November 2008 Issue
Ohio's Best Hometowns 2009 - Chagrin Falls
It’s easy to see why visitors to downtown Chagrin Falls might think they’re in the middle of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s back lot half a century or so ago: This village ––located just 18 miles southeast of Cleveland –– embodies small-town Americana, reminiscent of those whimsical Andy Hardy films of the 1940s. It’s no stretch to imagine Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney window-shopping on Main Street or sipping a soda (today, it would be a smoothie) at Ben & Jerry’s or munching on caramel crunch from the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop.
Nancy Haag, director of Downtown Chagrin Falls, the village’s preservation and community-development organization, agrees. “We adore it,” she says. “It is America’s hometown — the place you wish you would have grown up in.”
So it’s no surprise that producers chose Chagrin Falls as a setting for the 1977 ABC-TV movie, “The Gathering,” starring Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton. The falls provided an arresting backdrop for this poignant Christmas tale about a terminally ill patriarch who reunites with his estranged family.
Asner credited the village with helping him find the epicenter of Adam Thornton, the wealthy entrepreneur he portrayed.
“You gave me my epiphany, Chagrin Falls, and I will always be grateful,” the actor told local media during last year’s celebration marking the film’s 30th anniversary.
But it’s not just the Tinsel Town contingent who finds the village’s lure irresistible.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” says Steve Shutts, whose family has owned the Chagrin Hardware Company for three generations.
“The residents are very faithful,” he says. “That kind of loyalty is hard to find these days.”
Shutts echoes the sentiment of many Chagrin Falls entrepreneurs when he explains with pride that his establishment has been able to hold its own against big-box stores. Like his neighbors, Shutts specializes in an eclectic variety of hard-to-find wares. His hardware business stocks an array of surprising merchandise, ranging from weather vanes to antique clocks and hurricane-shades.
Although the village is a shopper’s dream — a tempting assortment of stores includes clothing emporiums (such as Juicy Lucy, where New York and Paris fashion converge), home-furnishings stores (including the shabby-chic Stash Style) and the delightful Village Herb Shop (the caramel apple bread mix is a must-have, along with a tin of lemon mint green tea) — it’s the sense of civic pride and community spirit that’s clearly the heart and soul of Chagrin Falls. Bountiful beds of hydrangeas, roses and impatiens are planted annually by community volunteers. Voters showed their staunch support for students by saying yes to a bond issue that led to the grand opening of a 765-seat state-of-the-art performing-arts center last year. (The school district has already more than made the grade with its Excellent rating awarded by the Ohio Department of Education for seven consecutive years. And the kudos don’t end there: In September, U.S News & World Report proclaimed Chagrin Falls High School to be one of the Best 100 in the United States.)
Now, as November dawns, the police department is preparing for its annual holiday party for families of hometown servicemen and servicewomen. And the hospitality doesn’t end there: visitors and village folk alike are treated to free refreshments, horse-and-carriage rides and photos with Santa weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“There is,” says Haag, “something truly magical about this place.