Granted, I am biased, but I think Chagrin Falls is a pretty special place and guess what? USA Today readers agreed with me when they voted our village among the best small towns for shopping in the country!
Chagrin Falls took fourth place after the larger cities of Ocean Springs, Mississippi; Rhinebeck, New York; and Cape May, New Jersey.
This particular poll identified “small towns” as those with populations under 25,000.
It is hard to believe, but Chagrin Falls – with a population of 4,100 citizens - was not the smallest town honored. Tiny Highland, North Carolina - at a tad over 1,000 souls - was voted fifth on the list. We retain bragging rights to the town with the smallest area, size-wise, at a scant two square miles.
This is not the first pat on the back our town has gotten. We are quite often named as among the “best” when Ohio-centric polls are taken for one accolade or another. Invariably our claim to fame is a waterfall smack dab in the middle of Main Street (actually “under” Main Street).
Last fall, TravelMaven blog tapped Chagrin Falls as among the “coolest” towns in Ohio and Travelandleisure.com said Chagrin Falls was among the state’s Best Small Towns for “quintessential Midwestern charm.”
This is how USA Today described us and our small town shopping vibe:
“Shop in ‘an authentic downtown’ at Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Locally owned shops fill the village, the choices ranging from high-end boutiques such as Brides By the Falls and Gypsy Soul to Fireside Book Shop, an old-fashioned bookstore that sponsors live book signings and speakers. The shops are all located in a walkable area interspersed with award-winning restaurants and public parks. A river flows through the middle of downtown, and a bridge overlooks a natural waterfall.”
Our town draws tourists and shoppers from the region and it’s not hard to find cars tagged with out-of-state plates parked along Main Street. What we don’t have is a town motto.
How about, “Chagrin Falls: where disposable income goes to be disposed of.”
Again, I digress. Needless to say, local shopkeepers and restaurant owners are thrilled with the USA Today honor and they should be. Downtown has stayed open for business, with very few empty storefronts, through a major recession and various other economic downturns.
Then there was the COVID 19 pandemic and, more recently, an evaporating workforce which made employees hard to come by. These business people answered every crisis in creative ways.
During the pandemic, restauranteurs offered carry-out and home delivery services and some even took a stab at creating an online outlet and a mail-order business.
Ingenuity? For sure. But it took a village, quite literally, to win a spot among the best shopping towns in the nation.
To comply with limited indoor social distancing regulations, village council waived zoning rules so that merchants were able to put their wares on the sidewalks, and restaurant owners could add tented outdoor seating areas in nooks and crannies that were previously off-limits.
Residents responded as well with their support, regularly ordering dinners from a different restaurant each week and some more often than that.
The Feds supplied reimbursements that helped keep these small businesses operating during and in the wake of the worst of times.
Incredibly, new restaurants opened or were in the planning stages during COVID, a credit to those business people who know a good thing when they see it. That “thing” is a vibrant downtown and a staying power that has lasted 190 years.
This is why the USA Today accolade should not have come as a shock to anyone, at least around here. The only surprise is it took so long for the rest of the country to take notice.
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