Valley living comes with perks
As I write this column on the eighth night of our nine days back in the Valley for the holidays, I want to remind people this Youngstown-Warren metro is one of the best places to live in the U.S. The reason is simple ä the people.
An example is my new friend, Hitch, that I met this week. Last January a sad event took place for me – Youngstown demolished the vacated Krakusy Hall on the Southside. My great-grandfather Ignatz Chiemeski was a founder of the Polish club. When my high school friend Bob texted that the demolition occurred, many of us joined in prodding Bob to pull a “Southside Extraction” and procure two bricks for my brother and me. “Indiana Bob” sprang to action. He brought them for me when I saw him this week.
Through another Mooney buddy’s brother, I learned Hitch is one of the best painter / detailers in town. When I explained to him I wanted the bricks painted with “Krakusy Hall, 1939-2016, Youngstown, Ohio,” Hitch lept at the opportunity. Not only did he paint a majestic memorialization, he did it in two days and for very small compensation. For him, the effort was driven by heart and soul. When I saw them, I almost teared up, and he did! If I tried to get these bricks painted in New York, it probably would have cost $500 each, I’d have waited three months, and most likely Krakusy would be misspelled and the Romanian Flag would have been depicted.
You see, it’s not just the ease of getting something done here in the Valley, it’s that one receives personalized service from true craftsmen.
After several great days of visiting family last week, I needed a day to run errands. We wanted to put our stash of winter tires on our old Pontiac Wagon – the forecast for the drive back to New York was iffy. Taz, the new owner of a local tire shop in downtown Youngstown, took my car at 9 and told me to come back by 11. In the meantime, I went for a great haircut at a local salon, along with a great catch-up chat, and I paid a fraction of what I would have paid in Brooklyn. Next I was able to hit the renovated downtown YMCA in Youngstown, where my name is still on a men’s locker room locker. It was a great workout and it was great to feel at home by seeing old friends. Former Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone went out of his way to welcome me back. I told him at our Brooklyn YMCA, a friendly Mayor Bill deBlasio works out with five very serious looking bodyguards on the gym floor. If you’ve seen Mayor Sammarone lift weights, you’d know he IS the bodyguard in the gym!
I returned to Taz’s shop, but unfortunately an issue with the bolts kept me from jolting to my next errand. Finally I was heading out the door, but with the delay I wouldn’t have time to get the oil changed – except I’m in the Mahoning Valley. I called the Valvoline and asked the manager Nic if I could drop the car off while my friend picked me up. The staff took my keys and said they would pull her in once the line slowed down. My good friend Mike picked me up, and we headed to Liberty Township for lunch. When we were wrapping up, I ordered takeout for my wife ä spaghetti and marinara and, of course, wedding soup. When the waitress told me there was no wedding soup that day, I explained I might not be allowed in the house without it. Within minutes, I had a piping hot to-go bowl of their great soup. They had been making it for the next day and our waitress hooked me up.
It is easy to dismiss these stories by stating its simply good business to go the extra mile for customers. But we all know there is more to it around here – the sense of community in this town brings out the best in people, time and time again. It is the sense of community, couple with a dedication to one’s craft and business, that is the foundation of the rebuilding of the Mahoning Valley. The next time somebody wants to disparage this area, remind them that the people that call this Valley home prove otherwise every day.
Planey is a Mahoning Valley native who now serves as director for a New York City financial corp. This column is based solely on his opinion and does not reflect the views of his employer.