Working and Living in Shenango Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For this edition, in which The Business Journal is spotlighting the businesses and organizations that comprise the Shenango Valley, we gave our readers the opportunity to tell us what’s new and cool in their community.

We reached out to business leaders and community members and asked them to tell us about the latest happenings, any positive trends they’re noticing and to give us their general sense on doing business in the Shenango Valley.

What follows is a sampling of the responses we received.

Submitted by Tammy Calderwood, marketing coordinator, Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union

Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union announced June 1 that it received approval from the National Credit Union Administration for a community charter expansion.

As the above graphic illustrates, this allows the credit union to offer its services beyond Mercer County to include six surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union now offers membership to persons who live, work, worship, or go to school in Mercer County, plus the surrounding counties of Crawford, Lawrence and Venango counties, as well as Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio.

“We’re very excited to welcome members from this expanded community and share the benefits of credit union membership,” says CEO Sandi Carangi. “Our credit union will go from serving the Mercer County community of over 100,000 residents, to seven counties with more than 800,000 people.”

The expansion comes at a time when the credit union is embarking on a technology upgrade that will provide its members with enhanced services. Among them are account opening, loan processing, and online and mobile banking, according to Carangi. The enhancements are being made to improve efficiencies and provide members with the latest financial services technology, she says.

Submitted by Alane Jewel, owner, A2B Media

The post-pandemic workload is heavy for A2B Media, “and that is a great thing,” says Alane Jewel, who has owned the digital marketing business since 2012.

“I have worked for corporate brands like Microsoft, AT&T and RealPlayer, but really love my social media work with small businesses and startups,” Jewel says. “It’s amazing to see these new entrepreneurs rising up and recognizing that strong, digital marketing outreach is impactful, and will help them succeed.”

What’s your sense of doing business in the Shenango Valley? Any positive trends you’re noticing?

Business is very busy at this time. There is an abundance of remote marketing opportunities post-pandemic. When I left the office in 2012 to start my own marketing business, finding great remote roles was like looking for unicorns. I love seeing all our small businesses open, event planning continue and life as we know it returning to normal.

What’s a cool happening in the area?

I am excited that WaterFire Sharon, an arts and performance community event, is returning Sept. 18 to beautiful downtown Sharon. The event offers a fine arts market, food vendors, musical entertainment and performance art and the fire lighting on the river at dusk.

Submitted by Zackary Smigel, owner, Real Estate License Wizard

Over the last year, sales have grown rapidly for Real Estate License Wizard, which offers training solutions to individuals looking to earn their real estate license, says owner Zackary Smigel.

In addition to organic growth obtained from search engine optimization and blogging, Smigel attributes 90% of that growth to his YouTube channel, He says his channel recently hit more than 1 million channel views and has more than 24,000 subscribers.

When Smigel appeared on The Business Journal’s “Real T” last August, the channel had just 1,000 subscribers watching Smigel’s content, such as webinars and live practice exams. His reach also expanded to 17 states.

“This last year has been the best year we’ve ever had,” Smigel says. “Nothing can compare to the growth that YouTube has shown us.”

What’s your sense of doing business in the Shenango Valley? Any positive trends you’re noticing?

Personally, I’ve noticed a lot of local online businesses pop up post-COVID. I think now more than ever, people are realizing the demand for online education and transitioning your business online.

Submitted by Ray and Amanda Lucich, co-owners, Armor Linings Inc. & Krown Rust Protection

With a worldwide shortage of microchips limiting the number of new vehicles available for consumers, Armor Linings Inc. & Krown Rust Protection noticed increased demand for its rust protection services.

“By recognizing the need to keep vehicles longer, the Krown Rust Protection has become a ‘must’ for those consumers who know they will be increasing the resale value of their vehicle when the vehicle-sellers have more stock available for matching the buyers’ wants and needs,” the Luciches say.

What’s your sense of doing business in the Shenango Valley? Any positive trends you’re noticing?

As a business located in West Middlesex, Pa., we are proud to create job opportunities for our neighbors. While we serve many local customers, we continue to grow by serving those from many other areas, including fleet owners.

This brings more people into our local community for visiting some of West Middlesex’s popular businesses. Among them are O’Neill Coffee Co., the West Middlesex Diner, the DQ, JaneCo’s Career Advancement services and others, all located within walking distance.

Our operations in “small town USA” does give us the opportunity to be involved in many local community events.

What’s a cool happening in the area?

The 9/11 Memorial Parade is being held on Sept. 11, 2021. We are proud to be helping coordinate the event with the West Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department.

Submitted by Carmen Aiello, vice president marketing, Visit Mercer County PA 

What is a recent bit of big news you’d like to share?

The Shenango River was named the PA 2021 River of the Year. The designation is intended to raise awareness of the recreational, ecological and historical resources related to Pennsylvania’s waterways. We plan to capitalize on this recognition by hosting more events on the river.

What’s your sense of doing business in the Shenango Valley? Any positive trends you’re noticing?

We think there is a demand for travel. We saw our first motorcoach since the start of the pandemic in mid-July. So there is an expectation that motorcoach traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels.

What’s a cool happening in the area?

Destination accommodations are rebounding after the pandemic. Tara – A Country Inn and Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa are seeing increased traffic for weekday and weekend from travelers.

Recently in downtown Sharon, the Father’s Day Car Show drew a great crowd to the area, bringing focus back to downtown Sharon and the Shenango Valley.

In September the Shenango Valley will once again host WaterFire Sharon PA. This event is focused on the Shenango River that flows through downtown Sharon and draws over 10,000 people to town.

Submitted by Debbie Anderson, owner, LeChic Bath Boutique

After starting LeChic Bath Boutique with a few products on a table at events and pop-up shops, Debbie Anderson says the company will celebrate the grand opening of its new retail store at 129 S. Market St., New Wilmington. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Aug. 21.

What’s your sense of doing business in the Shenango Valley?

Shenango Valley has a very large community of startups and entrepreneurs – English and Amish – with wonderful products and services that we all need and want.

We would like to help enhance the area by bringing more of these folks together to form a community where we can support and celebrate each other and invite many more to join us!

What’s a cool happening in the area?

We encourage other entrepreneurs to consider this area too as we build up The Shops @ the Pointe and other local businesses, music and art. We are approximately three miles from Volant and 10 miles from Grove City.

We also have a business consultant, which includes financial services, bookkeeping and more in our building who specializes in working with startups. 

We look forward to increasing the amount of small shops in our area to help create that destination spot that locals and tourists want to visit and spend time enjoying the scenery, the land, the history and of course shopping and eating.

We appreciate the fact that New Wilmington takes into consideration that startups need to be given a chance to get their businesses up off the ground – and this is not an easy feat.

Submitted by Deborah Plant, innkeeper, Plant’s Herb Farm Bed & Breakfast

After 17 years, Plant’s Herb Farm Bed & Breakfast, Mercer, is working to expand its presence in the community, says Deborah Plant, innkeeper.

“We are always looking for different ways to drive new business, especially after being faced with the additional challenges of the past year,” Plant says. “The bed and breakfast  business is a wonderful way to meet and greet new people, and we’ve been called a charming getaway that exceeds the expectations of our guests.”

What is a recent bit of big news you’d like to share?

We have planted lavender and other herbs in our field, and we will be offering you-pick opportunities as part of our agritourism package.

We are planning to add more items and can’t wait to share them with our visitors. Since the need for social distancing will still be here due to COVID, we hope to be “the” thing to do this summer.

As an herbal enthusiast, I will offer classes on growing, cooking, grilling and harvesting the herbs you have picked. These classes have proved popular.

We also offer personal teas, fairy teas, birthday parties, dinners and showers. We will entertain and teach groups about herbs. We welcome groups such as garden clubs, Red Hat Ladies, Girls and Boy Scout troops, or any other groups.