I-480

Drivers stream onto East Aurora and Darrow roads from Exits 36 and 37 every day as the highway pumps business into the region and attracts renters and homebuyers to the once far-flung community. Prior to the construction of I-480, commuters had a much longer drive to and from the area. To negate or offset the cost, some would carpool and others would catch the trains to and from Twinsburg, destined for Cleveland and stops along the way.

But Chrysler was an economic juggernaut, attracting new residents and bringing an influx of tax-based income to the region. The introduction of the highway in the 1960s made the three communities more accessible and appealing. Originally known as I-80 before becoming part of I-480 in the 1970s, it opened a world of opportunities for builders and buyers, businesses and customers.

When interviewed for the Plain Dealer about the marketability of Heritage Hills, a housing development then under construction, noted developer and philanthropist Bert Wolstein said, “When finished . . . it should put the community just 19 minutes from downtown Cleveland as well as putting it on a direct route to Columbus, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Chicago ‘without stopping for a red light.’”

The Twinsburg Banking Company

It was almost an entire century after its inception before Twinsburg had its first bank. In 1911, E. O. Cristy made it widely known that he intended to open a bank, but few took his claim seriously. Sadly, he was not able to see his dream realized, as the bank he had worked to create opened a few months after his death. Cristy’s grit and determination paid off posthumously when the Twinsburg Banking Company finally opened on November 11, 1912, with C. E. Riley acting as president. The first customer was A. J. Brown, who stood patiently at the front door awaiting the initial opening of the bank in hopes he would have the honor of opening the first account for his grandson, J. C. Leland Brown.

The early years were difficult for Twinsburg’s fledgling bank. Sparse growth was a major concern. Adding to the instability of the bank, cashiers came and went at an accelerated pace. By the beginning of 1931, it was uncertain how much longer the Banking Company could remain in operation if business didn’t improve considerably. In March of that year a young banker named Lester W. Roxbury was hired as cashier. The hiring of Mr. Roxbury proved to be the elixir the ailing bank desperately needed. The young firebrand fearlessly forged a brave new path for the financial institution. No task was too small or great for Mr. Roxbury to perform if it would save the bank a dollar or add a dollar to its coffers. In just four years, under the helm of Roxbury, the bank’s resources grew from $241,000 to $350,000.

Growth and prosperity continued, and in early 1946 the Twinsburg Banking Company, which by this time had been dubbed “the biggest little bank in Ohio,” broke ground for construction of a large addition and a complete remodeling of their building. Resources had to climbed to the once inconceivable sum of $3,596,000. By the late 1950s the bank outgrew its original structure and a more modern building was constructed, featuring fourteen teller windows, a new safe-deposit vault, an employee lounge, and air conditioning.

Prosperity is not eternal, however, especially for the little man, or in this case the little bank. The rise of corporate banks rendered small banks such as the Twinsburg Banking Company nearly obsolete. On December 31, 1984, the Twinsburg Banking Company merged with First Merit Bank of Akron, signaling the end of little banks in Twinsburg.

Cleveland Clinic

At a cost of $71 million, the Cleveland Clinic opened the 190,000-square-foot Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center in June of 2011. Located off Darrow Road, just a short jaunt from I-480, the glistening new edifice brought the Cleveland Clinic, employer of the masses, to the people of Twinsburg. The Clinic, known to employ more workers than any other entity in the state, was slated to bring approximately three hundred jobs to the area when the new campus opened.

The facility was originally scheduled to open in late 2009, but progress was delayed due to “economic pressure,” according to a May 2009 Plain Dealer article. Environmental concerns were also taken into account with regard to the wetlands on which the campus was built. The same article stated, “The Clinic had requested to fill more than three acres of wetlands and 4,300 feet of streams, including some rare cold water streams and high-quality wetland. Under its revised plan, construction will not directly impact high-quality wetlands and streams, according to the EPA.”

Twinsburg Township

The Township’s story began in 1817, a mere blink of the eye after the arrival of Ohio’s first settlers. Ethan Alling, then a young man of sixteen, came to Ohio to survey family-owned land in what was then known as Millsville. Though he held countless positions in and around town over the years and his contributions to the area are indisputable, it was the Wilcox twins, Moses and Aaron, who would eventually bestow upon Twinsburg its current moniker. Arriving six years later, these young entrepreneurs purchased an expansive swath of land and began selling off parcels, contributed to the creation of a school, and eventually donated a small plot of land for the creation of a town square.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from this point: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family-owned businesses, farms, schoolhouses, and churches sprang up within view of the square. The streets lining the square were always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s appeared, providing big-city amenities with the comfort of small-town familiarity.

Significant growth didn’t arrive until the twentieth century. Farm and field began to give way to housing developments and commerce. Countless farms, once a familiar sight along the daily commute, began blinking out of existence. The way of life was evolving and many took note. Little could be done, however, and the transitions took place unimpeded.

During the 1920s, a man named Charles Brady saw a need to give African Americans an opportunity to purchase land in the area to form a community of their own. The newly purchased homesteads, known as Brady Homes, formed the foundation of what would become Twinsburg Heights, a tightly knit community in close proximity to the eventual site of the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler would play a significant role in the area’s evolution. The formation of Twinsburg Village in 1955, separate from the Township, was sought as a means of collecting the taxes generated by the new plant, something an unincorporated township would be incapable of pursuing. So it was with that nudge that one became two, and Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township went their separate ways; Reminderville would follow suit almost immediately.

Something strange happened following the creation of these three communities, though: talks were held and attempts were made to recombine them, some as early as the 1960s. Former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop outlined some of the discussion: “There were three [major] attempts, one in the ‘80s and two in the ‘90s, to merge the township and the city. The first two attempts were voted for by city residents but voted down by township residents. The third attempt in 1999 was finally voted for by the township residents but voted down by city residents.” Following this last attempt, the Township attempted to forge its own way, negating any future potential for reconciliation. By establishing the Joint Economic Development District with Reminderville, Twinsburg Township increased its economic stability and lessened the likelihood of future annexation talks with Twinsburg.

According to documentation supplied by Twinsburg Township,

The Twinsburg Township-Village of Reminderville Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is a separate political subdivision, established in 2002 . . . per a contract between the Township and Village. The JEDD levies a 1.5% tax on employee wages and business net profits in the JEDD area, which includes all land in the Township’s industrial district. The JEDD’s primary purpose, as stipulated in the JEDD Contract and as directed by the JEDD Board, is to promote jobs and economic development in the JEDD area. The JEDD Board takes this mission seriously and, in the years since establishment of the JEDD, has overseen significant investments in the JEDD area. JEDD area investments included reconstructing and adding sidewalks and decorative street lighting to all Township roads in the JEDD area, increasing police protection for JEDD area businesses, establishing a park in walkable distance to JEDD area businesses, enhancing public transit accessibility through the addition of METRO RTA bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area, and clearing snow from sidewalks and bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area during the winter season.

With the JEDD in place and community services secured for its residents, the Township has cleared the way for a bright and independent future. The Township began its Recreation Center Program in 2008, granting its residents access to nearby recreation centers, and its police, fire, and EMS services are outsourced to Twinsburg. Through the decisions and directives firmly in place, Twinsburg Township has managed to merge the best of both city and country.

Twinsburg Township

The Township’s story began in 1817, a mere blink in of the eye from the arrival of Ohio’s first settlers. Ethan Alling, then a young man of sixteen, came to Ohio to survey family- owned land within what was then known as Millsville. Though he held countless positions in and around town over the years and his contributions to the area are without indisputable, having held countless positions in and around town, it would be the Wilcox twins, Moses and Aaron, who would eventually bestow upon the Twinsburg its current moniker. Arriving six years later, these young entrepreneurs purchased an expansive swath of land and began selling off parcels off, contributed to the creation of a school, and eventually donated a small plot of land for the creation of a town square.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the this point: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family-owned businesses, farms, school houses, and churches sprang up within view of the square. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s appeared, providing locals with some of big-city amenities, with the comforts of small- town familiarity.

Significant growth  didn’t arrive until the twentieth century. Farm and field began to give way to housing developments and commerce. Countless farms, once a familiar sight along the daily commute, began blinking out of existence. The way of life was evolving and many took note. Little could be done, however, and the transitions took place unimpeded.

During the 1920s, a man named Charles Brady saw to give African- Americans an opportunity to purchase land to form a community of their own. The newly purchased homesteads, known as Brady Homes, formed the foundation of what would become Twinsburg Heights, a tightly knit community in close proximity to the eventual site of the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler would play a significant role in the area’s evolution. The formation of Twinsburg Village in 1955, separate from the Township, was sought as a means of collecting the taxes generated by the new plant, something an unincorporated township would be incapable of pursuing. So it was with that nudge that one became two, and Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township went their separate ways; Reminderville would follow suit almost immediately.

Something strange happened following the creation of these three communities, though, talks were held and attempts were made to recombine them, some as early as the 1960s. Former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop outlined some of the discussion:, “There were three [major] attempts, one in the ’80s and two in the ’90s, to merge the township and the city. The first two attempts were voted for by city residents but voted down by township residents. The third attempt in 1999 was finally voted for by the township residents but voted down by city residents.” Following this last attempt, the Township attempted to forge its own way, negating any future potential for reconciliation. By establishing the Joint Economic Development District with Reminderville, Twinsburg Township increased its economic stability and lessened the likelihood of future annexation talks with Twinsburg.

According to documentation supplied by Twinsburg Township,

“The Twinsburg Township-Village of Reminderville Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is a separate political subdivision, established in 2002, per a contract between the Township and Village. The JEDD levies a 1.5% tax on employee wages and business net profits in the JEDD area, which includes all land in the Township’s industrial district. The JEDD’s primary purpose, as stipulated in the JEDD Contract and as directed by the JEDD Board, is to promote jobs and economic development in the JEDD area. The JEDD Board takes this mission seriously and, in the years since establishment of the JEDD, has overseen significant investments in the JEDD area. JEDD area investments included reconstructing and adding sidewalks and decorative street lighting to all Township roads in the JEDD area, increasing police protection for JEDD area businesses, establishing a park in walkable distance to JEDD area businesses, enhancing public transit accessibility through the addition of METRO RTA bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area, and clearing snow from sidewalks and bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area during the winter season.”

With the JEDD in place and community services secured for its residents, the Township has cleared the way for a bright and independent future. The Township began its Recreation Center Program in 2008,  granting its residents access to nearby recreation centers. With police protection from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and fire and EMS services through the City of Twinsburg,  Twinsburg Township has managed to merge the best of both city and county.

Creation of Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce

No organization binds the three communities and their businesses together more than the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 1921 with a mere dozen members, the organization has steadily grown and now boasts over 260, according to Abby Fechter, executive director of the Chamber. There are approximately four hundred businesses in Twinsburg, the Township, and Reminderville, with over half belonging to the Chamber of Commerce (there are more than 260 active members as of 2018). Though the main focus is on businesses located in the three communities and on drawing new industry to those areas, the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce also serves businesses in neighboring cities such as Shaker Heights and Hudson.

The Chamber’s mission is “to promote the interests of its members, strengthen the local economy and advance educational, tourism and community development programs that contribute to making the Greater Twinsburg area a better place to work, visit and live.” Educational programming is determined by the member’s needs and wants. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, members asked for and received a program on how the new plan would affect their business and their employees. Programming is tailored toward different types of businesses to assure every company is accommodated.

Visual Marking Systems (VMS)

Visual Marking Systems (VMS) has been a vibrant mainstay in Northeast Ohio for over fifty years. Initially it was a small printing company known as VM Corporation, tucked snugly away in North Royalton, but that changed in 1982 when the recently retired electronic engineer, Herman Kahle decided to purchase the company. Kahle renamed it VM Decal Co. Four years later he again renamed it–Visual Marking Systems, Inc., relocated it to Twinsburg, and “created a visionary market niche that placed the company on a steady growth path for 20-plus years.”

From the outset of Kahle’s reign: “VMS strived to be on the leading edge in technology by acquiring the most modern equipment in their industry, and emphasizing the best in customer service.” In 2005 Kahle retired for good, handing over the reins of the company to his progeny, Dolf Kahle (who been appointed President in 1992). The company is currently one of the leaders in the  customized digital, screen and large format commercial printing industry.

 

Troyer’s Restaurant

Run by Ann and Roy Troyer, the sandwich shop was a popular hangout for area teens needing an escape. Where Tip Top was more of an adult spot, Troyer’s was geared toward a younger crowd. “The owners would let us play music and dance after hours,” Mildred Karabec recalled fondly. The menu offered standard diner fare, but it was Troyer’s sandwiches that will forever be etched in the minds and palates of its former customers. When he wasn’t satiating the appetites of hungry townsfolk, Roy honed his culinary skills as a cook at the Cleveland Browns’ training camp.

Roseberry’s Department Store

Twinsburg’s first department store.

Nestled between the Twinsburg Banking Company and Lawson’s stood Twinsburg’s very own department store, Roseberry’s. The shops surrounding Public Square were owned by a veritable who’s who of area families. Staking a claim there made complete sense for the up-and-coming business. The store originated within the confines of an old Gulf

The store originated within the confines of an old Gulf gas station near the intersection of Routes 91 and 14 that Stan Jewell owned and operated. It was October 1945, and Stan had just made it home from serving his country. Seeing an opportunity to use his mechanical skills and provide for his family, he moved quickly to establish a sound and successful family-owned business. One of the ways in which he provided services to the community was having his father-in-law, Wilmer Roseberry, open a small store within the station. Stan Jewell referred to the section of the gas station that would become Roseberry’s as the “Notion Nook.” It was just one room, as he described it, consisting primarily of women’s goods, like blouses and underwear. “It was the only place in town [to get such things].”

And shop they did! Business was doing well and a storefront vacancy between too older, more established businesses proved too titillating to pass on. Roseberry would take the essence of the Notion Nook and expand it into what many area residents remember so fondly. During its years of operation the store was a bastion of convenience for those in need of items not typically available in Twinsburg at the time. “The main floor,” according to Mildred Karabec, “had a little bit of everything and anything anyone requested . . . all kinds of personal items and household items.”

Mr. Roseberry was not only the owner of Twinsburg’s first department store, but the owner and publisher of the Twinsburg Bulletin.

The holiday season stood out for many as a particularly special time for shopping at Roseberry’s. Karabec worked there for two years, including one memorable holiday season. Asked to describe it, she spoke of how the basement was stocked with toys, but only accessible to children nearer the holidays. One of the notable things missing from the typical seasonal offerings of a larger department store was the jolly presence of St. Nick himself. According to Karabec, Roseberry’s was just too small to accommodate the girth and grandeur of a seasonal Santa.

Twinsburg Pharmacy

In 1956, James Richard Hill, Jack Vorhes, and another financial backer bought the store fronting Public Square that would become the Twinsburg Pharmacy. “It was a very old pharmacy at the time,” Dave Hill recalled of his father’s store. It was once the storefront for Twinsburg pharmacist Hugo Braunlich, and prior to that it was the A. E. Bishop General Store. Images of the various iterations show a similar scene: a small interior brimming with goods of all kinds.

Hugo Braunlich’s Pharmacy, which eventually became the Twinsburg Pharmacy while being run by the Hill family. Also pictured are Trejbal’s Bakery and Jewell’s Gulf Station.

Dave Hill, who worked there with his father, spoke about what it was like during the early years. “At that time, pharmacies were quite a bit different than they are today . . . they had an old soda fountain. It was like what you would expect in a 1920s pharmacy.” Although the pharmacy was, for a time, “the only game in town,” the business’s budget was tight, and income and expenses ran neck and neck. Dave said, “When they first started out, they were filling so few scripts, they couldn’t support two pharmacists.” His father would man the pharmacy during these lean times, and his partner, Jack, would work at another pharmacy he had business with.

The years ticked away and customer wants and needs changed with the times. By the early 1970s, the soda fountain was removed to make way for other things, like greeting cards. The Twinsburg Pharmacy stood in opposition to new stores eroding its market share. In 1984, the senior Hill suddenly fell ill and died during the summer. The mid-1980s saw the arrival of Revco, the first, but not the last, competition to arrive on the scene. By 1996, the writing was on the wall. The Twinsburg Pharmacy shuttered its doors, heralding the closing of yet another family-owned and -operated business and bringing to an end the years of personal attention and the friendly phone calls from loyal customers asking for emergency prescriptions and extended hours. In the end, it wasn’t necessarily competition from large chain stores that did the store in but an unwillingness by insurance companies to work with mom-and-pop stores, preferring to do business with the Walgreens and Drug Marts of the world.

Gaskins

Very few businesses have emerged in Twinsburg Heights through the years, but of the few that have existed Gaskins is the most beloved and fondly-remembered. It was a mom and pop store originally known as the Jones Store, as it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jones. The Jones’, who were famous for verbally sparring in front of the customers, sold their store to Mr. and Mrs. Gaskins, who proved to be much more welcoming owners. Mrs. Gaskins, in particular was known for her generosity and civic-mindedness. She was responsible for getting the first street lights installed in the Heights.

Carol Tate recalls visiting the store as a small child, placing a handful of buttons, she believed was money, atop the counter and in return a knowing and generous Mrs. Gaskins would give her some penny candy. The store stocked necessities such as nylons, produce, frozen meat, luncheon meat and the aforementioned candy. Sadly the store would see its demise due to the redevelopment of the Heights, as all the older buildings were demolished.

Louis “Babe” Triscaro

An otherworldly apparition is said to haunt the halls, and especially the basement, of the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce. Who . . . or what this eerie entity might be is open to speculation, though an edifice as old as this may offer any number of possibilities: a previous occupant with unfinished business, an enraged local business owner, or perhaps something more tragic.

The sizable structure sits atop a rather expansive basement, whose walls consist of large blocks of sandstone. There, beyond those walls, lies another room: an almost secret room accessible only through a roughly hewn hole in the stone. It is through this passage that runaway slaves were rumored to have found refuge. Might the specter that stays there be a remnant of this tragic tale? How sad to think that those who suffered in life may continue to do so beyond it.

Tip Top Restaurant

Leo Wagner was the owner of the Tip Top, a little restaurant once nestled between Richner Hardware and Roseberry’s. Mildred Karabec began working for Wagner in her teens, when she was still too young to work out front, and was later being promoted to waitress. “There was a restaurant up there . . . it was called The Tip Top,” she recalled. “It was one of the nicer restaurants in Twinsburg for a few years . . . good food . . . Steak, chicken, anything, pork chops, or sandwiches on lunch.”

Some of Twinsburg favorite stores in the 1950s.

 

Twinsburg, City of

The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.

With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.

The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.

 

Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc. was founded by brothers, Hershey and Bernie Lerner in a one car-garage in Queens, New York in 1962. Soon after its founding, the company was moved to Bedford, Ohio and a mere five years after its conception relocated to Twinsburg. The headquarters and plant were located at 8400 Darrow Road for many years, comprised of ten acres and employing in excess of five hundred people.

The company famously developed the idea of “bags-on-a-roll.” They saw that polyethylene bags, a new product at the time, were difficult to open and load product into. They solved the problem by perforating one side of the bag and leaving the other side open. The bags were then rolled onto a cardboard cylinder. This innovation spread to supermarkets across the nation, saving many a shopper endless headaches.

Chrysler Stamping Plant Opens, 1957

Chrysler had long sought a spot in Northeast Ohio to build a stamping plant. Brooklyn, Copley, and Macedonia had been front-runners for the plant at one time or another, but Twinsburg was projected as the most profitable. The site previously considered the favorite in Macedonia turned out to be quite problematic; the soil conditions were considered unstable and not fit for construction of a massive stamping plant. In November of 1955, it was decided Chrysler would build a two hundred-acre plant in Twinsburg at an estimated cost of $85 million dollars. The plant was built on land purchased from the family of future Twinsburg mayor, James Karabec.

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

According to an article appearing in the Plain Dealer on February 17, 1957, nineteen Ohio cities and thirty firms shared in building the Chrysler plant, accounting for the bulk of materials used. Thousands of workers across the state contributed to the plant’s construction with contracts awarded to companies ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars. Three orchards and four houses came down to let bulldozers dig the plant foundation. Bedrock was fourteen feet below ground, close enough to brace presses that would reach 600 tons in weight with a stamping force of 1,800 tons.

This massive structure was located on Township soil, but the recently seceded city of Twinsburg annexed the land and property. The greatest catalyst for growth within the City of Twinsburg was the arrival of Chrysler. “The city built up because of Chrysler…that economic impact and the freeway 480 coming through here is what drove Twinsburg to develop. It provided jobs. It provided economic income for the city,” according to Mayor Procop. The opening of the stamping plant was cause for celebration. Nearly 1,000 of the 3,600 Twinsburg inhabitants braved blustery, winter weather to greet the great new employer of the masses at their groundbreaking ceremony.

Chrysler was the employer and generator of tax revenue for Twinsburg, at one point accounting for 75 percent of tax revenue. At its peak it employed around five thousand people (more than the population of Twinsburg when Chrysler first arrived). The plant employed people from as far away as Pennsylvania and Michigan. Glenwood Acres, a neighborhood comprised of 431 affordable houses, was constructed to house the influx of new arrivals to the area.

Over the course of the plant’s fifty-three year history there were numerous alterations in the methods of automotive assembly. As described by long-time employee Dale Franks, the plant in the mid-1980s was “rough…smoky, dirty, nasty.” By the time he left in 2006 it was “very clean”. When the plant was first built most of the labor was manual. Little-by-little robots became commonplace. The first A.I. employee was a small welding robot. After the introduction of the first robot there was more automation every year and less employees. “They [the robots] did displace people on the lines,” said Randy Addison, a thirty-eight year employee at the plant. “When I was there, door line would take eighty people. When I retired door line would take eight people.” Addison and many other employees were sent to Detroit to take classes on how robots worked.

The plant’s production was thoroughly concentrated on constructing car doors. For the vast majority of the plant’s lifespan production was phenomenal, as was the interpersonal relationships between employees. Dale Franks has described his former fellow Chrysler workmates as “family.” But all was not rosy at the stamping plant. Excruciatingly long hours (often eighty hour weeks and very few days off) lead to employee discontent.

There were a number of shootings and drug busts at the plant through the years, but possibly the most heinous act occurred in 1967 when a wooden cross was burned at the union hall. A lynch rope and a KKK sign also appeared in the plant. Racial tensions were running high amid concerns about poverty and problems in Twinsburg Heights, which was adjacent to the plant.

Strikes at the Twinsburg stamping plant and in Michigan greatly affected employees across the country. A strike at one plant would ripple through the company, causing layoffs at various other plants as production slowed. In November of 1983, 3200 United Auto Workers Local 122 members employed at the Twinsburg plant went on strike for a mere five days. The effect of the strike was widespread and considerable costly—half dozen assembly plants closed and twenty thousand workers were cut loose. Losses for the automotive superpower were estimated at $75 million. In 1967 a strike at Chrysler Auto Plants in Michigan “forced” the corporation to lay off five hundred Local 122 employees.

On the brighter side, if not for Chrysler Kent State University (KSU) would not have a presence in Twinsburg that it has today. In 1991, KSU opened a training center at the plant, to offer classes in business management, industrial trades, computers, quality certification and general education.

It was the largest stamping plant for any automotive corporation in the world, right up to the time of its demise. Talks of closing Chrysler plants were rampant in early 2009, even though Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. An announcement was made that no more plants would be permanently closed. It looked as if the Twinsburg plant was safe. Instead Chrysler broke their promise, closing five more plants, including Twinsburg, on the same day their empty promise had been made. Union employees, state legislators, and local government officials were caught off-guard by the abrupt decision to shut down the plant.

President Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection on Thursday so it could pursue a life saving alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, in yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government. Flanked by his automobile task force of cabinet secretaries and business advisers in the White House’s grand entranceway, Mr. Obama announced a plan that would allow the United Automobile Workers, through their retirement plan, to take control of Chrysler, with Fiat and the United States as junior partners. The government would lend about $8 billion more to the company, on top of the $4 billion it had already provided,” according to a New York Times article published on April 30, 2009. It seems the federal government saw fit to bail out a billion dollar corporation, but not the city of Twinsburg.

 

Mayor Katherine Procop mentioned the company’s chief executive and several administration officials talked about bright futures for Chrysler cities, during conference calls the week prior to the permanent closings. “I feel so disheartened because I had been meeting with the UAW and with the management of the plant” discussing Twinsburgs future, Procop said, “To find out that we were on the chopping block from the very beginning, that goes beyond disbelief”. In fact, she was not even alerted by Chrysler brass about their decision to close, instead an early morning call from an AP reporter informed her of the decision.

There was a great fear the closed Chrysler plant would remain vacant for a substantial duration of time, creating an eyesore and continue to detrimentally affect the local economy; however in July 2011, the Plain Dealer reported two companies, “The DiGeronimo Cos. of Independence and Scannell Properties, based in Indianapolis, purchased the automotive complex for an undisclosed price.” Plans were set from the new owners to tear down sixty-five percent of the 2.2 million square foot plant.

The hard work of Mayors Karabec and Procop assured that Twinsburg’s financial loss would not be nearly as devastating as it could have been. Long before the plant’s closure, Karabec realized no city should so heavily rely on income from one company as Twinsburg had, for far too many years. He used tax abatement to bring additional industry to the area. Mayor Procop worked tirelessly to pass Issue 32 that would increase city income taxes a quarter percent for four years to offset the losses in tax revenue felt by the loss of Chrysler. It did pass, tax revenue loss was nullified, and city income tax was reset at its previous mark, two percent. An article that appeared in the July 18, 2010 edition of the Plain Dealer aptly describes how Twinsburg offset the plant closure: “The Twinsburg that Chrysler leaves behind used the automaker as a springboard to build an industrial corridor that includes Goodrich, Rockwell Automation and GE Energy plants. Along with those came medical, communications and technology businesses. Edgepark Surgical, a seven hundred-employee supplier of home health equipment, this summer eclipsed the waning Chrysler in writing the most paychecks in town.”

Forest City Erectors, Inc.

In the winter of 1958 Jim Mirgliotta, an ironworker at the time, was working on a high-level bridge that connects Cuyahoga Falls to Akron, when the improperly installed falsework holding up part of the arch behind him became unhinged, causing the structure to nearly collapse. This sort of occurrence was commonplace in the era before OSHAA regulated the construction business. Danger lurked at every corner, often with little guarantee of a steady paycheck.

Mr. Mirgliotta, who was stranded 180 feet in the air at the time of the collapse without any safety apparatus to impede his fall, miraculously suffered no injuries.  Following this near-death experience and tired of dealing with the instability and danger that comprise the life of an ironworker, Mirgliotta decided to start a company. So in 1959 with the help and advice of a good friend, he started Park Iron Erectors.

Just a short time later, in 1961, Mr. Mirgliotta and his wife Betty were able to purchase fifty percent of a struggling Cleveland-based steel erector company, Forest City Erectors. Prior to their purchase the business was a “sad affair” (Mirgliotta, 00:33:38). After buying out his partner in 1970, Jim sold fifty-one percent of Forest City Erectors to his wife Betty, thus qualifying it as a Woman owned, Female Business Enterprise (FBE). In 1980 the business was relocated to its current home in Twinsburg’s Industrial Park. A move that made great sense for the Mirgliotta’s who were among the first residents of Glenwood Acres when it opened in the 1950s.

Under the dual helm ship of Jim and Betty Mirgliotta the business prospered and is now one of the largest full service structural steel & construction material erection providers in the state of Ohio. They have been involved in the building and renovation of such Cleveland-area landmarks as First Energy Stadium, Cleveland Clinic, Medical Mart, and Cuyahoga County Hilton Hotel.

Twinsburg Banking Company

Twinsburg’s first bank opened on November 11, 1912. On that morning its first president arrived to find a leading citizen, A.J. Brown, waiting for him so he could have the honor of opening the first account at the bank for his grandson. J.C. Leland Brown. His account was still active when the Twinsburg Banking Company published the story of their first 50 years in 1962.

Twinsburg Banking Booklet Celebrating their 50th Anniversary from 1912-1962

Babka’s

One of the most beloved and fondly remembered Twinsburg businesses is Babka’s Tavern. It was the place to go after meetings (be it city council or planning commission), softball games and just about any other event in town. Babka’s was the most popular watering hole in the three communities and was renowned for its flavorful hamburgers (many a towns-person referred to it as the best burger they ever tasted).  It was also home for the defunct local chapter of the American Legion.

According to Dusty Trimmer: “It was a Cheers bar, everybody knew everybody.” No one was a stranger or made to feel unwelcome. There was also at least one famous visitor to the bar in the 1970’s: Billy Martin, who was in town for a speaking engagement, paid a visit to Babka’s with Franklin Hoon. As was the custom for Mr. Martin he downed a vast quantity of alcoholic beverages that evening.

The beloved bar’s last evening of operation on August 5, 2000 was festive fraternization for the regulars of Babka’s. Sheridan Morgan, owner of the Brass Horn, stopped in to buy a round for every customer. So much alcohol was purchased and consumed the bar actually ran out of  intoxicants, prompting a number of patrons to purchase 12-packs and cases of beer from nearby stores to keep the festivities from prematurely ending. One prominent member of the community even rode his motorcycle up the front steps, through the bar and then out the fire escape.

Richner Hardware

Few men or women can boast a lifetime as long as that of the locally owned Richner Hardware. For most of the twentieth century, the little store stood as a brick-andmortar reminder that quaint towns could hold on to remnants of their past, even when facing competition from larger competitors. Richner’s was a fixture of Twinsburg: a place where you could rest assured you’d run into someone you knew.

Opened in 1919 by Charles Richner and his sons Edward and George, the small hardware store occupied a rather ordinary two-tone building, once the storefront for the Crouse Tin Shop. The store kept long hours, operating from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. all week. The old storefront received a facelift in the 1940s, with a red brick facade visible in photos and postcards of the era. The business proved a success and eventually found company in Lawson’s Ice Cream and Roseberry’s Department Store, both just east of the hardware store.

Courtesy of the Twinsburg Historical Society

Courtesy of the Twinsburg Historical Society

Eventually outgrowing its original location near the corner of Darrow and Ravenna roads, the store was replaced by a new structure in 1962. Decade after decade passed and the store changed hands within the family. Time would eventually necessitate the construction of a third building, but all things come to an end and Richner Hardware proved no match for the movement of time. Closing their doors after 95 ty-five years of family-owned and -operated service, Richner’s succumbed to competition from big-box stores and the diversity of goods for sale at nearly every grocer. When interviewed as part of the bicentennial celebrations, dozens of individuals recalled stories and memories of the little hardware store.