Headline News

Jul 2012
Twenty-five Years of Change
Debra Lynn-Schmitz
 When I moved to Medina in 1981, I commuted to downtown Cleveland to work at Ohio Bell. There were times when I left for work that I wouldn’t see another car until I got to Strongsville. With the break-up of the Bell companies in 1984, I needed a new career. My husband and I tried to move to Florida but that only lasted a few months. During those months in Florida I worked for the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce selling memberships in the construction industry. That’s where I chose my new career with a Chamber of Commerce.
I started with the Medina Chamber on May 20, 1987 with a Business after Business at Berkley-Small, a company that manufactured newspaper dispensers and was located where Packaging Specialties is today. W. Eugene “Gene” Morris was the Executive, Barbara Morris and Karen Whitaker were the office staff. Karen just celebrated 30 years with the Chamber – Congratulations, Karen! The Chamber office was located further north on Court St. and shared the facilities with the Board of Realtors. I was an intern from the University of Akron finishing my Bachelor’s in Business and Organization Communication and worked 20 hours a week (for free) through that December.

In February 1988 the Chamber hired me to produce an image book about Medina. With the help of several Medina people including Judi Terrell Linden, Jeff Kehnle and Linda Conn Amstutz we printed and distributed a Medina image book, Ready for Tomorrow, Today. Then, in October, 1988 I became a full-time employee. I had several different titles but I managed events, communications, committees and programs. We ran the Oktoberfest at the Fairgrounds, managed the Candlelight Walk and a variety of one-time and short-lived events.

The community was fairly small compared to today. I know I’m going to get some of these wrong and I apologize in advance. The population was about 16,000 in the City (today it is around 27,000). There were about 250 members in the Chamber. There weren’t many places to shop. Of course Root Candles was here but with a much smaller retail area.

The Square had been restored in the 70’s. Norman’s was located where the empty Grand Market is today on the Square. Whitey’s Army Navy, Gramercy Gallery, Medina Hardware, Zieglers were there. Banc One and Marco, Marco and Bailey, Bix’s, Smuckers Insurance, Old Phoenix Bank, High’s Office Supplies were well established. Buehler’s and K-Mart were here but K-Mart moved into its now closed, new location shortly after I started with the Chamber. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet Martha Stewart with the grand opening of the first Super K-Mart right here in Medina. There were a few different local restaurants and bars but not too many fast food places.

Medina Hospital was very small and there really wasn’t much between the Hospital and Interstate 71. Washington Courts and the Lutheran Church were there. Route 18 east was still farms and homes between I-71 and Summit County.

Reagan Parkway didn’t exist and there wasn’t much past the Medina Shopping Center going north. Going south there were mostly homes and the Stop-n-Go was just going in but Michael’s Restaurant was popular.

Going west on 18 things haven’t changed all that much but Permold, an aluminum foundry, was still operating. The Career Center, Gazette, Liberty Inn and Kelly’s (where Corkscrew is now) were there.

Retail shopping was very limited. Ziegler’s was our “Department Store”, Medina Hardware, Drug Mart and a few other small women’s clothing shops were scattered around the Square and Medina Shopping Center.

The City was (as it has for about 75 years) discussing a by-pass. There is still a box of plans, meeting minutes and articles at the Chamber.

The Municipal Court was new, the “new” courthouse was there but there was a First Federal Bank on the southeast corner by the Library. The industrial area on the southwest side of town was thriving.

But growth was fast for Medina. Businesses started moving in quickly and it became easier to find items locally instead of heading towards Cleveland or Akron. As the population grew, the businesses came and as the businesses came, the population grew. I’m not sure the City was prepared for the demand. There was no comprehensive or strategic plan and we were trying to keep up with the growth without a vision. I don’t mean to be critical of any leadership then and I’m not sure we could have predicted the explosive growth.

I have served under 25 Chairman of the Board (or Presidents as we once called them), seven as communications, event, membership and assorted titles and eighteen as President. With fifteen Board members each year and as many as five changing each year that is about 100 leaders/bosses for me.

I have personally appreciated the changes over the years. Seeing Medina grow and thrive, watching as new businesses and residents came to appreciate what greater Medina has to offer. New schools, library, roads, homes and commercial development,  changes and improvements all contribute to what we know is a great place to live and work. I hope you look at Medina today and understand that the Chamber has been an active participant over the past 74 years. This is a great community and a wonderful place to call home. I am honored to have served the community for the past 25 years and look forward to continue for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your support of your Chamber and community. 
Posted by Susan Murawski on July 20, 2012 at 1:16 PM
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