Ohio Life

Best of the Best Hometowns

We discovered some great finds in Ohio Magazine's Best Hometowns: Findlay, Gallipolis, Greenville, Grove City and Peninsula


Coffee Roaster
Silver Bridge Coffee is available at groceries, coffee shops and farm markets throughout central and southern Ohio, but Lorraine Walker roasts every bean at her company’s Gallipolis headquarters. Sign up for the coffee club and receive a package of Fair Trade certified coffee each month. There’s something for every taste — from Jamaican Me Nuts to Dark Chocolate Cherry Decaf, from Breakfast Blend to organic. Walker scours the globe for the best beans, but they aren’t roasted until you place your order — guaranteeing the coffee arrives at optimum freshness, with the roasting date handwritten on each bag. 740/709-1610 silverbridgecoffee.com

Place to Have a Merry Time
You won’t find a vineyard with a happier name or more charming home than the Merry Family Winery.. Owners Tim and Lisa Merry have refurbished the former Jewel Evans Grist Mill into a rustic yet cozy place to relax on the front porch or by the fire with a glass of handcrafted wine. The choices of red, white, fruit and blush wines are many. Customer favorites include Liberty Apple — made from local apples, then aged in bourbon barrels — and a sweet blackberry merlot. Wines also are available at stores throughout south-central Ohio. 2376 St. Rte. 850, Bidwell 45614, 740/245-9463. merryfamilywinery.com

Basketball Legend
Hollywood could invent a story like Clarence “Bevo” Francis, but it could only happen in real life in the hills of Southeast Ohio. In 1952–53, the 6-foot-9 center led the Rio Grande College men’s basketball team to an astonishing 39-0 season. A deadeye shot, the Hammondsville, Ohio, native still owns the NCAA record for season scoring average (46.5 points per game). He once scored 113 points in a single game — a record that stood 58 years. Bevo left Rio after two seasons for the pro barnstorming circuit, but his legend lives on in Gallia County — and in the record books.
Famous Italian Hot Dogs
Whatever you think you know about hot dogs, leave it at the door when you visit this downtown Gallipolis icon: Remo’s Footlong Hot Dogs. Fans come from all over Ohio to pull up a stool at the diner counter and enjoy an all-American favorite served the Remo’s way: topped with tasty Italian sauce (an old family recipe), onions and dill pickles. Remo’s is open 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and closed Thursdays and Sundays. Visit Remo’s on Facebook to see pictures of hot dog lovers from near and far. Your photo could be next! 241 Second Ave., Gallipolis 45631, 740/709-1679.

Arts Enclave
While its name recalls the French immigrants who settled Gallipolis in 1790, the French Art Colony celebrates the creative spirit of the Appalachian region. Since 1964, the French Art Colony has been a beacon for the arts — offering exhibitions, classes for all ages, community theater and more. Its annual juried Festival Competition draws amateur and professional artists from the tri-state region. Even the French Art Colony’s location on the banks of the Ohio River — in a stunning 1855 Greek Revival home appropriately known as Riverby — is a work of art. 530 First Ave., Gallipolis 45631, 740/446-3834. frenchartcolony.org


Location To Drink Up Local History
Too bad there isn’t a time-lapse camera inside Plank’s on Broadway, a restaurant and tavern in downtown Grove City. Built in 1854 as a hotel, the landmark was also a cigar store and pool hall and is the city’s oldest business in continuous operation. Today, Plank’s is a little of everything, from Victorian dining room to sports bar to where the city’s movers and shakers meet. Memorabilia on the walls includes vintage posters and photographs from Beulah Park, the nearby historic horse track. Try the pizza or veggie wrap. 4022 Broadway Rd., Grove City 43123, 614/875-7800.   

Show Place
Theater devotees will want to reserve seats for Little Theatre Off Broadway, Grove City’s stellar acting troupe. Upcoming productions include “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel,” Mitch Albom’s light-hearted tale of two hunters who believe they’ve missed their mark (Jan. 11-Feb. 3); “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s poignant story about the tug-of-war between justice and racism in Alabama during the Great Depression (March 1-24); and the classic musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” a romantic comedy about the early days of talking pictures (April 26-May 19). 3981 Broadway, Grove City 43213, 614/875-3919. ltob.org  

Walk-in Vault
You really don’t want to get locked inside. The walk-in Diebold vault is a remnant from the time the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum building was a bank. The vault has an 18-inch-thick steel door and can withstand dynamite. Inside the vault are vintage high school photos and displays about the community’s businesses and police and fire departments. The museum also showcases a 1912 Model T Ford, vintage clothing and furnished parlor exhibit. 3378 Park St., Grove City 43123, 614/539-8747. visitgrovecityoh.com

Place to Skin Your Elbow
The 11,000-square-foot, concrete Grove City Skate Park opened in 2006 and challenges those with wheels under their feet. Skates, skateboards and roller blades are all welcome — beginners and pros alike. The park was constructed by Grindline Skateparks, nationally known for its innovative projects. But don’t take our word for it — one teenager skater recently said, “It’s way smooth.” The park features wall hills from 3 to 18 feet and tricky obstacles. Bleachers, drinking fountains and portable restrooms are on-site. 3728 Hoover Rd., Grove City 43123, 614/277-3050. visitgrovecityoh.com 

Bite On Bison

Bison steaks are one of the best sellers at Cimi’s Bistro in Grove City. The meat is purchased locally from Ohio Bison Farm, operated since 1990 by Bob and Beverly Sexten. The couple manages about 40 bison at their farm and say the 7-foot-tall animals are no problem in the fields but aren’t too happy indoors. The bison are raised without hormone or antibiotic additives. Whole, half and “just a pound of ground meat” are available. Sales by appointment only. 1339 Borror Rd., Grove City 43123, 614/875-4060. eastonfarmersmarket.org/vendors


Out-of-Kitchen Experience

It’s an appliance-lovers dream: The KitchenAid Experience in downtown Greenville offers the famous stand mixer in a variety of styles and colors, refurbished appliances at lower cost and plenty of other gadgets, bakeware and decorative items. The downstairs houses a small collection of antique KitchenAid stand mixers, accessories and advertisements, plus a little kitchen play area for children. Free cooking demonstrations are offered three days a week with new recipes, tricks and tips for using KitchenAid appliances. 423 S. Broadway St., Greenville 45331, 937/316-4777. kitchenaid.com

Local Hangout
Set in the historic Palace Building in Greenville, what was once a thriving department store is now a bustling coffee shop. But the Coffee Pot offers more than just your daily caffeine buzz: An array of books and games lines the shelves, live music plays on weekends and — aside from the Metropolis and Boston Stoker coffees and teas — there’s a selection of soups, bagels, wraps, salads, baked goods and ice cream. 537 S. Broadway St., Suite 101, Greenville 45331, 937/459-5498.

Natural Selection
With a variety of local, organic and green products plus an attached yoga studio, elementsLife Yoga and Third Street Market provides a one-stop destination for all things natural. In 2007, owners C.J. and Emily Jasenski pooled their talents and their resources to open Greenville’s first yoga studio and natural product market, and both are happy to share their knowledge on all things Earth-friendly. Emily’s training as a yoga instructor extends beyond the standard poses — she also teaches future instructors, works with area doctors and is certified to practice family and children’s yoga. 120 W. Third St., Greenville 45331, 937/417-3592. elementslife.com

Diner Tradition
Blink and you may miss Maid-Rite, a Greenville establishment that’s been around since 1934. But it’s worth pulling over for the perfectly seasoned loose-meat sandwiches served with pickles, onions and mustard; rich malts and shakes; and delectable sides, including fries, baked beans and homemade buttermilk onion rings. Even if you’re not hungry, stop by to see the infamous wall of gum, a way for locals and visitors to leave their mark on this landmark. 125 N. Broadway St., Greenville 45331, 937/548-2251

Hidden Gem
Greenville residents are proud of the area’s rich history, which includes establishing the first Girl Scout Troop in the Dayton area in 1922. Today, troops from all over enjoy a visit to the Girl Scout Little House, located in scenic Greenville City Park. With enough room for 20 campers, kids can overnight in style with a full kitchen, stone fireplace and outside patio. Located in Greenville City Park, 610 E. Harmon Dr., Greenville 45331, 937/548-2315. cityofgreenville.org/park.html


Juicy Fruit
The heady concoction of freshly picked apples layered in flaky pastry, smothered in a glazed cinnamon sauce and topped with vanilla bean ice cream makes the apple dumpling at Fisher’s Cafe & Pub a heavenly treat. While you’re there, plan on staying for the rest of lunch — or dinner — at this retro eatery, which has been a Peninsula mainstay since 1958. 1607 Main St., Peninsula, 44264, 330/657-2651, fisherscafe.com

Time Travel
All aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a ride that’s unforgettable. The coaches — many dating to the 1930s — have been restored to opulent splendor, representing the epitome of first-class travel. Start your journey at the Rockside Road station in Independence, see winter’s beauty in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, then depart the train in Peninsula for a day of leisurely shopping and dining. 800/468-4070, cvsr.com

Way to Let It Play
Whether you’re into Memphis blues, Zydeco, folk, ragtime or rock, Peninsula’s G.A.R. Hall is the place to be every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. That’s when Voices in the Valley presents a noteworthy lineup of area talent that includes guitarist Mike Lenz (Jan. 4), Boy=Girl rockers Paul Kovac and Jen Maurer (Jan. 11 and Feb. 15) and blues banjo player Jon Mosey (Jan. 18). 1785 Main St., Peninsula 44264, 330/657-2528, peninsulahistory.org

Spot to Commune with Nature
The Towpath Trail, winding through Peninsula, offers more than 80 miles of hiking, biking, birding and walking paths. Travel the route that canal boats took from 1827 to 1913, and take photos of breathtaking views of Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Cuyahoga River. Visit the new Trail Mix Peninsula visitors’ center for printed guides and directions. 1600 W. Mill St., Peninsula 44264, 330/657-2091. conservancyforcvnp.org

One-Stop Shop  
Fresh touches for your home are everywhere at Yellow Creek Trading Company. Located in Peninsula’s former general store and blacksmith shop, the emporium is filled with framed folk art, hooked rugs and reproductions of 19th-century furniture crafted by British Traditions Inc. and Johnston Benchworks. Fill your pantry with Yellow Creek’s delectable assortment of jams and jellies from Lyons Market and Cooke Tavern corn chowder. 1685 Main St., Peninsula 44264, 330/657-2444, yellowcreektrading.com


Eastern Cuisine
In a sea of top-notch Asian restaurants (Findlay has a rich Japanese heritage), Japan West sticks with you like, well, the sticky rice in maki. While you won’t find California Roll on their sushi menu, you will find authentic Japanese delicacies from sashimi to steak. And the classy yet welcoming atmosphere appeals to families just as much as it does to businesspeople. 406 S. Main St., Findlay, 419/424-1007. japanwestfindlay.com

Place for High-Flying Fun    
Afraid of heights? You may want to avoid the hot air balloon rides at the Flag City BalloonFest. But don’t worry — there’s still plenty to do on the ground. Watch balloons fly overhead, take in a nighttime balloon glow, hear live music and find much more to do during this annual summertime celebration. Emory Adams Park, 1528 S. Blanchard St., Findlay, 567/208-0026. flagcityballoonfest.com

Religious Expression
From the Crucifixion to The Last Supper — any iconic imagery of Christianity is fair game for artist Roger Powell’s work. Powell’s Easter Sand Sculptures draw thousands of people from far and wide to see his enormous creations composed of 300 tons of sand at the Hancock County Fairgrounds each year. A Sunrise Service at the site tops off Powell’s expression of faith and community. walkingoncommonground.com

Reason to Endure a Little Abuse
Order a burger the wrong way at Wilson’s Sandwich Shop and you might just get a minor tongue lashing from the counter attendant. But before you give the 76-year-old diner a bad Yelp review, remind yourself that the curt service and strict ordering system are just part of the diner’s appeal. And plenty of people endure it for a taste of its menu of burgers, fries and sandwiches — there’s pretty much always a line. 600 S. Main St., Findlay, 419/422-5051. Check out the Findlay-Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s handy video on how to order like a local: youtube.com/watch?v=grOk7KHzcpU

Picture-Perfect Museum
The whimsical images that spark the imagination of kids worldwide adorn the walls at the Mazza Museum. Home to more than 7,800 original illustrations in a variety of media from children’s literature, the museum is a fun examination of the world of picture books. The museum also hosts annual conferences, programs for kids and touring exhibits. University of Findlay, 300 College St., Findlay, 419/434-4560. findlay.edu/offices/academic/mazzamuseum