Our Towns

Route 46 Leads to Diverse Businesses

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WARREN, Ohio – Jessica Shively was studying nursing at Youngstown State University and working at a Dairy Queen when she realized her heart is in hospitality management.

Around the same time she switched her academic focus, the Lake Milton native saw that an ice cream stand along state Route 46 in Mineral Ridge was available. In December 2014, she bought it and reopened three months later as Jesy’s Dairy Cove.

“It’s right in the heart of Mineral Ridge. The kids love coming over with their parents after all the football games and basketball games,” she says. “We’ve had a lot of community support.”

Jesy’s is one of the dozens of businesses along the state route, winding from Weathersfield at the southern edge of Trumbull County through the bustling Niles-Howland retail and dining corridor to the rural northern border with Ashtabula County.

“It’s worked out well,” Shively says. The stand serves soft serve and hard ice cream as well as hot dogs, chicken tenders and fries. Blueberry is the favorite soft-serve flavor, while aficionados of regular ice cream favor chocolate peanut butter cup.

Mainstays of the business this time of year are the holiday rolls, including pumpkin and carrot. “The rolls have been keeping us going like crazy,” she reports. “We sold over 400 for Thanksgiving.”

Mineral Ridge lies within Weathersfield Township, a political subdivision that begins at the Mahoning-Trumbull line and encompasses land next to several communities in the southern central part of the Trumbull County.

Robynn Morris operates two businesses on Route 46 in Weathersfield. Catering by Robynn, which she opened in 1993, lies just north of the county line. “I thought on 46 would be a good place to have a business,” she says.

Nearly five years ago, Morris bought Sugar Shack Too!, a baking and confectionary supply store, and relocated it from Vienna Avenue in Niles – as 46 is named in this part of the county – to a mile north of her catering operations on South Main Street.

Both businesses get customers from all over, benefiting from proximity to Mahoning County as well as the Interstate 80 interchange just south of the county line. They are among the countless small and large businesses that have found a home on Route 46, which continues to evolve as a commercial corridor.

Just inside the Niles city limit on Route 46 is one of two sites Niles Iron & Metal Co. has in the city. The site on Route 46 deals in ferrous scrap metal as well as paper recycling. The company, which celebrates its centenary next year, bought the property in 1981.

“We’re on the CSX mainline track. We have to have rail service and it’s on a state highway,” the company’s president, Gary Clayman, says.

The site is instantly recognizable by the 18-foot-tall sculpture of a steelworker fronting the property. The sculpture was built about 23 years ago by a friend of the family – a rabbi who “loved to sculpt” – to commemorate the 40th wedding anniversary of Clayman’s parents.

“This was the only commission piece he ever made,” Clayman says. “It’s a work of art.”

Also unmistakable further north on 46 is the sprawling Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles and Howland, the linchpin for the highway’s future evolution.

“There’s been a rash of new development in that corridor,” says Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co., which owns and operates the complex and earlier this year moved its headquarters here.

Recent developments include construction of Toyota of Warren’s new dealership north of the intersection with U.S. Route 422 and the opening of StoneBridge Grille and Tavern.

When the Cafaro Co.’s Eastwood Mall opened in 1969 on U.S. Route 422 – a time when 422 offered the most direct route between Youngstown and Warren – Route 46 was viewed as “the road less traveled,” Bell says. Route 422 was “part of the strip and everybody wanted to use that.”

The heaviest traffic has since shifted from 422 to 46, Bell notes. “It’s pretty impressive that 46 had nearly twice the number of vehicles closest to the mall,” he says.

Some 20 years ago, Cafaro developed a Super Kmart on route 46 in Howland. Over the years, Kohl’s, Gander Mountain, McDonald’s and Texas Roadhouse followed. Hotels have been developed on both sides of Route 46 as well.

The corridor has benefited from improved access from Mahoning County, thanks to the 711 Connector, which opened more than a decade ago. “We’ve known all along it’s a good place to be,” Bell says.

Cafaro is preparing to capitalize on the traffic flow and access with development of the Enterprise Park at Eastwood on land, mostly in Howland, that abuts the mall complex property and was acquired over several years.

“It just made eminent sense to have the developable property right adjacent to the mall complex, especially when it offered access to 46,” Bell says.

By next spring, stakes should be placed in advance of establishing a roadway that will extend north from the mall property and connect to an existing road behind the Sam’s Club on Route 46.

“We’ve always considered this a long-term project. The full development of Enterprise Park may not take place for another 10 years,” Bell says. “This is land that could be used for anything – virtually anything – with minimal rezoning.”

Farther north on 46 in Howland is Mike’s Barber Shop. On the property’s frontage is the industry’s most recognizable symbol, a red, white and blue barber pole.

The shop, which opened in 1968, remains a traditional men’s barbershop, says owner Tim Sanders. He bought the shop 2½ years ago from his father, who retired at age 84.

Men’s barbershops like Mike’s are a “dying breed,” says Sanders, who’s been cutting hair for 27 years. Styles have changed somewhat over time, but not much, and the shop draws a broad range of clients, he says, from executives to blue-collar workers.

“We’re pretty busy,” he reports. “The road actually needs widened. We’d get even more people in here.”

In Greene Township, past Cortland and at the northern edge of the county, a half-mile off Route 46, Greene Eagle Winery has operated for seven years.

Keith Bliss, who co-owns the winery with his brother, Dale, and their wives (Peggy and Denise, respectively), worked at Delphi but his employer’s bankruptcy forced him to retire early. His brother was working for Hewlett-Packard and his job “wasn’t looking too good,” he says.

The brothers – who used to joke on trips to wineries in Geneva that the property on Davis Peck Road that Keith and Peggy own would be a good spot for one – decided to make the idea a reality. The winery is halfway between Warren and Geneva’s wineries to the north, Keith Bliss says.

Greene Eagle no longer grows its own grapes. What they planted didn’t survive two recent harsh winters, he reports. “We’ve got to try again,” he says.

Customers say they see the signs for the winery as they travel north on 46. “But we also get people saying, ‘It’s hard to find. You need more signs.’ ”

Pictured, top: Jessica Shively opened Jesy’s Dairy Cove in Mineral Ridge in February 2015.

Pictured, bottom: Tim Sanders owns Mike’s Barber Shop in Howland. He bought the shop, which his father opened in 1968, from his dad in 2014.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.