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150 Years of History, Gone in 10 Hours: The Day Garrettsville Went Up in Flames 

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"The thing right now is just getting the grant money to be able to do what we want to do," he says, noting if he took out a big enough loan, he'd have to charge tenants more than they could afford to recoup the costs of the outlay. A grant would allow store owners to rent space cheaply.

He'd like to double occupancy from eight businesses to 16 and bring back something like the old Buckeye Hall. "If you could have a place with maybe a small concert hall," he says, "boy, would that just bring people in here from all over.

Maschek's enthusiasm is hard to hide as he highlights county grant opportunities, funds from the "Garrettsville Strong" fund that raised money in the aftermath of the fire, and the possibility of a serious chunk of change that may come from a private former resident. If that last bit of philanthropic dough comes in, work could get started soon. Regardless, momentum didn't stop once the ashes cooled. It was just beginning.

"I talked to [Hiram College president] Tom Chema and said, 'Tom, how can you help me on this?' Hiram doesn't have architecture, but Chema knows the guy who runs it at Kent State."

Kent State students and faculty did a couple of town hall meetings and although the plans probably won't be used, the energy gathered from the university's involvement has helped boost spirits.

"A lot of people showed up to see the ideas — some of them were far fetched, but they were ideas," says Maschek. "It keeps the people in town enthused, that there is something going on."

***

It's about 1 p.m. on a Monday, six months after Jim Reppy watched his barbershop burn to the ground. Clumps of hair scatter around a single barber chair in his new shop.

That night in March, 62-year-old Reppy thought about calling it quits. Only for a brief moment, though.

The very next day, Sunday, March 23, he was already talking to Dan Meyers, whose hearing aid store was also destroyed, about where they could open up shop next.

"I'm close to retirement age, and I'd say for a split second I thought of retiring, then I thought I'm not ready to do that," Reppy says. "The Monday after, Dan and I got together and we found this building. There was a big beauty shop, and they were moving to Windham. So we talked to the landlord, who just bought it, and the whole building was just too much for either of us, so he decided we could just split it."

Things simply haven't been the same for Reppy, even with the new home. The steady string of customers has slowed.

"The only sad thing is that this is off the beaten path, and people haven't found me," he says. "I don't have as many customers now as I did over there. But a lot of it is people just don't know where I'm at. And the longer you're out of their sight, the more comfortable they get somewhere else. I don't know if I'll get them back or not."

He's placed ads in the local papers, put a sign on the fence that used to border the rubble, and his kids got the shop on Facebook and Yelp. But most of the people who have found his new spot have relied on word-of-mouth. And nothing can beat a prime spot in town.

You can tell he hasn't been in the place very long. The old shop was charmingly cluttered with old sports relics — memories of great Cleveland and Ohio State teams — that can only come from decades of continual collecting. The walls here are bare now, with a fresh coat of white paint and clean wood floors, causing an echo that annoys the hell out of Reppy.

"Somebody told me to get pictures with canvas to deaden the echo," he says. "That's what they tell me. What's frustrating now is that some of those guys haven't come back. I knew so much about them and we would just talk — I don't care if it was about hunting deer, or their kid that had an accident, or whatever, you talk to them about it. Then you don't see it anymore, and you wonder what happened to them. That's what I'll remember most about the shop: It seemed like there was a comfort there.

"I'm sitting here talking to you now because nobody's come in for, what, a half hour now?" he says. "I didn't sit alone by myself a lot over there."

But then a customer walks in.

"Scotty!" Reppy says as he gets up and heads over to the big chair to get his clippers out.

"What's going on, Jimbo?"

The guy's a regular, and for the moment at least, it's back to business as usual.

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