Business is picking up in the northwest Ohio town of McComb (pop. 1,600). From a car dealer to a carpet store, merchants are feeling optimistic and opening shops. In one month’s time eight ribbon cuttings have happened.
When has there been so much activity in this small town? There hasn’t, at least not in the past six decades.
“There hasn’t been anything happening downtown, because, as long as I can remember, it was a furniture store. When the furniture store went out, downtown was devastated,” said Joe Wasson, whose family owned Bennett’s Furniture Town.
In 2013, Bennett’s closed. That left 50,000 square feet of retail space in 16 buildings vacant, right downtown. Since then Wasson has been among those working to help write McComb’s next chapter. Wasson has been involved in economic development efforts and is project coordinator for a Community Heart & Soul™ project that kicked off a year ago.
Community Heart & Soul is a community development method pioneered by the Orton Family Foundation. The project is a partnership with The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation.
In June, three ribbon cuttings were held: Select Auto Group at the edge of downtown; Northwestern Water and Sewer District Water Shed, a place for people to fill jugs with drinking water; and Great Scot storage facility behind the Great Scot supermarket.
A few weeks later ribbons were cut at Siferd’s Carpet, which moved back into a space it occupied about six years earlier; Bread & Butter Antiques, celebrating renovations after a storm damaged its building; McComb Emporium, a group-owned antique and vintage goods store; Kayro’s Fine Art, an art studio where classes are also held; and Tees, Tees and More, a custom embroidery and retail shop.
Holly Hanken, owner of Tees, Tees and More in downtown, felt like the timing was right to start her business. She sensed good things happening around the Heart & Soul project and decided to take the plunge. So far, business is going better than she projected and she’s excited to be getting work locally and from out of town.
“It’s a good time for McComb. McComb is moving into its next phase of life cycle, definitely in a positive way,” Hanken said.
It’s hard to say what factor or factors are contributing to McComb’s momentum, Wasson said. But McComb Region Heart & Soul, which is still underway, has helped foster a sense that local residents can steer change and that’s helped make people feel optimistic about the future.
“There’s a new sense of pride here in town. I can see that as I walk down any street. People are taking care of their yards a little better. It’s a whole sense of community,” Wasson said. “Heart and Soul’s been a big part of that. Would it have happened without Heart and Soul? I don’t know what path we’d be on, but it’s a byproduct of seeing that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that things are happening, and that we are in control of what happens to us.”