WADSWORTH, Ohio – Wadsworth, once the game capital of the world, continues to lead the way in creating a vibrant and growing community, with everything from a thriving downtown retail scene to events family events such as the annual Blue Tip Festival.
“For me, it’s postcard America,” said Daneen Kreuzer, who with her husband Dave just opened Uniquely Handmade for You, which showcases the work of more than 100 artisans under one roof. .
How many other towns have a 14-foot-tall Verdin clock that chimes and plays music? Or Gazebo Island, a landscaped oasis with fountains and benches where the carts traveled?
They even have the Blue Sky drive-in theater two miles from downtown.
Murals that celebrate Wadsworth’s history adorn the sides of the buildings, featuring everything from ordinary citizens to town astronauts to Laura Spelman, abolitionist and wife of tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Spelman College, the black women’s institution her family supported, is named after her.
Like any place, the city, founded in 1814, has had its ups and downs.
It was home to the Ohio Match Co., started in 1895. It became the largest matchmaker in the world, rolling out 300 million stick and pound matches a day from its 18-acre factory. It closed in 1987.
The Blue Tip Festival, which brings its parade and carnival with rides, food, and nightly entertainment June 21-25, continues to honor that legacy.
Other events include the First Friday Entertainment and Scare in the Square in October, with around 350 people recreating the dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
A farmer’s market runs from June 11 to September 24.
Residents and contractors also keep the torch burning.
Wadsworth town center is “bustling”, said Adrianne Patrick, executive director of Main Street Wadsworth, which provides support for businesses and other activities in the town centre.
“It wasn’t always like this.”
There are only two vacant first-floor spaces in the four-block downtown area, Patrick noted, and the “coming soon” signs show the eagerness with which available spots are being filled.
No downtown businesses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick said. Six opened.
The area has 60 historic buildings.
Ironically, the match capital has never suffered a major downtown fire, Patrick noted, unlike many other communities, including the nearby Medina to the north.
Not content to stand still, the town of Wadsworth recently hired Matthew Springer as a full-time director of economic development.
Springer pointed out that Wadsworth is the fastest growing city in Medina County and the third fastest growing in northeast Ohio.
One of a kind
Daneen Kreuzer recently participated in this growth.
When she decided to start her own business, Wadsworth was the natural choice.
“I wanted a small, quaint little town,” Kreuzer said.
His enthusiasm is matched only by his clientele. On the first day, June 1, it had to open an hour earlier to let in the people who were queuing outside.
The Kreuzers have assembled their own mini-town center with their array of artists from Wadsworth and northeast Ohio.
Items range from Colorful Creations clocks, license plates and other printed items by Girard Moravick to Northcoast Armor & Jewelry chain mail by Sandra Dadles to steam punk lamps by Ron Thorpe.
Ronald Tomsach makes wooden hats autographed by Toby Keith. Wreaths of colorful pine cones are fashioned by Lisa Nussbaum, a quadriplegic who has enough use of her hands to be able to paint.
Another recent addition to downtown Wadsworth is Rhonda Abbott, owner of the Opal Dragonfly boutique. She moved to her current location, a former hardware store, a year ago, offering clothing and accessories on consignment from 15 local vendors.
“I’m crazy about old buildings,” she explained of her choice of storefront. The hardware store owner stopped by and said he was glad she left the wooden floors, tin ceiling, and even the coal chute.
Abbott also provides space for classes, from ceramics to blanket knitting to cookie decorating.
Peggy Hegbar, who sells her hand-painted greeting cards at the shop, teaches watercolor lessons there. She also teaches Zentangle, which she describes as “yoga for the mind” by drawing repeating patterns.
Abbott has been so successful that it will expand into nearby space and introduce a mini farmers market. Her husband opens a game store downtown.
She is active in the Wadsworth Merchants Coalition.
“We have to work together so that we all do better,” Abbott said.
With all that shopping, visitors will be hungry and thirsty, and Wadsworth town center offers plenty of options to eat and drink.
One of the oldest is Ann’s Pastry Shop, which opened in 1959. It’s famous for its cream donuts, which earned online praise from Cleveland Cavalier Larry Nance Jr.
The old Strand cinema, with its marquee still intact, is now occupied by the Dolce ice cream and ice cream shop. In addition to sweet treats, guests can take free selfies or play pétanque or cornhole on the terrace.
Sonnets Restaurant and Whiskey Bar features “live coffee, hot music and loud food,” featuring approximately 170 types of whiskey, Cajun cuisine, and a stage for live entertainment.
Several other downtown venues also have live stages, including Blue Tip BBQ and The Sub Shop, reflecting a vibrant regional music scene.
Springer plans to transform a rear parking lot into another outdoor performance space, surrounded by music-themed murals.
An anchor of the community’s cultural life is Wadsworth Music, which provides instruments for professional musicians and rentals for students, as well as music lessons.
Steve Baisden, floor manager at the store owned by John and Sue O’Leary, said before the pandemic hit they had 470 students under the guidance of 13 teachers. They are slowly rebuilding their numbers, he said.
Wadsworth Music staff demonstrates the will to go further. When the store was unable to obtain fully assembled guitars due to supply delays, Baisden took the parts and assembled them himself.
It’s this community spirit that attracted Patrick to the Main Street Wadsworth job five years ago and keeps her so excited about her future.
“It’s the best of small town America,” Patrick said.
Information about events and businesses is available at www.mainstreetwadsworth.org.
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