By Victor Milani
I have lived long enough to know that at one time the Northfield Plaza was THE PLACE to shop in Nordonia Hills. Movie theater, food stores, Joann Fabrics, Penney’s, Marty’s Shoes, SS Kresges were just a few of the solid stores that called Northfield Plaza home. The boom of Macedonia Commons and the downfall of retail business nearly wiped out the Plaza in the late 80’s and 90’s. I became Mayor in late 1999 and luckily for me, Larry Shafron purchased the Plaza. He hired John Scimone as a salesman to rebrand and revitalize the Plaza. Within a few short years, the once decimated Plaza was filled with tenants! I always claimed that John Scimone could sell ice to the Eskimos! Gabriel Brothers filled the 60,000 square foot vacant Penny’s location, and other retail (second and third tier businesses mind you) stores filled the Plaza. The highlight of the Plaza occurred with the grand opening of the Gabriel Brothers when there was not a single parking space available in the entire Plaza! Gabriel Brother’s was not the first choice of many residents as a new anchor, but it filled the void. But it did lead to new business such as Big Lots, Aldi’s, new McDonalds, BMV Title and License Bureau. and other new, smaller-scale businesses.
The mid-2000’s was a retail nightmare as many onetime solvent retail outlets bottomed out. Others left Northfield Village for the alleged greener pastures of Macedonia Commons. The Commons has a higher car count, which is the bible to the retail industry. Shops of tier two or three level (Hobby Lobby, Ollie’s, and other discount retail outlets) stores that used to favor the Plaza, went to Macedonia. Even Aldi’s, who I never dreamed would make Macedonia its home, did so. The Plaza that Larry Shafron, John Scimone and I had filled, was once again turned into the tumbleweed plaza. Stores such as Betty’s Hallmark Card’s, Aldi’s, Big Lots, the Hardware Store and others joined the exodus from the Plaza. Recently the Dolphin left the Plaza for reasons that differ depending on who you speak with. But the Dolphin was a success story by a hard-working couple, Sam and Sandy Mihalek, who had a strong legion of senior and family followers. It to has remained empty, as has Everstone Floors. Plans to locate an Ultra Lounge with a hookah theme has hit numerous snags in their effort to open. Firestone, Scoreboards Bar, Dollar General, and the BMV are four of the lone survivors of better times. Goodwill moved from the Ledge Rd Plaza to the former Aldi’s. United Auto Supply, while filling a 50,000 square foot void in the old Gabriel Brothers location, was met with a yawn, and ”who are these people” by most residents.
Mayor Jesse Nehez and his administration have made movements in the past to force the Plaza Management to upgrade the appearance and décor the facility. They have cited the Plaza into Stow Municipal on at least on two occasions on building/ code violations. Building Dept. Supervisor Jason Walters has a notebook binder filled with pictures and past violations of issues with the Plaza. It is indeed a sore spot with Mayor Nehez and his administration.
The owner of the Plaza, Howard Shafron, who took over management of the Plaza when his father Larry passed on, has cited efforts on his part to bring major tenants to the Plaza with little luck. Big box retail doesn’t come to Northfield but will go a mile down Route 8 to Macedonia, with a higher car count. Shafron has employed many commercial real estate agencies to attract tenants with little success. Onyx Gym, Swamper’s Designs, a daycare, are few new tenants. Renovations were made to Firestone, and McDonald’s plans an upgrade this Spring. Shafron mentions that along with the Ultra Bar, there are plans for a nail salon and car detailing/tee shirt company coming soon. Shafron claims the Plaza is 85% filled currently.
Mayor Nehez states that the appearance and décor of the Plaza is a reason outlets bypass Northfield Plaza. The Mayor and Council are frustrated at the alleged lack of attention that Plaza Management has shown to upgrade the facility. The Nehez administration also desires a more upscale, better brand of a tenant. Howard Shafron maintains he has spent millions of dollars in HVAC, sprinkling systems mandated by the county, repairs to the roofs, pavement issues. and landscaping. He went on to say “Any commercial realtor, banker, real estate appraiser, commercial property owner, would state unequivocally that companies choose their locations based solely upon the demographics of the immediate area. Anyone who states or believes anything to the contrary I recommend they speak to an expert such as commercial realtor, banker, real estate appraiser, or commercial property owner. “
I know when I was Mayor for twelve years, the residents clamored for an Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Old Navy, bookstore, dry cleaner, and national chain restaurants such as a Bob Evans just to name a few. I sat in on meetings with Menards, and Meijer with the Shafrons, trying to woo them to Northfield Village. We nearly brokered a deal with Dunkin Donuts/Togos to build next to McDonald’s. Those deals all fell through.
The issues with Northfield Plaza were there when I was the Mayor. They remain the same under Mayor Nehez. Mayor Nehez stated his patience is ”running thin” with Howard Shafron and the Plaza. Howard Shafron and Emil Gomadov, the owner of Onyx Fitness Center, and aspiring Ultra Lounge owner plans to attend this Wednesday evening’s Northfield Village Council meeting to address concerns with the Plaza and the Ultra Lounge. Nordonia Hills. News will be present to videotape the meeting as well. We welcome your comments on the state of the Plaza, as well as what you would like to see there!