Our Towns

Poland Businesses Build on Town, Family Legacies

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POLAND, Ohio — As the first township established in the Connecticut Western Reserve, Poland takes great pride in that distinction. “Town One Range One” proclaim the signs one sees upon entering the village. Bronze markers are positioned throughout that note it was President William McKinley’s boyhood home and identify the inn where he enlisted in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Businesses in Poland take similar pride in operating there for decades. Aebischer’s Jewelry is in its fourth decade in Poland after relocating from Struthers in the 1970s. Duncan Kitchen & Bath Center, established here in 1956, has operated from the same building since 1962. And the Old Stone Tavern, now an office building, has been in operation almost all of its 200-plus-year history.

But that doesn’t mean newcomers aren’t welcome. Earlier this year, Bake Me Treats opened in Town One Plaza and Refresh Dental moved into the former Friendly’s restaurant.

“It’s where we lived when my dad opened the store,” says Sherry Trolio DiVito, owner of Trolio’s T-Shirts in Town One Plaza. “I grew up here. I went to Poland High School, graduated from there. We all still live around here. And there are good people here. It’s a great community.”

Her father, Tony Trolio, started the business in 1975 when he couldn’t find the apparel he wanted for the teams he coached, including the Poland Little Bulldogs. Today, most customers are from Poland and much of the store’s floor space is dedicated to T-shirts, hats, polo shirts, sweater and jackets that display the Poland Bulldogs logo.

Trolio’s is tucked into a corner of the plaza, and the owner says having U.S. Route 224 – the segment within the village was renamed McKinley Way – run past her store, 35 W. McKinley Way, is a blessing. Trolio DiVito deems it’s even more of a blessing because traffic on McKinley Way is not as heavy as along Boardman-Poland Road, as 224 is identified where Poland borders Boardman.

“Boardman is certainly a busy area, but it slows down a bit when you get to Poland,” says Adam Aebischer, part of the fourth generation operating Aebischer’s Jewelry. “Everything is so rushed today that it’s nice to have things at a slower pace in the community. I certainly appreciate it.”

And, he continues, since the store moved to the village, the Aebischers have been part of the community. He lives a half-mile away. His parents, Doug and Karen, are a mile away. His brother, Alex, another member of the fourth generation at the store, lives in the village. His sister, Abby, works at the middle school, a five-minute walk from the jewelry store.

“There’s pride in knowing that the store is part of the community. It’s providing business to the community I live in,” Aebsicher says.

Having that kind of longevity has proved good for business, adds Tom Duncan, the owner of Duncan Kitchen & Bath. As his customer base expanded, he noticed that new generations often come in because their parents did. The children of his father’s customers became his customers, he says, and the same thing is happening now as Jason Duncan becomes the third generation to work at the remodeling business, 108 S. Main St.

“For a lot of the families that use us, they pass it down. From my dad’s generation to mine, parents told their kids, ‘This is who you call,’ ” Tom Duncan says. “Stability is important and with businesses who have longevity, it helps the local economy.”

Over the years, Duncan Kitchen & Bath has employed as many as 27, many from Poland. He cites one employee celebrating his 27th year at Duncan Kitchen who was hired when he was 18, shortly after he graduated from Poland Seminary High School. Also among the store’s employees are the fire district’s assistant chief and a lieutenant.

“It’s a unique town where a lot of people do a lot of different things in the town,” Duncan says.

Although Jason Duncan has seen many of his friends move away to pursue careers elsewhere, he’s staying where he grew up.

“I like Poland. It’s where I was raised,” he says. “We have a great reputation and I want to carry on that family name. We’ve been here since 1956 and being the third generation is huge.”

Poland is an attractive community, Tom and Jason Duncan agree, with good schools, responsive safety services and no lack of places to shop nearby. And newcomers to Poland bring diversity.

When in 2011 Kravitz Delicatessen opened in the Poland Public Library, owner Jack Kravitz was surprised to see that some of the stereotypes of Poland were no longer true.

“People think of Poland as being not ethnically diverse. But here we are, a Jewish deli in Poland, Ohio, and our customers are extremely diverse and not what you expect from here,” he says.

Business has been steady at the library store, 311 S. Main St., although not as busy as at his deli headquarters in Liberty. There’s also a difference in what’s sold at the two restaurants, Kravitz says.

While Reuben sandwiches are by far the most popular item in both Liberty and Poland, Kravitz observes that the Poland deli sells far more salads than the original deli. Certain items, such as the ham sandwich, are available only in Poland.

“Liberty is a little more of a Jewish deli, whereas here we’re a little more multi-ethnic,” he says. “I was surprised by the Greek influence here. A lot of people moved in from Campbell. Greek-style foods do very well.”

Three years ago, Kravitz co-founded the Poland Village Business Association, a group of about 15 businesses that meets to discuss their challenges, what they have going on and to network.

“The biggest thing I learned through the business association is the diversity of businesses here. I was surprised by how many different kinds of businesses we have,” Kravitz says, explaining that much of what’s available along Route 224 in Boardman can also found in Poland. The only difference, he says, is that the businesses here are run by people from the village or township.

And for many of the business owners, Poland is a place they wouldn’t even consider leaving.

Celebrating its 60th year, Duncan Kitchen & Bath isn’t going anywhere, Tom and Jason Duncan say. With two members of the store’s fourth generation helping to run it, Aebischer’s Jewelry remains strong. And on the other end of Town One Plaza, Trolio DiVito says that relocating is unthinkable.

“I would never move out of Poland. Never,” she says. “There are good, caring people here who have your back for you and your business.”

Pictured: Bronze statues in Peterson Park, at the intersection of U.S. Route 224 and state Route 170, honor Revolutionary War generals Thaddeus Kosciuszok and Casimir Pulaski, both Polish exiles.Following the war, Poland – originally named Fowler’s Place after its first settlers – received its name in their honor.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.