YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Valley icon and well-known businessman Albert M. Covelli Sr. passed away Saturday at his home on the Florida coast.
Covelli, 94, founded Warren’s Covelli Enterprises.
The flag there is at half-staff, and a rose is placed in front of his statue. The flag at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown is also flying at half staff in his honor.
A notice on the Covelli Centre website says:
The Covelli Centre staff would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the Covelli Family for the passing of Mr. Albert Covelli, Sr. With any passing, there is a deep sense of loss, and though the community has lost a great pioneer and partner, there is no doubt that the entire Covelli family will continue to honor his memory and legacy through the amazing work they do throughout the valley.
Albert Covelli was a World War II veteran and opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in Warren in 1959. Covelli built the business to 27 locations around the area before he turned it over to his son Sam in 1985.
In 1996, he began opening Panera Bread franchises, selling off McDonald’s.
The family would own 200 Panera Bread locations and five O’Charley locations, making Covelli Enterprises one of the largest restaurant franchises in the nation. It also has recently expanded into DQ Grill & Chill eateries.
But friends say he was more than a great businessman.
“Mr. Covelli was the greatest, as far as I can say. I always told Sam he is growing into his dad. His dad helped me in so many ways over all the years when I first started out and I needed a break, he gave me the break,” said Bob Jadloski, who rented a building from Covelli that was out of his price range.
“Free kettles, free orange drink, whatever you needed. He promoted the educational value in the high school a lot more. Of course, he never wanted to have any credit,” said Dennis Gartland.
Funeral arrangements had not yet been finalized as of Monday afternoon.