Our Towns

Small Businesses in North Jackson Create Opportunity

NORTH JACKSON, Ohio – Bart McGee sits in his crowded office and pulls out a small map of the center of North Jackson with two large sections colored with a bright yellow highlighter.

A year ago, these parcels were saddled with dilapidated houses, obtrusive brush and hardscrabble blight. McGee, the president of AM Door & Supply Co. in North Jackson, wants to do something about it.

“When people drive through North Jackson, they drive with blinders on because of these junk houses,” he says. “We’re making an improvement on that.”

McGee has bought about 25 acres north of Mahoning Avenue and east and west of state Route 45 – the heart of the North Jackson community. His intent is to clean up all of them and market the parcel for new business. “The idea is to sell the land to single business that has the opportunity to grow,” he says, “or sell it to somebody who wants to do something big in North Jackson.”

Thus far, McGee has demolished four of six houses. One of the remaining structures sits just off the corner of Route 45 and Mahoning, and demolition on that house is underway.

“There’s quite a bit of property we’ve cleaned up,” he relates, “and we’ll put it up for sale as a single, large commercial piece instead of small lots.”

Utilities serve all of the acreage, McGee says, so the only thing needed is the large cleanup effort. “There is plenty of land in the center for North Jackson for a large project, maybe a couple of large projects,” he says.

McGee’s father, Anderson, founded AM Door in 1978 in North Jackson. The company supplies doors for the commercial and residential markets.

“A large part of our business is commercial installation,” he says. “Business is very good right now.”

McGee says he and other business owners nearby view North Jackson as an area that beckons opportunity, and they want to redirect the focus of the community to developing this part of Mahoning County. “I’m on the board of directors for the North Jackson Business Association,” he says, “and we do what we can to promote business here.”

Some in the community once resisted new development, he acknowledges, and many still express concern about increased traffic. However, McGee says, this mindset must change to enable North Jackson to grow.

“We have a lot of businesses in North Jackson and we think there are plenty more to come,” he says.

One of the newest businesses to open over the last two years is Antiques and Uniques, on state Route 45, just across from McGee’s proposed development.

Kathleen Watson, who spent most of her life as an antiques dealer in Florence, Colo., returned five years ago. Two years ago she opened her shop in the former Wrangler’s Restaurant.

“In Florence, there were once 22 antique shops on four blocks,” she recalls.

When a family member became ill seven years ago, she and her husband returned to the Mahoning Valley. “I rented space for about five years and two years ago moved in here,” she says. “Business is pretty steady.”

Watson leases space to 19 vendors at the antiques and collectibles store, which stocks everything from primitive housewares, antique books, decorative lamps, jewelry, and thousands of other items. “Primitives are selling pretty good right now,” she says. “Jewelry and giftware are always popular items.”

Normally, the summer months are slow in the antiques and collectibles business, Watson says, because many customers are preoccupied with attending festivals, fairs and garage sales. Online auction houses such as eBay aren’t as competitive, she notes, largely because customers are reluctant to pay shipping costs.

As autumn arrives, however, business begins to pick up and hits its stride when the holiday season approaches, Watson says. “This has been a pretty good location for us,” she adds.

Meanwhile, larger companies have found North Jackson an ideal place to expand, as evidenced by Image One Uniforms & Logo Apparel Inc., which has operated in North Jackson since 2001. Two years ago, the company moved to a new address, 11114 Mahoning Ave.

Image One prints and embroiders logos for promotional items such as hats, shirts, uniforms, bags, and hundreds of other specialty items.

“This office handles Canfield, Akron, Steubenville, Warren and the Youngstown area,” says office manager Laurie Cote.

The company also has franchises in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, she adds. “We do printing for businesses, nursing homes, culinary schools, chefs. Our franchises in Cleveland have done work for the Cleveland Indians and our Pittsburgh location has done work for Heinz Field. We can sell all over the country,” she notes. “We’re doing an order now for the Detroit Lions.”

Other businesses in North Jackson have successfully repurposed buildings industries once used. For instance, in 1979, Dave Bayowski bought a former lumberyard with several buildings on the site and converted it into Mahoning Auto LLC, initially a reconditioning shop for classic cars.

Dave Boyowski, owner of Mahoning Auto LLC, says this DeSoto Adverturer is not for sale.

“I’ve been in the automotive business most of my life,” says Bayowski, who now limits his business to conducting appraisals on collectible automobiles.

“We’ve restored everything from Model A’s to Packards,” he says.

In Bayowski’s personal collection are a 1937 Packard, a 1956 DeSoto Adventurer, and most recently, a 1958 Ford Edsel. “I tend to buy cars that I enjoy,” he says.

His showroom is packed with older vehicles. A 1946 Cadillac convertible sits at the far end, while others are scattered throughout the buildings.

“They’re a good investment,” Bayowski says. “You can drive them, enjoy them, and if you buy the right car, you can sell them for more money than you paid.”

As an appraiser, Bayowski says he works closely with insurance companies, collectors and estate attorneys, all of whom rely on accurate appraisals of assets. “Insurance companies don’t want to take losses on cars,” he says. “So we do a lot of work for insurance companies, estates, divorce cases or diminished value cases after any damages.”

Among the higher-end vehicles he’s appraised are antique Ferraris and Lamborghinis, which can sell for well beyond $1 million.

Muscle cars from the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s command considerable attention in the current market, Bayowski says. “Camaros and Firebirds are hot items right now,” he says.

Sometimes, buying and selling the right vehicles results from “just plain good luck,” he notes.

Nearly 20 years ago, Bayowski and his wife were driving through Maryland when he spotted a beautiful, off-white DeSoto Adventurer. He drove to the house to inquire whether it was for sale, and much to his disappointment, it was not.

Nevertheless, he followed up with a letter to the couple who owned it, saying should they ever decide to sell it to keep him in mind.

“Fifteen years later, I get a call from an elderly woman,” Bayowski recalls. “My memory came back and it was the Maryland woman who now wanted to sell the DeSoto. Her husband had passed away and she didn’t have a need for it.”

The Bayowskis hopped in their car, drove to Maryland and bought the vehicle, now a prize in his collection.

“It’s quite a rare car,” he says. “They only made about 900 of these. This one isn’t for sale.”

Pictured: Bart McGee has purchased 25 acres that he intends to clean up and put on the market.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.