2010 "Penguin of the Year": Sam Covelli

Covelli grew up in the restaurant business. He worked his way up from an entry-level position in the company to becoming the owner/operator and the largest franchisee in McDonald's history.

Covelli was the largest franchisee of McDonald's worldwide maintaining 43 units at the end of 1997. As a McDonald's owner/operator, Covelli earned the most awards ever in the McDonald's system and received the highest honor within the McDonald organization, "The McDonald's Golden Arch Award." This award is given every two years to the McDonald's owner/operator who exemplifies and consistently maintains the highest rated restaurant operations and business practices.

His vast Panera Bread growth has all come in the past decade as he began looking at phasing out of McDonald's looking at new concepts during that time.

In 1997, Covelli sold all the McDonald's Restaurants he owned to embark on a brand-new concept; Panera Bread Bakery Cafes. The first Panera Bread bakery-café opened by Covelli Enterprises was in Boardman in 1998. By the end of 2008, Covelli owned and operated more than 155 Panera Bread bakery-cafes in four states: Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida with gross sales revenues exceeding $300 million.

Covelli Enterprises continually wins awards for exceptional service, cleanliness, customer service and expansive growth of their locations. Year after year, Panera Bread wins "Best of Awards" in all of the communities that they are located.

In 2006, Covelli opened his first O'Charley's Restaurant in Niles. Since then, he has built four additional locations in Boardman (February 2008), Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Erie, Pa. (November 2007), and Orlando, Fla. (April 2009).

It is anticipated that in 2010, 800 additional jobs will be created within the corporation with an estimated 50 to 70 managerial promotions during that same time frame.

Covelli continues to believe that community involvement is the backbone of his business.

In 2009 alone, Covelli Enterprises donated to local schools and non-profit organizations such as the United States Marine Corps. Toys for Tots; Relay for Life; Second Harvest Food Bank; Beatitude House; Junior Achievement; the Boys and Girls Club of America; American Red Cross; Youngstown State University; the United Way and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Additionally thousands of more donations were made through monetary donations, food donations, sponsorships, raffle prizes, golf outings, silent auctions, and our Operation Dough-Nation program. A fund-raising program is also offered to help local organizations meet their monetary needs.

Constant growth has enabled the company to compete and thrive in the industry.

This past summer, Covelli Enterprises became the naming rights sponsor of the $42 million, 7,000-seat Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown. The arena plays host to hockey games, basketball contests, nationally-recognized circuses, chart-topping musicians, as well as crowd-pleasing family shows.

Among the many awards Covelli has received some of the highlights are the 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year for Northeast Ohio by Ernst & Young, Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame in 2005, YSU Alumni Association Distinguished Citizen of the Year, Youngstown Area Restaurateur of the Year and the 2009 Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year.

Covelli has received proclamations from the Mayors of Warren, Niles, Youngstown and Sharon, Pa. Senator John Glenn, Congressman Steven LaTourette, Senator Mike DeWine and he has received recognition from George V. Voinovich as a governor and senator.

He has served on Boards for Mercyhurst College, Saint Vincent Hospital, Saint Joseph Riverside Hospital, First National Bank, NAACP, Warren/Youngstown Urban League, Easter Seals Society, The Mahoning Valley United Way, Youngstown Health Foundation Board and the American Red Cross. He was the founder of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania and was a founding sponsor of the Giant Eagle Ladies Professional Golf Association Tournament Classic.

A graduate of Warren JFK High School, he earned his bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Miami (Fla.). He has also received an Honorary Doctorate from Youngstown State.