Signs of Renewal in Champaign County

On my morning run today, I celebrated spring.

Browne Hall, Urbana University, Urbana, Ohio

Browne Hall at Urbana University

Everywhere, trees leafed and bloomed. Like the red bud that framed my view of old Browne Hall at the edge of the Urbana University campus.

Amidst the beauty of God’s creation, our community has been blessed this spring with opportunity for renewal and second chances.

Urbana University is a prime example – thanks to local banks and all who worked out the agreement announced this past week for Franklin University to buy the university.

UU has a renewed opportunity to serve students, enrich our community and energize the local economy – an estimated $30 million a year. Plus the new partnership offers the prospect for broadened impact.

Gloria Theater, Urbana, Ohio

A clear sign of renewal, with a reference to the past: the theater’s one-time name, The Gloria, named by Warren Grimes in tribute to his daughter Gloria.

My run also took me past the closed Urbana Twin Cinemas building. About 24 hours earlier I sat at a table in the theater lobby with several others. We worked on marketing and fundraising strategies for GrandWorks, a community initiative to transform the theater into a center for live and on-screen entertainment and other programming to drive cultural, social, economic and spiritual revival for the greater Champaign County community.

Visit the new GrandWorks website to learn more and support the project. (By the way, Urbana University is one of several community organizations involved in GrandWorks.)

At the end of my morning today, Jim Lillibridge, pastor of the Urbana United Methodist Church, shared in his message a bit of scripture (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) that illuminated my on-the-run musings about what I see at work around us and what we’re called to do:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

What signs of renewal and second chances do you see at work in the Champaign County, Ohio community?

The Carmazzi’s Story Continues in Downtown Urbana, Ohio

The sun shone brightly Saturday on the ribbon cutting and open house that marked the beginning of a new chapter in Urbana, Ohio’s oldest downtown business, Carmazzi’s Deli and Candy Store. I offer you a recap of the celebration in photos. And if you haven’t read it already, check out my original post on the continuation of Carmazzi’s 121-year tradition under new ownership.

Carmazzi's Corner, Urbana, Ohio

John Carmazzi, and his wife, Michelle, at left, with new owners Jeff and Teresa Donay, who will continue the Carmazzi’s tradition begun 121 years ago by John’s great uncle Sam Bianchi.

Jeff Donay cuts the ribbon to mark the store's transition to its new name, Carmazzi's Corner, a tribute to the Carmazzi family's many years of dedicated service to their customers and community.

Jeff Donay cuts the ribbon to mark the store’s transition to its new name, Carmazzi’s Corner, a tribute to the Carmazzi family’s many years of dedicated service to their customers and community.

Carmazzi's tantalizing selection of classic candies will continue to draw kids and the young at heart.

Carmazzi’s tantalizing selection of classic candies will continue to draw kids and the young at heart.

Carmazzi's Corner also introduces some new features, including Young's Jersey Dairy ice cream and sandwiches, salads and desserts make by store manager Nanette Hagan.

Carmazzi’s Corner also introduces some new features, including Young’s Jersey Dairy ice cream and store manager Nanette Hagan’s sandwiches, salads and desserts.

The Carmazzi's magnetism continues.... Visit their new website.

And the Carmazzi’s magnetism goes on…. Visit their new website.

Disc Golf Adds New Spin to Easter Tradition – and Urbana, Ohio, Park

My family enjoyed traditional Easter observances Sunday – a sunrise service and breakfast led by the youth of the Urbana United Methodist Church, followed by contemporary and traditional worship celebrations, a big, delicious family dinner at Kay’s mom’s house, and the egg and candy hunt in her back yard.

Alex watches as Andy makes his approach shot.

Alex watches as Andy makes his approach.

Then we veered off course. That would be to the new 18-hole Urbana Hilltop Disc Golf Course at Urbana’s Melvin Miller Park.

All but our sons, Andy and Alex, were new to the sport. They started playing in college, Andy at Ohio Northern University and Alex at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Another Ohio Northern alum, Tyler Bumbalough, Urbana’s city engineer, oversaw development of the course last year – his project while enrolled in the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Champaign County program.

The Urbana Hilltop Disc Golf Course offered fun, quality family time.

The Urbana Hilltop Disc Golf Course offered fun, quality family time.

A Community Project

Bumbalough, however, never played disc golf until this project. He’s more of an ultimate Frisbee aficionado. Disc golfer Keith Smith of Urbana, tired of having to go out of town for his sport, initially brought the idea for the course to city officials. He and Gene Newcomer assisted Bumbalough.

Construction, with the help of volunteers, started last spring and was mostly complete in the fall. Local businesses and individuals have sponsored the course. They are credited on signs at each of the disc golf tees.

No. 1 Tee sign at Urbana Hilltop Disc Golf Course.

No. 1 Tee sign at Urbana Hilltop Course.

The first tee is downhill from the shelter house on the east end of Melvin Miller Park. A welcome sign will soon be erected there. Other improvements are planned as well.

Disc golf diehards, though, have had no trouble finding the course. You can find details about the par 59, 5,185-foot layout online at DG Course Review.

Library Loans Discs

This card shows the contents of the disc golf sets that can be borrowed from the Champaign County Library.

This card shows the contents of the disc golf sets that can be borrowed from the Champaign County Library.

To help you try out the new course, the Champaign County Library recently purchased two sets of discs. With a library card you can check out a set for two weeks. To give more people a chance to borrow them, the library is not permitting renewals.

Each set includes seven discs, enough for two people to share around the course.

Since Andy and Alex were the only ones with their own discs, we borrowed a set from the library. As luck would have it, one of the discs got stuck high up in a tree. Much of the course is hilly and wooded.

Disc-eating tree on Fairway 8. Two-by-four just missed on this rescue attempt.

Disc-eating tree on Fairway 8. Two-by-four overshot the target on this rescue attempt.

But thanks to Alex, and to the relief of his mother, who works at the library, we returned home with all seven discs.  After several throws, Alex dislodged the disc with a piece of two-by-four found in the woods off the fairway.

Give ’er a Try

Anyway, a fun time was had by all on a beautiful Easter afternoon, on a well-designed and challenging disc golf course – a fantastic addition to a beautiful municipal park that already offers a wealth of recreational opportunities.

My nephew Evan Hall goes for the basket.

My nephew Evan Hall goes for the basket.

My mother-in-law, Sue Markley, tees off.

My mother-in-law, Sue Markley, tees off.

Try it out and report back.





Part 3: Made in Urbana, Sold in Urbana

Welcome to the third in a three-part series of posts about products manufactured and available for purchase in Champaign County, Ohio.

Robert Rothschild Farm products at Kroger

Part of the Robert Rothschild Farm display at Kroger in Urbana, Ohio.

About a mile and a half from where they’re made, you’ll find Robert Rothschild Farm gourmet food products at the Urbana Kroger store. Rothschild products also are sold at Mad River Farm Market, just north of Urbana.

Robert Rothschild Farm got its start back in 1976 as a pick-your-own berry farm established by entrepreneurs Bob and Sara Rothschild, who moved from the San Francisco Bay area. In 1984, they began using part of their 170-acre farm’s red raspberry harvest  to make preserves. From there, the product line of Robert Rothschild Farm has grown dramatically to more than 200 specialty food products, including dips, sauces, condiments, preserves, spreads, mustards, pasta sauces and dessert toppings. Many have won gourmet food awards.

The products, manufactured in small batches in Robert Rothschild Farm’s 51,000-square-foot production facility, are sold throughout the continental U.S., at grocery and specialty stores, as well as on the Robert Rothschild Farm website. More recently Rothschild products became available in 37-ounce jars at Sam’s Club and Costco.

In addition, you’ll find Robert Rothschild Farm gift sets during the holiday shopping season at Kohl’s, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble.

The company, which plans for continued growth, has recently partnered with Champaign County and the City of Urbana to extend a sewer line to facilitate expanded production and job growth.


This is the final post of this series about locally manufactured products that are sold locally. However, Champaign Uncorked! will periodically focus on other Champaign County manufacturers. They may not make products you can buy at a store. But local companies manufacture a wide array of  products that make our lives better — from sensors that prevent medical imaging equipment from colliding with us during exams, to automobile frames, to lighting for towers and aircraft.



Part 2: Made in Urbana, Sold in Urbana

Welcome to the second in a three-part series of posts about products manufactured and available for purchase in Champaign County, Ohio.

For this post, I take you to Williams Hardware in Urbana, a locally-owned store that’s part of the Do It Best cooperative of independent hardware and home improvement stores.

This post features products made by two long-time Urbana manufacturers. The first product (I hope) will soon be back in season, replacing snow shovels and deicer.

Adjustable window screen made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana, Ohio

A W.B. Marvin adjustable window screen

Until then, adjustable window screens made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana sit back in the stockroom.

Pete White, W.B. Marvin’s general manager, said that in the past year the Urbana plant has produced more than a million of the screens in various sizes for national and international markets and retailers that include Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value, Kmart, Ace and Big Lots. They’re also available at the Urbana Walmart store.

“We sell more than we ever have,” White said.

And just seven years ago, W.B. Marvin, founded in 1915 by William Marvin Johnson, closed its doors. The company started out making lightweight window fans before introducing metal rail adjustable screens in 1936, screen window fans in 1945 and later space heaters. Due to supply problems for the heaters, the facility shut down.

Then along came Thermwell Products Co., Inc. of New Jersey, maker of Frost King weatherstripping and insulation products. Thermwell acquired W.B. Marvin in January 2008, reopened the Urbana facility and put the plant’s laid off employees back to work. And Thermwell has since purchased additional property for future expansion.

Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Co. grinding wheel dresser at Williams Hardware, Urbana, Ohio

Richard Van Buskirk of Williams Hardware with a Desmond Stephan grinding wheel dresser.

W.B. Marvin’s summer line of window screens formed the perfect complement to Frost King’s winterizing products, Mel Gerstein, Thermwell president, said. “It would be a tragedy to allow the Marvin name and quality reputation to disappear.”

You’ll find the other locally made product in Williams’ tool section – a grinding wheel dresser made by the Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Company, which has been in continuous operation in Urbana since 1898.

Desmond Stephan, touting the only complete line of wheel dressers, markets across the U.S. and in 17 other countries, mostly through industrial distributors that sell to foundries and small machine shops.

Three Cheers for Local Hardware Stores

Besides Williams Hardware, Champaign County has two other Do It Best stores – Downing’s Hardware in Mechanicsburg and Skelley Lumber Co. in Urbana.

I’m a fan of local hardware stores. Home repair-impaired and the owner of an old house, I value the personal attention I get when I cross the threshold of Williams or Skelley’s. (I’m sure the same could be said of Downing’s, though living in Urbana, I haven’t shopped there yet.)

They save me time and sanity. I carry in odd, antiquated, worn out pieces of plumbing, or what not, and I soon leave with advice and replacement parts. I’ve found that at big box stores, I wander in search of a sales associate and a solution to my home repair dilemma.

What local stores do you depend on?

I’ll be back with one more post for this series — and then a post about the changing of the guard and continuing of tradition in a Champaign County business that’s been a landmark since 1893.

Buy Local at Walmart?

Walmart draws a fair share of accusations across small-town America. Among them: Walmart sells low-priced merchandise from China and forces local retailers out of business.

As a well-known spokesperson for thankless, dirty jobs, Mike Rowe recently took some of the flak for Walmart when he voiced a commercial announcing the mega-retailer’s pledge to buy $250 billion of U.S.-made products over the next 10 years.

Bundy Baking Solutions, Urbana, Ohio

Sonja Ropp of the Urbana Walmart store holds two of the American Baking Classics products made by Bundy Baking Solutions.

Responding to the negative comments left on his Facebook page and explaining why he did the spot, Rowe wrote:

“Dozens of American factories are going to reopen all over the country. Millions of dollars will pour straight into local economies, and hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing positions will need to be filled.

“There’s a lot of merchandise currently in Walmart that’s manufactured right here in the USA.”

Made in USA in Urbana

Did you know that the Urbana Walmart store sells products that are manufactured right here – in Urbana, Ohio?

If not, don’t feel bad.

When I asked Sonja Ropp, Urbana Walmart zone merchandising supervisor, if I could snap a photo of her holding an American Bakeware Classics brand 12-cup muffin pan and half sheet pan, she was surprised. And not just by my request.

Until I told her, she had no idea that the products, and others on the shelves behind her, were made by Urbana’s own Bundy Baking Solutions.

The world’s leading baking corporations have long recognized Bundy for the quality and durability of its commercial baking pans and associated products. Now home bakers are discovering Bundy’s quality through the American Bakeware Classics consumer line, made since 2013 for Walmart.

Wendi Ebbing, marketing manager for Bundy, says that the company makes other consumer brands, such as USA Pan, for retailers that include Williams-Sonoma, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

“We are known as experts in manufacturing baking pans and we’re thrilled to bring the same quality that commercial bakers have come to appreciate into the home,” Ebbing said.

What other Champaign County-manufactured products are available at local retail stores?

Share your answers in the comments section below.

And stay tuned for upcoming posts.


Today’s bonus: A downtown Urbana retailer shares her view of  Walmart at the end of a previous Champaign Uncorked! post. It may not be what you’d expect.