Why Seneca County

Taylor Elchert Photography

Meet Taylor Elchert Harrison, owner of Taylor Elchert Photography, located at 113 Melmore St. in Tiffin. Taylor began taking pictures as a hobby, and nine years ago, at the age of 15, launched her own business out of her parents’ home.

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“It was fun,” she said. “My parents were very supportive, and I was so young I didn’t have that pressure to make money.”

Taylor’s family is no stranger to entrepreneurship – her father is the owner of Fort Ball Pizza. Though they have two very different businesses, Taylor said she learned about owning a business watching how hard her dad works at it. “I am inspired by my dad,” she said.

Taylor decided while going to college that she wanted to make photography her profession. “At first I was planning on doing it on the side,” she said. “When I decided it was a full time career, I got serious about it. I needed a storefront.”

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The studio space allows her more freedom in her photo sessions and props. Her building houses a plethora of props, and there is always a seasonal set in place. “The set is real, that’s really important to me,” she said. “It’s all about the experience for the client.”

Taylor specialized in capturing “milestone” moments in peoples’ lives. Her services include photos for maternity, family, births, newborns, and children.

One unique aspect of Taylor’s studio is the finished product and her push away from digital files. “Digital doesn’t last forever. I provide my clients with wall art, and a variety of other tangible products,” she said.

Check out Taylor’s work on her website or Facebook.

Bilger’s Lawn and Landscape

Bilger's Ribbon CuttingMeet Brian Bilger, owner of Bilger’s Lawn and Landscape, located at 1761 N. SR 53 in Tiffin. Brian started his landscaping business out of his parents’ garage in 1999 and 17 years later the business is still going strong and growing.

He began mowing lawns in his neighborhood when he was nine, and continued throughout high school. He started the business in his parents’ garage and attended classes in landscape contracting and horticulture science at Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College during the off-season.

Bilger soon outgrew the garage, moved to a larger space, and finally rented a space on SR 53 North of Tiffin. Last year, they built and moved into their own building at  1761 N. SR 53 (a $300,000 investment), giving them more room for storage, including their new storage building and swing set installation services. The company currently employs 18-20 individuals, and Brian says they are comfortable at that number. “We are working on our internal system and setting a standard of quality,” he said.

Brian is also actively involved in the Tiffin community. Several years ago his design skills landed him on a sub-committee of Tiffin Tomorrow, a group dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Tiffin. In 2014, it was absorbed by SIEDC, with the original group serving as the downtown leadership board, and Brian is still a key member of the board. He is also a member of the Tiffin Community Reinvestment Group, the group responsible for the purchase and revitalization of the Laird Arcade in downtown Tiffin.

Additionally, Brian is a part of the Seneca County Home Builders Association, a group of building professionals who hold educational and networking events for their industry partners as well as assist community organizations. He also takes part in their yearly Home Expo event.

“Tiffin is home,” he said. “I love everything about it. I feel fortunate to be here, and everyone has been really great. I want to give back.”

Bilger’s is able to help with all of your landscape needs including digital landscape design, installation, maintenance, lighting, water features, paver patios/retaining walls, drip irrigation, lawn treatment programs, swing sets/storage sheds and retail landscape materials. Check out their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or visit their website.

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Wellys Monument Company

Wellys All Patriot

Three generations: Luke, Art and Tim.

Meet Tim Welly, owner of Welly’s Monument Company located at 2873 S State Route 100 in Tiffin. Wellys is a family-owned business that creates monuments and memorials.

The business started in 1960 with Tim’s father, Arthur Welly. It began in the family’s home, and continued there until 2002, when Tim built and moved to their current location, which features one of the largest indoor memorial displays in Northwest Ohio. Tim became involved in the family business in 1979, at the age of 19, and bought the business in 1989. Tim’s son Luke currently works with him, the latest in the family line.

“I have third and fourth generation customers. For the most part, Seneca County residents try to patronize local businesses,” Tim said. “But it’s not like in my dad’s days. The business has changed immensely with CAD and impact engravers. Customers don’t just pick their monument out of a catalogue, in this day and age everything is designed to the customer’s wants and needs.”

In fact, He uses three different computer programs to design one-of-a-kind memorials, with no limitations on size or shape and employs a staff of salesmen, artists, and installers to design and create that special memorial.

Not only does Wellys create funeral memorials, they have also created three of the war memorials in town: the Tiffin All Patriots Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the World War II Memorial. You can see their work along Frost Parkway in Tiffin.

Wellys Monument Company is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and evening and weekends by appointment.

 

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Dead Shark Productions

20160623_180831In honor of Dead Shark Week…

Meet Alex and Brady Doepker, owners of Dead Shark Productions based in Tiffin. Alex and Brady are Tiffin-native brothers with exceptional videography skills. You may know them from Mayor Aaron Montz’s “Keep Tiffin Moving Forward” video, or the series of promotional pieces for the Tiffin Music and Art Festival, but there is so much more to Dead Shark Productions.

The Doepkers got their start early, assisting their dad in making wedding videos as children. “We started helping as soon as we could hold cameras, and that became our weekend and summer jobs,” Brady said.

“Video production has always been the plan,” Brady said. Alex and Brady made their first short film in 1998, “The World’s Greatest Baseball Player,” as part of a summer video production class for kids through Heidelberg University. From there, both went to college to pursue filmmaking degrees.

In 2013, they began using the name Dead Shark Productions. “If a shark doesn’t move forward, it dies. It’s fitting for our business, because if we are not out there making films and trying new things, we lose motivation,” Alex said.

Most of their work takes place in Seneca County, and they are happy to keep their services here. Alex explained, “I was never one with a strong need to leave Tiffin. Clearly, things are going in the right direction here. I always thought, ‘Why can’t I do this here? Why can’t we have something of this quality, this production value?’ People don’t have to go to big cities to get great videos.”

“We set up our base here, and we can always travel,” Brady added.

Dead Shark Production’s services include commercials, music videos, wedding videography, live events and media conversion, and they also create their own short films, but they are open to trying new things. “If it’s video in any way,” Alex said, “we can probably do it.”

With more than $20,000 invested in equipment and terabytes of footage from around the county, these sharks are certainly moving forward.

Check out their work on their YouTube Channel and learn more at their website.

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Shirley Kear inducted into National Sprint Car Hall of Fame

13310441_1174607845896691_1656838272773142545_nOn June 4, Shirley Kear Valentine, owner of Kear’s Speed Shop in downtown Tiffin, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. Shirley is the fourth woman to receive the honor, and the first supplier.

“I was so shocked, I was on cloud nine!,” Shirley said. “I couldn’t have done it alone, without my family.”

Shirley and her late husband Chuck began the business in 1969. They started out supplying parts for motorsports, but quickly found their niche in sprint car racing. The Kears, along with their children, traveled to raceways all over the country and made a national name for themselves selling sprint car parts.

“Over the years, we have grown with the kids and the shop together; my youngest, Vicki, grew up with racers as friends and vacations at the track. Micki left for a while to go to college to become a nurse and start a family, only to return with her husband and family to the speed shop. Kids have always been a large part of our life and racing, this has truly been our life.”

Shirley said that you miss a lot being on the road so much, but the racers become another sort of family.

The Kears were industry pioneers in many ways. When they started traveling to raceways, women were not allowed in the pit area. “As women, we just had to learn to stand our ground and be accepted,” Shirley said. “Along the way we’ve had promoters, car owners and drivers that are women. This was the business I chose to be in with my husband, and I couldn’t stay home, so, I brought the kids too, when it was time.”

They also spearheaded many events including the Fremont Racers’ Flea Market, Manufacturers’ Give Away Nights at Fremont (worth thousands of dollars), the Kear’s Speed Shop annual Open House (which draws about 200 people each year), promoted a race at the Attica Raceway Park, and created the Chuck Kear Memorial race. Shirley was also inducted into the Fremont Hall of Fame in 2011.

Keep an eye out for signs posted around town announcing Tiffin as the home of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, 2016, Shirley Kear!

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Riehm Farms

riehm firstMeet John, Diane and Phil Riehm, the owners and operators of Riehm Produce Farm located at 7244 N. SR 53 outside of Tiffin. John is the fourth generation to run the family-owned farm, started in 1911, and Phil will be the fifth.

After more than 100 years, John says, “we’re still doing the same produce thing they were doing back then.”

John is also a unique family farm owner as his father passed away when he was only eight years old. His mother and other family members were able to care for the farm until John was old enough to take over.

John and Diane’s son, Phil, was eager to learn about the family business. After earning a crop science and agricultural business degree, he pursued his own career path for several years before he came home to Riehm Farm in 2014. “With the CSA and everything here, I wanted to get back to my roots,” he said. “I always wanted to come back to the family farm.”

The Riehms have added many new aspects to their farm over the years. Not only do they grow and sell all types of produce year-round, they also sell eggs, meats and cheeses, run a market, participate in local Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), host fun family events and more.

The CSA is a great way for consumers to purchase local, seasonal food directly from local farmers. Riehm Farms currently have 300 farm shareholders, but are hoping to reach 400 this year. You can register to be a CSA by May 15th.

They also hold seven different yearly events: two Farm-to-Fork Dinners, Barnyard Fun, a 5K Run/Walk (proceeds always benefit a local charity), Trick or Treat Night (featuring a corn maze), Christmas Trees & Family Fun, and the newest event, an Open House.

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Beehive Cafe

Meet Ashlee Decker, founder and owner of The Beehive Cafe in the Laird Arcade. The Beehive is a farm-to-table restaurant serving food sourced directly from local farmers. Ashlee says, “The concept of my cafe is to support our local community, and the Tiffin community is very supportive of one another. If it was going to work anywhere, it’d work in Tiffin.”

Ashlee also teaches Environmental Science at Heidelberg University, and will be working with a group of students for marketing. “It’s really important to allow the students to tell us what they want, they are a really big part of our community,” she said.

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Phat Cakes

Meet Natalie Wertz, founder and owner of Phat Cakes & Cafe. Located in downtown Tiffin across from the Ritz Theatre, the restaurant offers a full menu including craft beer, wine, mixed drinks, homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, quiche, specials, and gourmet desserts.

Established as a home-based business in 2009, the hunt for a storefront started almost immediately as Wertz’ customer base grew. Looking to give new life to a building that was targeted for a tear down, the vision to open and coexist with Bunky’s Bicycle Service was put into motion. Demolition started in 2010 and it took a solid year of self renovation.

“At the beginning of construction it was almost impossible to envision that we were going to build this space into anything…demolition alone took months, but I’m glad that we were able to revitalize a vacant building downtown. I chose Tiffin for many reasons. The best one is because of my family and friends that are absolutely dedicated to the core. They have helped with the construction and growth of Phat Cakes from the beginning,” says Wertz.

Awarded the Entrepreneur Spirit award by the Seneca Industrial & Economic Development Corporation in 2014, Wertz and her staff continue to add a positive vibe to the downtown scene.

From Natalie and the amazingly dedicated staff at Phat Cakes & Bunky’s, “We hope to see you soon!

More at Phat Cakes:

  • Gluten Free & Vegetarian Options
  • Party Booking
  • Hosting Benefit Nights
  • Beer Flights 5 for $8
  • A venue for local artists to preform
  • Catering with individualized menu planning
  • Party Trays – Sandwich & Dessert trays
  • Customized Cutout cookies & cakes
  • Desserts including over 100 different cupcake varieties, gourmet cheesecakes, cookies & more
  • Wine & Beer tastings
  • Paint Parties
  • Thirsty Thursday with Live Music at 7pm, $3 Craft Beers & $2 Tacos.

Open after the Ritz Theatre shows

Stop by Monday – Wednesday 10:30-2:30 and Thursday – Saturday 10:30-10pm!

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Select Realty Group

SelectMeet Sara Riesen and Fran Andersons, owners of Select Realty Group, located at 23 S. Washington St. in Tiffin. Sara and Fran started their own business in 2012 and bring a combined 42 years of experience in real estate to the table.

Both owners are Tiffin natives. “I just like the small town community,” Fran said. “It’s a very warm and welcoming town. I like being downtown where we’re growing and improving.”

“It’s such a supportive community!” Sara said. “I love walking downtown and seeing everyone. We can walk across the bridge and get a glass of wine at Ralph’s, cheesecake next door, the best cup of coffee on the corner and now we have a nice view of the river.”

“We do things a little differently and do our own thing,” Fran said of their approach to realty. In fact, when they opened, they were the only realty office in town not to require “floor time,” instead, letting their agents come and go as needed.

They are also rolled out their own app earlier this month. “We like experimenting with new technology and social media,” Sara said.

Select Realty is composed of 12 agents, including Sara and Fran. “We have fun and we have a great group that works very hard and is very caring,” Sara said of the staff. “They are community conscious so they are out there.”

Some of the groups they are involved with include: Humane Society of Seneca County, Salvation Army, Tiffin Community YMCA, and The Ritz Theatre Board.

Select belongs to the Firelands Association of REALTORS. Both Fran and Sara serve on the Firelands board of directors, with Sara serving as president. Sara also recently won the Heidelberg School of Business – HSB Women’s Established Entrepreneur Award!

Stop by and see Sara and Fran, or call to make an appointment.

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Feasel’s Frame and Collision

Feasel'sMeet the Feasels – Rick, Jan and Jeff – the family behind Feasel’s Frame& Collision Inc, located at 4400 W. US Hwy 224 just West of Tiffin. Rick and wife Jan went into the car repair business in 1984. In 2012 their son Jeff, who could often be found in his crib at the office with his parents as a child, joined the business in a managerial role.

Jeff spent several years as a video journalist, working for CBS and NBC, before he and his wife decided to move back to to Tiffin. “To go further in that career would involve moving often, and my wife and I were done moving. I always wanted to raise my family here, so I was very thankful for the opportunity to come back home and work with my parents.”

Over the past several years the family has made many improvements to the business, including equipment and structure upgrades, and they don’t plan to slow down. They just moved in to their newly renovated office last April, installed a new paint booth – complete with air filtration and water-based environmentally friendly paint – three years ago, and keeping up with industry trends, they have the ability to weld and repair aluminum.

“I love being a part of a small business in this community,” Jan said. “It’s amazing how wonderful the community has been in supporting our local business for the past 32 years. I love being able to help others in my community, especially in their time of need. I also love that this is a family business. There are three of us are here – it’s really a ‘mom and pop’ business!”

The Feasels are very active in the community too. Jan gives tennis lessons and teaches CCD, Jeff is a Tiffin Rotary Club member and serves on the board of Seneca County Young Professionals, the whole family is active in St Joseph’s Catholic Church and they are a Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Services member. This past November, Feasels donated $25 to Heartbeat/Hope Medical for every vehicle repaired after hitting a deer, for a total donation of $625.

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