Some local Swensons Drive-In enthusiasts just couldn’t wait another minute.
So Hilliard’s new Swensons opened 30 minutes earlier than its scheduled 11 a.m. debut Sept. 23.
“You can’t go too long without a Galley Boy,” said Hilliard resident Steve Daniels, 55, who was the second customer to roll onto the parking lot, minutes after the Artieda family, also of Hilliard, had arrived.
Kelly Artieda, 40, pulled up just before 10:30 a.m., minutes after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the store’s employees, corporate executives and Hilliard dignitaries.
Kevin Howley, director of marketing for Akron-based Swensons, first told the early birds they would need to wait for the kitchen to open, but when he learned it was ready to go, five customers got orders in – and received a little bit of grand-opening swag, too – before the official opening hour passed.
For the Artieda family, it was their very first Galley Boy, Swensons' signature burger, delivered with a “sprint and a smile,” the restaurant’s motto.
Swensons servers, who are required to be college-enrolled students, run to and from the parked vehicles to take and deliver orders, Howley said.
The drive-in has no indoor or outdoor seating. Orders are delivered to vehicles to be consumed there or taken to go.
Artieda arrived for Swensons’ opening with her mother, Helen, her brother, Ryan, and her son, Ethan.
“My (other) brother’s girlfriend goes to (the University of) Akron, and she told us we had to come here and have a Galley Boy,” Artieda said.
Parked next to the Artieda family was Daniels, placing a to-go order for his favorite, the Galley Boy.
Daniels said he moved to central Ohio from Akron in 1992.
“But I go to an Indians or a Browns game every year, and on the way back home I would detour to Akron (or a location near Cleveland) to get a Galley Boy,” he said.
The Swensons at 4810 Cemetery Road in Hilliard is the third to open in central Ohio and the 13th in Ohio.
The first central Ohio Swensons opened in November on Sawmill Road near Dublin. A second location opened in February near Polaris Fashion Place in north Columbus.
Swensons was founded in 1934 and until recently was exclusive to northeast Ohio near Akron; three drive-ins opened in the past few years in Cleveland's University Heights, North Olmstead and Avon communities before Swensons turned to central Ohio.
“We wanted to be in the Hilliard market; it was definitely a target,” Howley said.
But it did not come easy.
The Hilliard opening came more than a year after it was proposed, and it met with some initial pushback from city officials.
The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission in August 2018 rejected the required planned-unit-development rezoning for Swensons to open.
In January, Hilliard City Council overturned the decision, but changes were made concerning access to the parking lot that required the planning and zoning commission and council to reconsider the proposal.
Council on June 24 approved a final plan and a planned-unit-development modification required for construction of the Swensons.