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The Scoop

Pitching Woo gets easier every day.

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Wooster's Woo City Ice Cream Co. is poised to break into the big time. After years of selling mainly to upscale restaurants and natural-foods markets, the maker of 141 flavors of all-natural, mostly organic ice creams, sorbets, and frozen tofu is preparing to launch a nationwide network of franchises.

According to company prez David Steel, plans call for each of the 2,100-square-foot stores to have its own ice-cream-production facility. Besides the frozen goodies, Steel says, the franchises will serve freshly brewed coffee -- good news for those of us who like our sugar buzz mediated by a caffeine rush. Steel hopes this will help promote a laid-back, neighborhood-coffeehouse vibe. And while the warm decor has been designed to channel daydreams of the 1940s, the spots will feature up-to-the-minute technology in the form of wireless internet access.

So far, Woo City has potential franchisees lined up in California, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and both North and South Carolina, as well as Ohio. Steel says that the first franchises probably will open in Cuyahoga Falls and Canton in early summer.

Pita patter . . . The good news is that the wholesale business is booming at Amir Foods (4422 Mayfield Road, South Euclid). In fact, the well-regarded manufacturer and distributor of hummus, pita bread, and all foods Lebanese has just about run out of production space. That's where the bad news comes in. "We looked around and realized the only room left for expansion was into the space occupied by our dining room," says company president Butch Rassi. "It's regrettable -- we have such wonderful, loyal customers -- but Amir's Marketplace Restaurant will close on December 11."

Rassi and his brothers, Sam and Tony, founded the business in 1993, relocating to South Euclid in 1996. While the expansion will devour the dining room, a scaled-down version of the retail market will continue to operate. Amir's products can also be found at most Tops, Giant Eagle, and Heinen's supermarkets throughout the region.

Westward expansion . . . If all has gone according to plan, Crocker Park's new Blake's Seafood Restaurant and Bar (9 Main Street, 440-892-FISH) should now be open. Owned and operated by the Twinsburg-based Hyde Park Group, the Westlake spot will serve lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, and will include a chic open-air bar and a year-round sidewalk café. Also look for the company to open one of its award-winning Hyde Park Prime Steakhouses in the shopping mecca come January.

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