Jim Carney

MEDINA: The town that bills itself as a slice of Americana showed itself off Monday.

As Governor John Kasich brought state government to Medina for his State of the State address, city boosters used the picturesque Public Square to tell the community’s story.

“This is a slice of Americana,” said Laura Parnell, owner of Cool Beans Café, as several state officials gathered for coffee before a tour of the historic square.

Matt Wiederhold, executive director of Main Street Medina, led the group of officials on a mini tour of some businesses on the square.

“We are very honored to be the first Ohio Main Street town to host an event like this,” said Wiederhold. “It is exciting for a smaller town to get some interest from the state rather than larger cities like Columbus or Cleveland.”

As the group began the tour, Wiederhold told the nine officials that the buildings on the square are brick for an important reason.

“Medina has an unfortunate history with fires,” he said of the city that will turn 200 in 2018. “Our town has burned down twice.”

The last time the city had to be rebuilt after a devastating fire in the late 1800s, the building code was changed to require brick construction.

Wiederhold’s message to state officials was “to stress the importance of local independent businesses and that mom and pop shops are really the backbone of economic development.”

This same small business thread extends to smaller manufacturing firms, he said, whose importance is sometimes lost to a focus on major manufacturers.

Small business owner Jim Thwaite, owner of Whitey’s Army and Navy store, shared the history of his store, which is up for sale because he intends to retire.

“The beauty of an Army Navy store is you can sell almost anything,” he said.

The store is 65 years old — the same age as its owner — and is still doing a good business, Thwaite said.

“We’ve competed with the big box stores and we’ve stood the test of time,” he said.

Andre Porter, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce who is a native of Alliance, said it is important for the governor and officials like himself to visit cities like Medina because “this is America. This is Ohio.”

He said Medina is representative of “what we see across the state. It is important for us to get out and visit with local businesses and to have them understand that we have focus and attention on their needs each and every day.”

Parnell, the coffee shop owner who moved to Medina from Detroit in 2000, said she understands why the governor picked Medina to deliver his speech.

“This town is fantastic,” she said. “It looks like it is out of a fairy tale. My intention was to be here two years and I’m still here 14 years later.”

Jim Carney can be reached at 330 996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.