing this for a year, you’re good at it. You know which corner or which door, a little shortcut here and there. Faster delivery is what makes our business work.”

Photos by Zane Osler

Quietly creeping into the local culinary scene between the flood of innovative eateries and a fleet of food trucks are so-called “ghost kitchens.” They’re restaurants without the restaurant, focusing exclusively on delivery without the hassle and overhead of running a retail establishment. Homegrown concepts like Food Fort Columbus and 1400 Food Lab help industry entrepreneurs prepare meals with all of the precision of their retail rivals. Kitchen United, which already operates locations in Pasadena and Chicago, is scheduled to open their latest facility in Grandview Yard this year as the next phase of an ambitious nationwide expansion. For those struggling to find and afford suitable space, it’s the culinary equivalent of co- working and part of an already $100 million food delivery industry.

But ClusterTruck remains the original, unapologetic disruptor. Operating out of an inconspicuous warehouse near downtown Columbus, it relies on its own dedicated delivery team instead of contract food couriers to serve their hungry customers.

“There’s a broken model in third-party food delivery, from delays that affect quality to low courier morale. If you look at Yelp, a lot of the negative reviews are really criticisms of the delivery process,” he explained. “When I first looked at this market, the restaurants weren’t happy, the customers weren’t happy, and the drivers weren’t happy. So we deconstructed it and built a system that serves all of its constituents.”

That approach may sound a little wonky for a phantom food truck operator. But Baggott didn’t work his way into the restaurant business busing tables. His former life as a software creator proved both profitable and liberating, with earlier endeavors snapped up by Salesforce and Oracle for handsome sums. Along the way, he got back to basics, exploring his growing passion for sustainable agriculture, going as far as starting his own grocery store, then founding three farm-to-table restaurants from scratch. Baggott is as much a chameleon as an iconoclast, as comfortable in a conference room as a chicken coop. Even with dirt under his fingernails, the gears of an engineer are always turning.

“Let’s say the customer is five minutes away from the kitchen, and I have 30 minutes to get the order there. Our software manages our drivers, so we may not start making your food immediately,” Baggott noted. “Our driver may be able to make another delivery before your order is ready. We’ll start making your order when the driver is five minutes away. That way, you get your order on time, and fresh from the kitchen.”

Comfort food is evolving by definition. From hearty carbs to sophisticated salads, “comfort” is now more a measure of how food makes you feel, not an arbitrary attribute that’s the same for everyone. Meeting that ever-expanding expectation is also an edge for such hyper- efficient eateries.

“Ghost kitchens can iterate and innovate. We recently launched a gyro in Indianapolis. We also launched a protein bowl with hummus we make in house,” Baggott recalled. “That’s when we realized we already have pita, tahini, and chickpeas—we should make a falafel. Now, we’re testing recipes to launch a falafel.”

Not all revelations are as obvious or unemotional. The Columbus customer base continues to grow, as are operations in Denver, Kansas City, and the original location in Indianapolis. But ClusterTruck locations in Cleveland and Minneapolis were temporarily suspended. Some menu items have also gone away when they didn’t make the cut, including their take on Johnny Marzetti.

“Dropping Johnny Marzetti was heartbreaking for me because we already had all of the ingredients. I loved it, but it just didn’t sell. But a big advantage we have over a brick-and-mortar restaurant is access to data. A traditional restaurant may launch a new menu item and sell 500 the first day,” he explained. “But they can’t see who orders it again, or worse, who ordered it and never came back. All of those transactions are anonymous. We see everything, order rates and reorder rates. We don’t just know what sells, we know how it impacts overall customer experience.”

ClusterTruck launched a tofu kimchi burrito that initially sold very well, but then seemed to taper off. They dropped it, but once they dug into the data, they discovered existing customers returned, but customers whose first order was the ill-fated burrito didn’t. Their online menu has since become more adaptive, featuring items with higher rates of reorder for new customers, something typical restaurants just can’t do, and an insight they probably would have missed.

“One of the challenges with Cleveland and Minneapolis was building the brand. We were great at building kitchens and software, but frankly, we weren’t great at marketing because what we do is so different,” he noted. “We haven’t abandoned those cities, we’re just refining our marketing before we reopen. It’s one of the advantages third-party food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash have. They’re just adding a new service to an existing restaurant. We have to introduce a whole new brand.”

The funny thing about brands is that they aren’t how you view your company, it’s how others view you. And that’s also an inherent challenge for restaurants minus retail, even as the market for prepared foods booms. Catering is key for most ghost kitchens, and ClusterTruck tapped into it early, making group orders easier for folks with restrictive and selective diets, even offering access through the popular office collaboration platform Slack. Now about a third of sales come from group orders. But every new business needs a little luck and a leap of faith. Fast, free delivery still came down to customers meeting couriers at the curb, a hunch that paid off.

“That’s our entire business model, and the one thing we couldn’t know for certain before we launched if customers would be willing to do. It’s why our drivers get four to six, even eight deliveries an hour, instead of just one or two,” Baggott explained. “We’ve had more than a million deliveries and I can count on one hand the number of complaints we’ve had about having to meet the driver. When it comes to quality, every efficiency matters. It’s why customers are as much a part of our success as our staff and our software. They come to us, online and outside, and that’s what makes ClusterTruck work.”

For menus and ordering, visit clustertruck.com.

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News

Dear I-670 drivers, your lives may never be the same

614now Staff

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Notice anything different on your I-670 and/or I-270 commute lately? Could be the nine 600-square-foot, 110,000-pound digital signs towering over the freeway.

These signs display information about the first ever Ohio SmartLane.

The I-670 "SmartLane" is the left shoulder that will be open when traffic slows to a crawl. It begins just east of I-71 in downtown Columbus and extends to I-270 on the East Side.

https://twitter.com/ODOT_Columbus/status/1187093122188079104

The SmartLane will be closed most of the time, indicated by a red X. But when traffic dips below 50 mph, The Dispatch reports traffic monitors will send signals to the overhead signs to open the SmartLane. When open, the speed limit is 45 mph.

“It might sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown traveling at slower speeds actually keeps traffic moving better because it avoids the 'stop and go' conditions which can cause more accidents," said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. "Ultimately, we believe the combination of the extra travel lane and the reduced speed limits will allow for a more reliable commute for travelers along that route."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca-LdUrsmnc#action=share

ODOT has installed more than 30 traffic cameras to monitor the lane for any obstructions, reports The Dispatch. The right shoulder of I-670 will be free for disabled vehicles to use.

The $61 million project is officially complete. Visit ODOT.com for more information on the project and the new traffic patterns.

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