New Minibus Provides a Lift for Ridgeview Tours

WARREN, Ohio – Sharon Grover has a passion for showing visitors the “hidden gems” in Trumbull County, but a few years ago her travel business hit a roadblock.

Grover, president of Ridgeview Tours, unofficially began her business with seven bus trips in 2000, offering Amish culture tours in Mesopotamia Township.

She said by 2020 she had expanded to 238. But following the pandemic, she lost 90% of her business, she said. Unsure of what was to come next, she stumbled upon the Trumbull County American Rescue Plan program.

“When COVID hit, my heart sank for me personally and other people in business … but failure wasn’t an option,” she said. 

After filing an application last May, Grover said she was awarded funds this March. From there, she was able to purchase a new minibus.

“We had a hard time finding one because of the chip issue, but we found one in Harrisburg, Pa., and it’s exactly what we want,” she said.

After about three months of searching, Grover unveiled her brand new 15 passenger minibus Friday morning in front of the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum. 

The bus has already received several bookings, and Grover said it is perfect for those looking for a small and more intimate setting.

“May 25, we are going to have the Euclid adult seniors come out, and that will be our official first group of seniors,” she said.

Grover said the customer base is mainly geared toward seniors.

“Euclid Adult Senior Center can’t get a full bus, but I can make this affordable to them,” she said.

Grover has been running her business for 23 years now and said she has seen people as far as Buffalo, New York, and even from outside the country.

“It’s a unique experience that they want,” she said. “They want to be able to look out the window, and me to point out, ‘There’s an Amish home,’ and give them the history of the Amish culture, and then take them into an Amish home. These are experiences they can’t do on their own.”

Beth Kotwis Carmichael, left, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, and Sharon Grover, president of Ridgeview Tours, stand behind Grover’s new minibus Friday.

Beth Kotwis Carmichael, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, said it is important to highlight National Travel and Tourism Week.

Carmichael said many people don’t realize tourism in the local area is regularly happening.

“A lot of people think no visitors come at all, but early research last year from Tourism Ohio showed that about 50% of the people visiting all of the state of Ohio are visiting friends and family,” she said. “It’s really important for our residents to know all of the cool things there are to see and do so they can promote that and give their visiting friends and family some of that information.”

Carmichael said in Trumbull County alone, the direct visitor spending was more than $489 million.

“When that spending is leveraged to indirect and induced spending, it’s over $850 million,” she said. “We are almost a billion dollar industry right here in Trumbull County.”

Over 4,000 jobs are supported through tourism in the area, Carmichael said.

“It’s a great industry to be in,” she said.

Following the pandemic, Carmichael said, older community members no longer wanted to get on large buses full of people. She said the new, smaller bus opens a new and more intimate opportunity.

The Ridgeview Tours minibus made a stop at the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum on Friday.

Continuing her passion to find hidden gems in the area, Carmichael said Grover discovered the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum and realized it was the perfect spot for some of her group tours.

“One of the things that is really important for Sharon is that she continues to uncover these hidden gems,” she said. 

Janie Cunningham, a volunteer at the museum, said she is honored to have this relationship with Grover. Her brother opened the museum in 2014.

“His goal was to preserve Ernie Hall’s legacy and his history,” she said. “I think we have accomplished that here.”

Cunningham said the goal of the museum is to honor all local, regional, commercial, military and private pilots, and to educate younger generations about the history of aviation.

“My goal is to partner with hidden gems,” Grover said. “This is a hidden gem, [and] we want to get it exposed.”

For more information about attractions in Trumbull County, click HERE.

Pictured at top: Sharon Grover, president of Ridgeview Tours, stands next to her new minibus.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.