July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Business beat: Medina plays a waiting game for Main Street

The envelope was sealed and the 200-page application was sent to Columbus Thursday, where representatives from historic preservation organization Heritage Ohio will decide if Medina will become a participant in the Main Street Ohio program.

Until Main Street participants are notified of their selection the week of Nov. 13 and the official announcement is made the first week of December during a ceremony, the only thing Medina can do is wait.

Since June, business owners, city officials and residents calling themselves the Uptown Medina Initiative have been working to raise funds, create publicity and install programs that would make the city ready for the template for business revitalization that Main Street would bring.

Main Street Ohio has assisted 37 communities since 2000, including Wooster, Elyria and Lakewood, in revitalizing their central business districts.

“Main Street is a national program for downtown revitalization,” said Heritage Ohio’s Executive Director Joyce Barrett. “It’s a grassroots program, which means it’s a community that takes revitalization, which means it’s not a city program — it’s not something you take consultants for.”

It’s a competitive process, Barrett said. Eight communities are applying this year and the organization has generally accepted three to four cities in past years.

But the communities are not pitted against each other.

“Competitiveness is based on readiness to succeed,” said Barrett.

“My personal opinion is the chance is very good that we will be selected as one of the Main Street cities in Ohio,” said Edmund Wright, a member of the initiative’s ad hoc board and owner of Miss Molly’s Tea Room.

Wright said he met with Heritage Ohio officials last month.

“At that point in time, they were encouraging us to push forward as hard as we could,” he said. “They said it was very likely. They couldn’t guarantee it, but they said it was” likely.

Thus, the initiative has been pushing forward.

“The main piece is having enough funding,” said Greg Hannan, Medina’s planning director. “We currently have about 85 percent funding for the first three years.”

Main Street Ohio requires the city, businesses and community to participate in funding the program.

Mayor Jane Leaver said the success of the program will be determined by the cooperation of various groups throughout the community. Everyone in the community and business owners “need to have a vested interest in the outcome,” she said.

“We’ve had a strong funding response from the community,” Hannan said.

Another duty the initiative must take on as the final decision nears is naming a permanent board. Currently, the ad hoc board is made up of business and government leaders from throughout the city. The new board would follow the program as it matures and would be made up of community leaders.

Main Street Ohio dictates the permanent board has 13 members representing the following areas:

– two retail merchants from the uptown historic district — Wright and Angie Nandor, owner of Eastwood Furniture;

– one nonretail merchant from the uptown district;

– one representative from the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce;

– one representative from the Community Design Committee — Roger Smalley;

– one county administrator, such as one of the commissioners;

– one member appointed by the mayor from the planning or economic development departments;

– one member from the Medina County Convention and Visitors Bureau;

Once the eight preceding core members are named and meet, they will select the final five members: one city resident, two property owners from uptown district, a sponsor committed to $1,000 of funding per year, and one nondistrict business representative.

When this board is assembled and if members are accepted, they would have the task of hiring one full-time, paid director who would guide the program.

“We have to find, I think, a very unique person to fill this position,” Wright said. “They have to be almost a natural-born leader that can pull people together.”

Hannan said the group will advertise to fill the director position after they find out if Medina is chosen as a Main Street city. He explained they could have the position filled as early as February.

“If for some reason we were not chosen as a Main Street community, we would still implement this process and maybe apply again next year,” Hannan said.

MBA program
It’s now a national trend, said Bob Krampf, director of Kent State University’s master of business administration program, for schools to come to students, instead of students going to them.

Now, Kent State University will be coming to Medina County through its satellite MBA program offered at WRH Health System.

“Basically, most of the regional campuses are not in growth areas and going back to them is not a good idea,” Krampf said. “We were looking at growth areas in the rest of Ohio and we understood that Medina County was the second-fastest-growing county in all of Ohio.”

This has been a long-term effort in Wadsworth, Mayor Jim Renacci said. “For the last four years, my administration has been contacting numerous colleges to try and see if there was an interest in locating within the community and we finally had the opportunity to talk with Kent State,” he said.

Kent will offer a $32,000, 19-month MBA program to area professionals who have at least five years of work experience.

“It’s not a traditional program. It’s a program that includes a number of extras,” Krampf said, noting the program will include food at breaks, textbooks and an international trip.

He explained the program will be identical to the MBA program that has been offered at the main Kent campus for 30 years.

“This will mean good things for the city,” Renacci said. “I think it’s a starting point. One of my goals was to have a facility for higher education in Wadsworth. With this opportunity, if it will work out, then we can entice Kent to locate a branch here or even another college to locate here,” he said.

Krampf said if the program in Wadsworth receives enough response, the university would consider doing it again in the area.

In order to drum up response for this year’s program, an informational session will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. Contact Joan Janosko at 330-672-3622 for details and to reserve a place.

Country Baker
For five years, stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur Christine Gilbert has been baking cakes out of her home for her business, the Country Baker. But she soon will have some extra space in her kitchen when she moves her business to Public Square in Medina.

“It’s just time to expand,” she said. “It’s just time.”

The Country Baker will be open for limited hours at 103 W. Liberty St. inside Cool Beans on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The business will be open for full hours after its grand opening on Nov. 17 during the Candlelight Walk.

Gilbert approached her friends and Cool Beans owners Tanya Dorman and Ellen Chaney earlier this year with the idea of moving inside their business.

“I wanted to (expand) in a conservative way and not get in over my head financially,” she said.

Her friends “loved the idea,” she said, and they welcomed her to their business.

It wasn’t too hard, Gilbert said, to incorporate her business within the coffee shop and restaurant. She will be moving around the food line slightly, adding refrigeration cases and baker cases, and “we should be good to go,” she said.

Gilbert, whose business is mainly creating cakes for weddings and treats for other large gatherings, will be conducting many of her consultations with customers inside Cool Beans.

But Cool Beans patrons also will be able to taste some of Gilbert’s sweet treats. While she will not be selling single servings through the Country Baker, she will sell cakes to Cool Beans, which will then sell them by the slice.