MASSILLON, Ohio — When you step into Massillon's Greatness Cafe, "great" is everywhere. It's on the walls, it's on your food container, and it's on your mind when you leave.
Words of affirmation are splashed all around, even on the menu. In fact, each dish is just that: "I am strong," "I am healthy," "I am honest."
The idea, born from Cyrus Ausar and Bradly Grizzard, friends in high school who have similar outlooks on life. The two spent a lot of time playing sports together and participating in the Boys and Girls Clubs. They want people to know they matter.
"How often do you hear people even speak positive to themselves? 'I am great, I am smart,'" Ausar said.
The two had big ambitions but different journeys. Grizzard was diagnosed with severe kidney disease nearly 20 years ago. His life has been overtaken with dialysis and daily treatment. He's had three kidney transplants and is waiting for a fourth.
After his second transplant in 2008, he decided he wanted to make a change, moving out to Los Angeles to meet Cyrus.
"When I went to L.A., we just started to have a bond and we started researching different kinds of foods, how to, you know, alkaline foods, how to eat healthier," Grizzard said.
Ausar was on his own health journey.
"I've been traveling, helping people deal with depression and suicide for 20 years," Ausar said. "I started with the Boys and Girls Club and that was just one-on-one sessions. So, inadvertently, I became a big brother to our community and I just never stopped."
Their separate goals, while different, were stronger together. They decided to merge the ideas: Promoting physical and mental health. In 2021, Greatness Cafe opened for business.
"We wanted people to get that whole holistic experience where you come in, most of the menu is homemade and what we can't is probably frozen fruit and our fresh orange juice," Grizzard said.
But don't make the mistake of ordering an orange juice. Make sure you say "I am fresh."
"So it's just more of an introductory, taking the things that they're accustomed to eating and merging that with an introductory way of talking to yourself," Ausar said.
If you don't say the affirmation, you may not get your order.
"I mean, we had somebody that refused to say the affirmation. He was about 65, 66 years old, refused to say the affirmation and we had a standoff. I'm like, 'If you don't say the affirmation, you're not getting what's on the menu. So he said it very low, 'I am great,' like, 'Hurry up, give me my smoothie now.' And I said, 'What, what did you say?' So now you had to say it back again. Louder. But he said it, 'I am great.' So he tried to be like condescending, but what he did not know is the person behind him thought he was just excited to say it. So they end up stepping up and paying for his food and beverage. He ended up leaving, eating and drinking, coming back 30 minutes later, and he's in tears. He's like, 'I don't even remember the last time I spoke positive about myself.' So, those stories are here quite often," Ausar told us.
The fresh, made-to-order food and drinks are a hit with the locals.
"There was a few times where I've heard people say, 'I wish that we had healthy options here in Massillon.' And, they were the answer to that," said Dorian Johnson, friend and customer of Greatness Cafe. "They can come in here and leave feeling good, feeling healthy."
Grizzard's health is still an ongoing battle as he waits for his fourth kidney transplant. But being at the cafe, helps him keep going.
"Can you really sit in bed all day? I mean, that's how I look at it. You know, some days I'm pretty tired and fatigued and I might not get in here until 12:30, 1 o'clock, two o'clock. But sitting in bed and moping and, thinking about what's next? It just doesn't ... it just doesn't help," Grizzard said.
The hope is that their customers adopt a similar mindset: Feeling empowered to keep going and live better, healthier lives.
"What I hope people get out of it is grow into greatness. Try your best to be better than you were yesterday," Ausar said. "We all got masks, we all have to do jobs, we all have to carry ourselves in a manner of which we gotta take care of our family. But beyond that, those things you go to sleep with, that you fight. I want to help you win that battle."
To learn more about the Greatness Cafe, click HERE.
Editor's Note: The following video is from a previous, unrelated report.
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