November 2013 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013–2014: Gahanna
Gahanna provides a relaxing way of life just outside of Columbus.
Franklin County, 9 miles northeast of Columbus
12.58 square miles
The name Gahanna is derived from a Native American
word for three creeks merging into one: Big Walnut, Rocky Fork and
Growing up in Hilo, Hawaii, Ava Misseldine whiled away her free time
swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean. It was, she admits, the kind
of sheer bliss that would make anyone envious.
But Misseldine found her personal paradise in Gahanna after opening Koko Tea Salon & Bakery last year. (Koko is Hawaiian for “sweet.”) The
Mill Street emporium is filled with temptations ranging from
triple-berry lavender cupcakes to lemongrass macaroons. Each is served
with delectable brews sourced from her family’s tea company in Hilo.
Misseldine moved to the mainland in 2005, after receiving a full
scholarship from The Ohio State University to study chemical
engineering. Upon graduation, she began conducting research at a lab,
but the work was overwhelmingly stressful.
Inspired by memories of the happy times she spent as a child baking
breads and cakes with her grandmother on the Big Island, she decided to
follow what she considers her true calling.
“It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this beautiful town, from
the parks to the water to the people,” Misseldine says, while putting
the finishing touches on a batch of red velvet cupcakes, one of 120
flavors her shop carries. “I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else
And when she wants to get back to nature, all the outdoor enthusiast has
to do is step out the front door. She relishes her daily 2 1/2-mile
walk along Big Walnut Creek, which meanders through Creekside Park
located across the street from Koko. (Creekside is one of 49 public
green spaces totaling 775 acres that dot the Gahanna landscape.)
“It’s the ideal way to take a break and erase the cares of the day,” the baker enthuses.
In fact, Gahanna serves as an oasis of refreshment for body, mind and
spirit. L-Yoga Flow
offers Reiki and massage. Zodiac
, a funky shop known
for its gemstone jewelry is the place to get a glimpse of the future
through tarot card and palm readings. Ciao Vino Italian Kitchen
itself on creating authentic dishes based on recipes the owner’s former
in-laws brought with them from Foggia, Italy, in 1930.
Gahanna Mayor Rebecca Stinchcomb isn’t surprised that her town garners accolades from visitors and locals alike.
“Tourists are amazed that we’re only 10 minutes away from the urban
environment of downtown Columbus,” she says. “Once you visit, you’ll
know that Gahanna is truly a world unto itself.”
The city’s reputation as a destination was sparked in the early ’70s,
when resident Jane “Bunnie” Geroux was asked to lead a fundraising
campaign for the historical society. An avid herbalist, she planted a
goosefoot garden replete with lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, marjoram
and borage. Neighbors who loved plants began following suit. “Paris has
an image, London has an image,” the 89-year-old recalls. “My hope was
that Gahanna could eventually foster an image that would bring people
from all over the state here.”
In 1972, as word spread and tourists visited to purchase aromatic
seasonings, the Ohio legislature declared Gahanna to be the Herb Capital of Ohio.
Today, more than 500 residents proudly volunteer at fetes such as Herb
Day in May, the June Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival
, autumn’s Taste of Gahanna and the Winter Wonderland holiday lighting display.
Add the school system’s “excellent” rating, awarded by the Ohio
Department of Education in 2011–2012; and the success of Gahanna Residents in Need
— a faith-based initiative that manages a food bank
and offers help with utility payments — and it’s clear why people are
proud to call Gahanna home.
“We appreciate what we have,” Stinchcomb explains, “and we work hard to maintain it.”