November 2006 Issue
No matter what the challenge, citizens support each other.
If you spend any amount of time listening to business owners, community leaders and residents of Wooster, the community will begin to sound less like a town and more like a co-op. Talk of citizens coming together to help one another, rallying in the face of adversity and embracing life together is commonplace.
"Wooster is a community that will identify an issue, decide a plan of action, implement the plan, then continue to refine that plan and celebrate its success," says Sandra Hull, executive director of Main Street Wooster, Inc. She should know. Her organization, with much support from the community, turned a foundering downtown into the heart of the community. Through the organization's efforts, the vacancy of the downtown storefronts went from 42 percent in 1987 to less than five percent today.
The downtown businesses represent just a part of Wooster's commerce. Home to local, regional, national and international businesses, Wooster has grown beyond - but never forgotten - its agricultural roots. Family dairy farms exist within miles of a high-tech titanium-parts production facility.
Even when a business fails, the community of Wooster always manages to support its citizens. When Wooster's largest employer, Rubbermaid, shut down in 2004 and put 1,200 employees out of work, it dealt a significant blow to the whole town.
"We may not have been prepared for the loss as well as we should have been. However, as this community often does ... people came together, coalesced," says Michael Lezak, executive director of the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce. The business community rallied, investing $70 million in capital expansion and creating 700 new jobs the following year. And, even in closing, the company didn't forget where it had made its home for so long. Its final gift to the community was a $2 million donation to the schools.
Wooster is rich in institutes of higher learning. The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) contribute to research and education in agriculture. The College of Wooster is home to 1,800 students in 39 majors, and is known for its emphasis on independent study.
The college also enriches the cultural life of the community. Its Ohio Light Opera is a professional company performing seven operas in a revolving repertoire to include 67 performances each summer.
Wooster's entertainment offerings don't stop there. Theater and musical performances from the Wooster Symphony Orchestra, the Wooster Community Band and the Wayne County Performing Arts Council abound.
The Wayne Center for the Arts not only provides entertainment but also community education and outreach. Housed in an old school building restored with funds donated by Rubbermaid, it's yet another example of the business, education and nonprofit sectors coming together.
In a similar manner, the United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties raises $1.5 million from the community each year to invest in improving the lives of local residents. Wooster also supports a free health clinic for those without health insurance.
"It's [about] being part of something," says Anthony Yacapraro, board president of the Wayne County Historical Society. "It is a community of collective help."
Year founded: 1808
Location: In Wayne County, 60 miles south of Cleveland
Population: 24,811 (according to the 2000 census)
Size: 16.26 square miles
Government: Mayor and nine-member city council
February: Chocolate Weekend: Each store in downtown Wooster highlights one of the delectable aspects of chocolate! Includes music on the square.
June: Javapalooza: Hear live, independent music at this festival on the square downtown.
July: Wooster Arts Jazz Fest: Regional artists performing live jazz; also featured are food, shopping and a New Orleans-style parade.
August: Festa Italiana (every two years): Authentic Italian food, dancing and entertainment in downtown. www.festaialianawooster.org
Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Yard Sale: Partake in one of the largest yard sales, with sales all along the Lincoln Highway.
September: Wayne County Fair: Enjoy grandstand entertainment, food vendors, 4-H displays, animal shows and contests, tractor pulls, a king and queen coronation and more. www.waynecountyfairohio.com.
WoosterFest: An Octoberfest celebration with food, a talent show, arts and crafts, entertainment, a beer barrel race and more.
Colonial Williamsburg Festival: At Pine Tree Barn & Farms, step back into the 18th century with costumed artisans, live entertainment and a living-history encampment. www.pinetreebarn.com.
November: Window Wonderland: An evening for the family when Santa arrives in downtown. Visitors can view animated window displays and more.
Ongoing Event: June-October: Farmers Market downtown every Saturday
Two-Day Visit Itinerary
Start your visit by jumping right into Wooster's downtown offerings. Stroll along the brick sidewalks and notice the interesting architecture of the many renovated buildings. And, of course, enjoy the shopping!
Lose yourself in aisle after aisle bursting with more than 2,500 Rubbermaid products at Everything Rubbermaid (115 S. Market St., 330/264-7119). Shop for art at Jim Spires Gallery in Liberty Commons (146 E. Liberty St. #120, 330/464-8681), Gallery in the Vault (105 E. Liberty St., 330/262-3599) and Moorefield Pottery (147 S. Main St., 330/264-6909). Take a trip back to the department stores of another era at Freedlander's Department Store (125 W. Liberty St., 330/262-4010). Stock up on literary material at Books in Stock for used and rare books (140 E. Liberty St., 330/262-BOOK) and The Wooster Book Company for new books, including regional titles (205 W. Liberty St., 330/262-1688, www.woosterbook.com). And meet all your yarn and fabric needs at Sew Krazy (142 E. Liberty St., 330/262-7397, www.sew-krazy.com).
When you're done perusing the downtown, head to The Pine Tree Barn (4374 Shreve Rd., 330/264-1014, www.pinetreebarn.com). A stock barn for more than 100 years, the facility now houses a year-round Christmas shop as well as home furnishings and accessories. The Farms at Pine Tree feature 150 acres of Christmas trees where you can cut your own during the holidays. Stay for lunch at the on-site gourmet restaurant, The Granary & The Gardens. With a view of the lakes and farm, you can enjoy a bountiful salad or other lunch fare and, in the summer, dine on the outdoor patio. (The recipe for their addicting lemon crumb muffins is available at www.cooking.com).
Next, poke around one of the city parks or head to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (1680 Madison Ave., 330/263-3761, www.secrest.osu.edu). On the grounds and open to the public is the Secrest Arboretum, where you can stroll among plants of every kind and color, including more than 500 varieties of roses.
For dinner, indulge your taste buds at South Market Bistro (151 S. Market St., 330/264-3663, www.southmarketbistro.com). Housed in a renovated turn-of-the-century building, the restaurant's menu consists of European and American dishes made with many locally grown and organic ingredients. The menu changes with the season's harvest.
After dinner, stroll the grounds of the College of Wooster. If it's summertime, stay for a performance of The Ohio Light Opera (330/263-2345, www.wooster.edu/ohiolightopera), whose season extends from June to August. Beginning their 29th season in the summer of 2007, the resident professional company of The College of Wooster performs operettas and musicals at the Freedlander Theatre on campus.
At the end of the day, rest at one of Wooster's many fine accommodations, including The Wooster Inn (801 E. Wayne Ave., 330/263-2660, http://woosterinn.wooster.edu), Barrister's End Bed & Breakfast (356 N. Market St., 330/262-4085, www.bbonline.com/oh/barristersend), The Cabin at Sassafras Knoll Bed & Breakfast (5932 Secrest Rd., 330/264-6941, www.bbonline.com/oh/sassafras), or The Leila Belle Inn Bed & Breakfast (846 E. Bowman St., 330/262-8866, www.wooster-bnb.com).
If you're not staying at a bed and breakfast, enjoy breakfast at Tulipan Hungarian Pastry & Coffee Shop (122 S. Market St., 330/264-8092) for decadent delights.
Partake in some more shopping at The Craft Emporium (6096 E. Lincoln Way, 330/264-9966, www.thecraftemporium.net), a 14,000 square foot craft mall with hundreds of booths featuring arts and crafts..
If it's a Saturday, visit the Farmers Market downtown, which runs June through October. Then enliven your day at Quailcrest Farm (2810 Armstrong Rd., 330/345-6722, www.quailcrest.com), where you can shop for perennials and herbs, or just roam the gardens.
For lunch, head to The Amish Door Restaurant (6655 Lincoln Way E., 330/263-0547, www.amishdoor.com). Enjoy authentic Amish cuisine, family-style or individual plates. Be sure to pick up some homemade fudge from the bakery and check out the gift shop on premise.
If it's spring or winter, catch a performance of the Wayne Center for the Arts' Wayne Center Ballet, a pre-professional dance company that produces a narrative ballet each spring and a biennial presentation of The Nutcracker ballet in the winter (on even-numbered years). (www.wayneartscenter.org, 330/264-2787)
If you enjoy wine, take a tour of Troutman Vineyards (4243 Columbus Rd., 330/263-4345, www.troutmanvineyards.com), which makes sweet and ice wines.
Afterwards, dare to lace up some skates and get active at the Alice Noble Ice Arena (851 Oldman Rd., 330/345-8686, www.nobleice.com), which has a 17,000-square-foot ice rink, open skate times and skate rentals. You can also catch a game of the Wooster Oilers, a junior hockey club team.
Off the ice, warm yourself up with a steamy mug of coffee or cocoa at Muddy Waters Cafe (146 E. Liberty St., 330/264-2604). Then, also downtown, paint your own ceramic piece at Pottery Art Studio (156 E. Liberty St., 330/262-2230).
Finish off your stay in Wooster with dinner at TJ's Restaurant (359 W. Liberty St., 330/264-6263) for fresh seafood, steaks, chicken and pasta.
- Wooster is the county seat of Wayne County.
- Wooster Community Hospital is the only city-owned hospital in the state.
- Larwell Street is named after John Larwell, the original surveyor of the city.
- Founded in 1915, the Wooster Symphony is the second oldest symphony in Ohio.
- Some of the items produced in the town include potato chips, paintbrushes, software, titanium parts, torque converters for automobiles and fabrics.
- The Wooster Brush Company, a privately owned brush manufacturer, has been in businesses for 155 years and has not had a layoff in more than 50 years.
- August Imgard is said to have brought the first Christmas tree to the area. His family's mausoleum at Wooster Cemetery features a Christmas tree out front.
- The Wooster City Schools' Board of Education building is in a restored post office building downtown.
- The Alice Noble Ice Arena was built in the shape of a half 'W' so that if it is ever expanded, a full 'W' will be visible from the sky.
- Founded on the heels of the Civil War, the College of Wooster opened its doors with equal expectations of men and women, and accepted students of all races and from all countries.
- Clinging to those roots, each class at the college has six to seven percent international students, so at any time there are 100 to 120 students from other countries, all of whom have a host family within the town.
- The college's Ohio Light Opera, founded in 1979, is the only professional company in the country entirely devoted to operettas.
- The Wayne County Historical Society's campus centers at Beall House, constructed 1815-1817, which is currently being restored to have one floor represent the 1820s-1850s and another finished in a manner representative of the 1860s. The restoration should be complete and open to visitors in time for the city's bicentennial in 2008.
- Other properties on the campus include an 1873 schoolhouse, an 1880s general store, a replica of an 1880s firehouse and a restored 1840s log cabin. The campus's buildings are all connected underground with passageways.
- Due to the area's sizable Amish community, hitching posts can be seen at many stores in Wooster, including the new Wal-mart.
- At any given time, scientists at the OARDC are conducting more than 600 different research projects.