Shenango Chamber Honors 7 with Phoenix Awards

SHARON, Pa. — The Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce honored four businesses and three nonprofits with Phoenix Awards Thursday for extraordinary achievement in 2015.

Blissed Out Design was recognized for entrepreneurship; Buhl Park Corp., a nonprofit, for innovation; Sharon Fence Co. for its growth as a small manufacturer; Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service for growth as a large manufacturer; Health Link Services as a nonprofit organization; Joshua’s Haven City Mission, also a nonprofit; as a service organization; and The Medicine Shoppe for beautification.

Each recipient of the Phoenix Awards was introduced by a two-minute video shot by Jerry Stigliano of Jerry Stigliano Videography. The introduction concisely explained why the Phoenix steering committee chose the winner in each category – how the nonprofits have improved the quality of life for the communities they serve, how the for-profits achieved success.

Linda Smiley and Mark Sakony began Blissed Out Design, Sharon, in the basement of their home in March 2013, outgrew that space and moved to the [email protected] in April 2014, outgrew that space and today are in the former Westinghouse Building.

In the old Westinghouse building, Smiley and Sakony have four times the space as they had the incubator, Smiley said. Moreover, sales have grown 353% over the last year.

Blissed Out is best known for its handcrafted marble drink coasters that bear vintage images of landmarks in western Pennsylvania, mostly in Mercer County and Greater Pittsburgh, but the couple make other products that display images of landmarks of long ago, including wine bags.

“We sell memories,” Smiley said, and Blissed Out customers have many happy memories of growing up or living in western Pennsylvania.

The president of Buhl Park Corp., Gary Hinkson, reviewed the innovations the 101-year-old outdoor recreational space has taken that range from “revamping the organizational structure” to creating an off-leash dog park and 18-hole disc golf course, setting up a reception area and gift shop, and allowing kayaking on Lake Julia.

Hickson praised Executive Director Tom Roskos for persuading donors to add to the endowment of Frank and Julia Buhl left to fund park operations. “We had to grow the endowment,” Hinkson explained, and the increase has allowed more to use the park – more than 400,000 people use it each year – and offer more events.

Also helping draw family and organization celebrations to building and shelters in the park is the recent lifting of the ban on alcohol, Hinkson noted.

Sharon Fence Co., founded in 1964 as a Sharon Metal Fence Inc. with a focus on distributing wholesale chain link fence, has grown to an enterprise with nearly 50 employees, half in Sharon, the other half in Columbus, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y. It entered Ohio in 2008, Buffalo in 2013, the same year it built a new 40,000-square-foor plant in Sharon, its president, David Smith related.

The company has tripled in size since 2007, when the family who founded Sharon Metal Fence sold it, Smith noted. The new owners have expanded its product line and today the company known for its large aluminum sliding gates, which it brands “The BOSS” gates, and parapet protective fence it makes for for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In not quite 52 years, Flynn’s Tire has grown from one site in Mercer County to 28 in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, “and the company is still expanding,” said the grandson of the founder, Joe Flynn. He credited the corporate culture, where employees are treated like family, and training is ongoing.

Flynn’s moved its headquarters and central plant to the old Wall Street Journal printing plant in 2014, Flynn said. It “has more space than we need. We hope to grow into it.”

Health Link Services, a nurse aide training center, has two employees, the executive director, Wendy Karlovic, and instructor Karen Connelly, both registered nurses. Since its founding in 2001, more than 400 students have completed and graduated from its 111-hour course, which the Pennsylvania Department of Education has designated a “model program,” Karlovic said.

Demand for its graduates, many of whom work in nursing homes, will only grow, she said, because of the aging population in the region.

Pastors Sherry and John Swetz founded Joshua’s Haven City Mission, the only rescue mission in Mercer County, in 2005. Sherry Swetz is executive director, John director of the men’s ministry.

The faith-based rescue mission with four employees is “dedicated to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless [as it] shares the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Sherry Swetz said in accepting the Phoenix. It offers Bible study classes as well as “a free bread and blanket program.”

It can provide shelter for up to 14 people – it has expanded its ministry to serve women and children as well as men – and helps those in its shelter prepare resumes and dress for interviews.

Joshua’s Haven, funded entirely by private donors, will soon expand its ministry to offer a “free medical clinic,” Swetz said.

Joseph and Rhonda Yarzab received their Phoenix Awards for beautification, to wit, converting and rehabilitating a former Arthur Treacher’s restaurant in Hermitage to their new store when they outgrew their first. They moved into their new quarters last August.

The Yarzabs purchased their Treacher’s franchise in 2002 and today have eight employees.

During the awards program, Interim Executive Director Deanne Koch, who is leaving the Shenango Chamber June 30 after 12 years of service, was accorded a standing ovation recognizing her service. Sherris Moreira, director of group tourism for Pittsburgh Transportation Group, was named last week as the chamber’s new executive director.

The chamber also recognized the 18 recent graduates of Leadership Shenango and singled out three as outstanding participants: Rebecca Moder of West Central Job Partnership, Jessica Wellington of The Pennsylvania Dance Co. and Jason Young of Huntington Bank.

The other 15 are Katherine Bradshaw, Brandin Brooks and Rachel Reichert of Primary Health Network; Sarah Boland of The Nugent Group, Mary Booth of the Primary Health Network Charitable Foundation; Erica DeCarmen and Jen Foust of Synergy Comp Insurance Co.; Kimberly Durkos of Sharon Regional Health System; Justin Gregorich, Sonya Lapikas and Kelly Sanzari of Thiel College; Carmen Russo of Laurel Technical Institute; Brenda Steines of Quaker Steak & Lube; Ryan Wetzel of Merrill Lynch; and Hannah Wilhelm of Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa.

Sarah Palmer, chairwoman of the Leadership Shenango Steering Committee and the recognition and awards committee, oversaw yesterday’s program.

Pictured at the event: Clancy Atkinson, chamber past president, Sherris Moreira, newly named executive director, Wendy Karlovic and Karen Connelly from Health Link Services, one of the Phoenix Award winners.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.