Right here, almost two years ago, this little idea called Geauga News got started. It’s hard to believe that the time has already flown by so quickly, but I can honestly say that it’s been the best ride of my life so far. I have learned more than I ever dreamed possible, made some amazing friends, and learned so much about the county and the wonderful people here.
Coming home from Chicago was a big leap of faith for me. I had been gone for four years and had made a life for myself in that big beautiful city. There are times when I still miss it, but I’ll never doubt that coming home was the right decision. Geauga County is my home. This is where I want my son to grow up.
As I got out of my car to walk into Coffee Corners today, I looked across the street and remembered years ago walking into Hill Hardware for the first time and meeting Keith. He was one of the first characters to bring the magic of Burton to life for me. Like any good old hardware store, it has winding aisles and layers upon layers of tools, paint, fasteners, and an infamous basement where Keith would go to find the good stuff. After a few minutes of crashing around down there, he would emerge, grumbling and cussing, and bring me what my grandfather had sent me into the hardware store for. While I was in the hardware store, I’d usually manage to pick up a new pocket knife, or some sparklers, or something exciting to play with while Grandpa drove us around.
If I had enough extra time, or if Grandpa was distracted talking to one of his friends, I would trot down to Chaney’s and buy myself some Skittles and a Mountain Dew. God knows I didn’t need more sugar and energy, but Grandpa didn’t care; he just warned me not to tell my mother, ’cause otherwise he’d “catch heck,” and he didn’t need that he said. Somehow, miraculously in my nine year old brain, Mom could always tell when I’d go bingeing on sugar. Imagine that.
The same guy seemed to always check me out at Chaney’s, and as I strolled out the door, I would always look back and think that Chaney’s would be there forever. It was a sad day for me when it disappeared. My younger brothers never saw the place, and eventually, what is now Gas USA replaced it as the town’s convenient store. Someone needs to post a picture of Chaney’s. I don’t have one anywhere.
“What you have to do, Gabe, is make a difference in the lives of those around you.”
If it was still early enough in the day (which it almost always was), Grandpa and I would make our way around the circle and find our way into Belles Restaurant. Inside the door to the left were all Grandpa’s friends. He would talk with Al and all his buddies and find out where the fish were biting on Lake Erie and at the other local fishing spots. After what seemed liked forever, we would finally find our seat and have a slice of apple pie. Grandpa had a sweet spot for pie, and I think we probably consumed more pie in those years together than I will ever make up for again. Those were magical times for me. Grandpa always taught me how to be friendly and meet new people, and he instilled in me a deep sense of community. Someday, I want to be the kind of man my grandfather was to his community.
I still feel a wave of nostalgia when I walk into Burton Family Restaurant these days and see the same old crew of guys sitting there holding down the fort. I like to call them the ‘old guard,’ and I know my grandpa would be proud to sit down and talk to them if he was still here.
Those times together with my grandpa shaped who I am today in an enormous way. He taught me that if I put my mind to it, anything was possible. He taught me perseverance by never letting his painful arthritis stop him from doing anything. There were times when he would crawl to his truck after working all day building my father’s house because he hurt so bad. Those images will never leave me. He taught me to believe in other people and to encourage them. I will never forget his deep laugher and beautiful smiles as he would tell all his friends how proud he was of my latest accomplishment.
Grandpa taught me to make a positive change in the world around me. He would always tell me, “What you have to do, Gabe, is make a difference in the lives of those around you.” He not only told me what to do, but he lived it out daily. My grandpa is one of my heroes.
As I sit back and soak in the sights and sounds of Coffee Corners once again, all these great memories come back to me, and it’s so wonderful to have the outlet of Geauga News to share them through. Each one of you has made Geauga News a reality, and I couldn’t be more thankful. It has truly changed my life, and I hope it’s changed yours for the better, too.
To those who invested the first real money; thanks for believing in me then and for still believing in me to this day.
To all of the wonderful volunteer writers that got us started and still carry us today; thank you for your time and for your dedication. Without you, none of this would be possible.
To our very first advertisers; thank you for believing in this little idea that’s now touching thousands of lives every day. You have made a great and lasting positive difference.
Finally, to all our faithful readers; thank you for always supporting us and for spreading the word. You are what Geauga News is all about, and I’m truly grateful for each and every one of you.
I love this county. I love my hometown Burton. And I love being a part of something positive and local every day. Thank you all for making that a reality for all of us.
What do you love about Burton? What do you love about Geauga County? Share your thoughts in the comments below.