Business Steady in St. Clair Township

CALCUTTA, Ohio – Businesses in St. Clair Township have “fared fairly well” this year, despite the pandemic, according to township trustee Chairman Robert Swickard. He says most seem to have made adjustments.

Many businesses were forced to adjust their hours to survive, he says, but most are now back in operation.

Exceptions are the J.C. Penney and Rue 21 stores in the Summit Square Plaza, which have permanently closed. “We had heard rumors for many years about Penney’s, since they were closing stores throughout the country. I’m not sure, but COVID may have pushed [the local one] over the edge,” Swickard says.

The township trustee did not address Rue 21 or the Ponderosa Steak House, the latter of which remains closed, but pointed out that Coaches in Calcutta – a sports bar and restaurant – recently opened. Diamondback Disposal in Glenmoor, he notes, has added refuse collection to its operation that formerly dealt with the sale of large equipment.

The Pizza Hut on St. Clair Avenue has not reopened its dining room to customers. Manager Anita Meredith says, “We’re doing quite well with just carry-out and delivery. We’re probably opening the dining room in November.”

Among those hit especially hard was DC Music where a spring storm flooded the store, which had been closed three to four weeks because of the pandemic.

The store, in Dunham’s Plaza, offers a full line of music instruments for sale and rent, repairs and music lessons.

The flooding caused considerable damage to the store’s inventory and interior. The store next door, a rental business, closed its doors and has relocated since the pandemic and flood. DC Music owner Zach Byers says, “We were able to do online shipping and were able to ship orders all over the United States and internationally,” even while closed to walk-in business because of COVID regulations and during the flood cleanup.

“We were up and running even before Ohio lifted the nonessential business order,” Byers says. “Surprisingly, we’ve had a pretty good year.”

Had he been asked in March for a financial forecast, “I would have told you it was pretty bleak,” he says. “But we’ve had some of the best quarters we’ve ever had.”

Some of that relates to an overall pickup in the music industry, says Byers, who notes that many people decided during the pandemic to take up a new hobby or pick up an old one with music. “The music industry is seeing an upturn in sales and in general interest,” he says.

In addition to Coaches opening during the pandemic, a new clothing store appears to be opening in the former Rue 21 storefront. A camping resort for the public has recently opened on Parkway.

At the township level, Swickard says trustees changed their usual meeting site to the Peter Metrovich Community Center, which allowed for more space for social distancing among not only government officials but those in attendance.

New policies were put into place for the road and police departments regarding wearing masks, cleaning vehicles and surroundings and holding prisoners. Swickard says, “There was not a single complaint from a single employee. ‘That’s just what we gotta do,’ they said.”

The township was not forced to lay off employees and, in fact, recently hired two new road department employees.

Citizens have coped very well with the pandemic, Swickard says, with few complaints lodged.

Swickard says he believes the township was able to adjust more easily to the pandemic because of early guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and because both police Chief Brian McKenzie and road Foreman Scott Barrett took the threat seriously, leading employees to take it seriously.

“All in all, we can’t complain too much. You read horror stories. But as a township, I feel we’ve done very well,” Swickard says.