Sylvania Area Chamber Executive Director Retires

After nine years of piloting the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Pat Nowak has announced her retirement to the board of trustees. It becomes effective the end of March, 2015.

Nowak had been the director of marketing and public relations for the former Seaway Food Town Supermarkets chain. She was also the public relations director and fashion director for The Lion Store. Immediately before assuming the Sylvania Chamber position, Nowak served as manager for the Erie Street Market. In addition, she is the author of “The ABCs of Widowhood,” a practical and easy-to-read self-help book for those undergoing a loss from a death or divorce and serves as a speaker on the topic. She also presents “Suddenly Single” seminars, which focus on the emotional and financial aspects of being single.

When Nowak donned the chamber leadership “hat” she brought along her “kit bag” filled with the expertise gained from all her previous experiences. She was able to implement several successful innovations allowing her to fulfill the goals she set for the organization. Nowak had determined to grow the chamber, make it prosper and assume a leadership role in the city and township. Her ultimate goal was for the Sylvania chamber to be the premier suburban chamber in northwest Ohio.

Under her guidance, Nowak was able to grow the annual business expo into a major trade show for the city and township. One of her first directives was to move the then fledging expo to the Tam-O-Shanter Sports & Expo Center. She initiated a preview party for expo participants and chamber members as well as created a business awards program, the “Chamber Champions,” who are announced at the annual party.

Nowak also resurrected the car show, making the event one of the largest in the area. Under her direction, the chamber has become the organizer of several community events including “Takin’ It To The Streets,” movie nights for families, Chamber Chat Connection, and Girls Night Out.

In addition, Nowak brought Pizza Palooza to Centennial Terrace, an event that grows in popularity each year, attracting thousands of guests from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Other Innovative Events and Programs

Four years ago, Nowak launched the Artists Hall of Fame; inducting world-renowned Sylvania artist Walter Chapman as the first honoree and celebrating his 100th birthday year at an inaugural gala event in conjunction with the Sylvania Area Arts Commission’s first Maple and Main Art Fair. She and the chamber initiated Almost Oktoberfest, another popular event featuring a number of craft breweries in the region.

In addition to growing chamber membership numbers, Nowak has also brought a myriad of value-added services to members including group health insurance. She served as the catalyst for the creation of the Sylvania app for iPhone users. And, thanks to her long-term relationships with all media, she has been able to extensively publicize all of the chamber events.

Nowak has also pursued economic development opportunities for the area. She and her staff welcome new businesses locating in the area by hosting ribbon-cutting ceremonies and inviting the chamber membership to provide maximum exposure. She has led the chamber’s economic development committee, oftentimes working behind the scenes to help businesses, both large and small, decide to make the Sylvania area their home.

The chamber board has not named a replacement at this time.

Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat Nowak, right, at an earlier presentation to Sylvania Recreation’s Ken Katafias, one of her many duties as head of the organization.
Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat Nowak, right, at an earlier presentation to Sylvania Recreation’s Ken Katafias, one of her many duties as head of the organization.

Financial Design Group management team continues on plan

When Financial Design Group CEO James T. Strasser, CLU, ChFC, officially retired Dec. 31, 2014, it came as no surprise. He was following a well-orchestrated protocol he had scripted nearly a decade before after Michael S. Clements had joined the firm in 1999.

Following that plan, Clements was named a partner in January, 2008, setting that succession plan in motion. Looking at eventual retirement, the CEO had heeded the succession planning advice he offered to clients over the years. Strasser worked closely with Clements, mentoring his development to be ready to assume the reins of the company. In 2009 Clements was named Managing Partner with Securian and in June of 2013, Clements was promoted to president and Jim Strasser became CEO.

“However, this business has become so complex, we both realized we needed another person to complete the management team,” Strasser reported. “It was at Mike’s suggestion, that we offered the position to my son, Jason, who had been working with Ernst & Young in Chicago.”

After weighing his options, the younger Strasser moved back to Sylvania and joined the firm in 2012 to begin a three-year development program, which culminated in December, 2014, when he was named executive vice president of FDG and Managing Partner with Securian. “I had experienced a large corporate structure and I realized that with a smaller firm, I would be able to make an impact on the organization. This also allowed me the opportunity to become a business owner in a growing firm,” he stated. The younger Strasser manages the operations side of the firm while Clements’ area of expertise is in recruiting and advisor development for the firm and developing solutions for clients.

“We are a process driven firm,” Jim Strasser noted. “And, Mike and Jason are well suited to continue to develop that process. It is fun to watch how well the two work together and it is exciting to know that this firm will continue to do well with them at the helm.”

“And, it is encouraging to see how well our plan is working. In fact, we have been asked by Securian Financial Services to participate in three different national panels to describe our business model and succession plan,” he said.

The senior Strasser formed Financial Design Group in 1995 with six Advisors. Since then the firm has grown to 25 Advisors in eight offices across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Arizona and California. FDG is independently owned and operated with over 6,000 clients in 26 states, over $500 million in assets under management and over $1.75 billion of insurance in force.

“We have an excellent group of committed Advisors and support people who have been with the firm for a long time, with little or no turnover,” Strasser reported. “We also have a loyal group of clients.” Strasser attributes the firm’s continuing growth to the loyalty of staff, Advisors and clients.

FDG is an independent, comprehensive financial services firm committed to helping its clients improve their long-term financial success. Clements commented, “We work with our clients to align their financial decisions with their dreams and core values. Our independence allows our Advisors to provide fully-integrated and unbiased solutions created in a collaborative process controlled by the client.” FDG focusses on creating custom solutions for individuals, families and business owners. Clements remarked, “We take pride in developing lasting relationships with our clients, which adds to the quality of services we provide.”

Main Street Ventures Sylvania area Eateries Boast New Chefs

New chef at Ciao! pays attention to detail

Six months ago, Chef Jason Peelor began his reign as chef at Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania. The restaurant, which opened in 1992, offers intriguing, classic, and regional Italian cuisine including brick-oven pizza. Peelor, an Elmer, Ohio native is familiar with his current surroundings having worked at Ciao! for the past ten years, seven as a sous chef. “Having been here since my departure from Mon Ami in Port Clinton, I am very familiar with our traditional classic Italian favorites,” said Chef Peelor. “There is something to be said for consistency however, I do enjoy creating and preparing the daily fish special. The sky is the limit. It is usually the best-selling item on the menu.”

Peelor likes to stay seasonal and use what is readily available. “Here’s a tip for your readers,” said Peelor. “When you are at the market, usually the most cost effective items are the ones currently in season. Right now the blood orange cheese cake is highly requested and perfect this time of year.”

Chef Jason Peelor creates classic, regional Italian dishes for diners at Ciao! Ristorante.
Chef Jason Peelor creates classic, regional Italian dishes for diners at Ciao! Ristorante.

Chef Peelor says he has a fantastic staff which consists of seasoned professionals as well as younger enthusiastic new faces. “Ron Morgan began working here six months after Ciao! opened,” said Peelor. “Chances are if you have enjoyed a dessert here Ron [Morgan] has prepared it.” Peelor also believes that the comfortable atmosphere behind the scenes is conducive to a great dining experience.  “I work alongside everyone at all times,” said Peelor. “Everyone helps where help is needed. Everyone pays great attention to detail in not only the food but also the service. We work as a team to ensure that everything is absolutely perfect before it is served.”

In the coming year Peelor is looking forward to creating more dishes for diners to enjoy. “Chef Simon developed our menu which consists of tried and true European methods and procedures,” says Peelor. “Yet every day we have a new fish special and every week we offer an antipasto, pasta, and meat special. Our cheesecake also changes depending on what’s in season. I enjoy walking through our cooler to see what’s available and thinking of new ways to put things together.”

In 2015 Peelor also anticipates redoing the herb garden located on the property. “My wife [Jennifer Peelor] is a great gardener. She is drawing up plans to completely redo the area,” said Chef Peelor. “I also look forward to continuing to provide consistently high quality Italian food. One of my clients from Italy calls us ‘the little taste that reminds him of home’. When I was looking for a job ten years ago, I drove 45 minutes to interview for a position here at Ciao! It is still worth the drive for me to have the opportunity to provide a memorable, distinctive and creative dining experience for our clients.”

Ciao! Ristorante is located at 6064 Monroe St., Sylvania,OH. Call 419/882-2334 or visit for more information. For reservations call 888-456-3463 (DINE). Ciao! Ristorante is a Mainstreet Ventures eatery.

Chef of Revolution Grille expands horizons

Chef Wesley Wright likes to mix things up. Chef Wright, formerly of Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania, is enjoying his new role as chef and general manager at Revolution Grille. “I felt …confined to one cuisine,” says Wright. “Now I can experiment with different regions. For example, I finally have cilantro in my kitchen. I love it. The sandbox I play in everyday just got bigger.”

Chef Wesley Wright brings his cutting-edge creative style to Revolution Grille.
Chef Wesley Wright brings his cutting-edge creative style to Revolution Grille.

Revolution Grille offers eclectic American cuisine. Menu items are under $25 and range from entrees to small plates, salads, burgers, sandwiches, soups, flatbreads and of course desserts. “Most people don’t know what to expect. When asked about what we offer,” said Wright. “I tell them that we put a unique twist on street food with ethnic inspirations. Our menu is never stagnant. We have items we can’t take off the menu because of their popularity such as the tuna bites, buffalo calamari and the crispy Brussel sprouts, but we are always thinking of new creations. We change things every 60 days. We keep things fresh and seasonal.  Our goal is to make great food approachable.”

Chef Wright uses local whenever possible. “Everything is done here from scratch and whenever possible, with local products,” said Wright. “We get our maple syrup from a provider in Liberty Center [Ohio] and our produce supplier is located in a warehouse downtown across from the Erie Street Market. I also work with Theresa and Bob Hoen of Hoen’s Greenhouse. They are helping me look at various options to grow herbs in the back alley or possibly using self-contained grow boxes that we can use year round.”

Wright also serves as the general manager of Revolution Grille and enjoys both roles. “Kitchens can be unforgiving atmospheres,” said Wright. “I surround myself with good people. We promote a family atmosphere. It makes work that much more fun to go to. Creativity thrives in a stress-free environment. The days of micromanaging are gone. I give people the option to ‘play’ not to utilize the talent of others hinders your own creativity.”

The Chef recommends sitting in the dining room if you want service but if you want the experience of seeing up close how things are prepared, sit at the “Chef’s Bar.” “You can get to know the people that are making you dinner,” said Wright.  “We even let you taste a few things too.” Revolution Grille is also known for their craft cocktails featuring everything from sweet potato bourbon to a cranberry mojito finished with a sprig of rosemary. They also offer extensive options for the beer enthusiast. “From cocktails to food,” said Wright, “We want you to be transported and experience a sensory feast.”

Chef Wright and his team are ready to serve you at 5333 Monroe St., Sylvania, OH. Call 419/841-0070 for information, 888/456-3463 for reservations or


GenoaBank receives five-star ‘superior’ rating

GenoaBank, a locally owned, independent, community bank, was awarded the highest possible rating Five-Star/Superior from the nation’s leading independent bank-rating firm BauerFinancial. Five-Star Superior rating signifies that the Bank is one of the strongest financial institutions in the nation and is safe, financially sound and operating above its regulatory capital requirements.

Using a complex and rigorous scoring regimen, BauerFinancial presented its top rating to GenoaBank as a testament to its stability and strong management. To earn the Five Star “Superior” rating, GenoaBank needed to report not only impressive capital levels, but also a strong loan portfolio with negligible levels of delinquent loans, as well as other positive financial criteria.

“It is an honor to be recognized by BauerFinancial as one of its strongest community banks within northwest Ohio. We are proud to have been recognized with a consistent Five-Star rating, and will continue to work hard to perform at this level for our shareholders and customers alike,” said Martin P. Sutter, president/CEO of GenoaBank.

“In addition, we are extremely proud of our employees for their contribution that earned this recognition.,” he noted.

GPRS relocates to New West Business Park

After breaking ground on Aug. 7 for its new headquarters building and training center, the staff of Ground Penetrating Radar Systems moved into the new facility at 7540 New West Rd. in New West Business Park on Dec. 15 according to company founder and president Matt Aston. He purchased the two-acre building site from developer Jim McGowan after learning that the property is part of a Community Reinvestment Act district from his banker Steve Leamy of Signature Bank. New construction on the site qualifies for 49 percent property tax relief for 10 years. That, coupled with a Sylvania Area Community Improvement Council (SCIC) low-interest loan proved to be an incentive for Aston; Leamy and Signature Bank handled the additional funding for the project.

“We selected Rudolph-Libbe as the design-build contractor, because of the relationship we have developed with them in working on their job sites over the past several years. Project manager Adam Foltz and superintendent Scott Clendenin did a great job keeping construction on track. This building is better than I envisioned and it really works well for us. As one of our clients, the Rudolph Libbe team is very aware of what we do and they were able to set up several different situations that simulate real job conditions underground in our parking lot and in the concrete floor of the garage that we use for training new technicians,” Aston said.

“To this point, new technicians would train with experienced staff on jobs in the field for up to three months. With our training center in our headquarters facility, that training time will be cut in half,” Aston explained. “Our training center equips trainees with actual job site conditions and it is a huge aid in giving them the confidence to deliver our services at high level immediately following training.”

Matt Aston, company founder and president, looks over some of the concrete slabs used for training.
Matt Aston, company founder and president, looks over some of the concrete slabs used for training.

“We also needed more office space,” he noted.“ We had been very crowded in our former 3,700 square feet of space and now we have 7,500 square feet. Everyone here loves this building and is very happy to have more room.” According to Aston, there are 16 people who work in the new headquarters building for GPRS along with seven who are with its affiliate company, TruePoint Laser Scanning.

“In addition to Rudolph Libbe, my dad’s company, Ohio Concrete Sawing and Drilling, did the polished concrete floors and we purchased all of our office furniture from McNerney & Son, while Jamieson’s Audio Video Service did our sound system, all which are family-owned, local companies that I like to work with,” Aston said.

According to Aston, GPRS has technicians in 46 of the nation’s largest cities and will expand into Canada in the spring, as well. He credits the company’s rapid growth with the team of people who are part of the company. “Each person who joins our team has their own incredible unique attributes and they continually exceed expectations,” he reported.

“They all support our philosophy to listen to our clients and not leave any questions unanswered as we find practical solutions for each challenge. Our goal is to make our clients’ experience sensational.”

GPRS uses ground-penetrating technology on a wide variety of projects from concrete scanning on construction projects to helping police search for crime victims. Aston founded Ground Penetrating Radar Systems in September 2001, realizing the need for this kind of service after shutting down a power line while cutting a trench in concrete. These kinds of mistakes are not only expensive in terms of the actual repair costs, but they can also add delays into project schedules. “This process allows us to see what is buried under concrete or in the ground before cutting,” Aston explained. “While we knew there was a need for this kind of service, we really had to create our market. Now, this service is being specified for many construction jobs.”  In addition, GPRS provides services to a variety of clients from municipalities, engineers, environmental consultants, excavators, surveyors and more. Those clients use GPRS for buildings, construction sites, exploratory digs, forensics, cemeteries and more. “We use the latest ground penetrating technology to prevent our customers from experiencing the problems associated with unknown subsurface elements.”

While Ground Penetrating Radar Systems process shows what is below ground, TruePoint Laser Scanning process, under the direction of Ryan Hacker, provides a three-dimensional scan of visible structures that may be more difficult to measure by traditional methods.

Head Over Heels becomes ‘Safe’ salon

“Head Over Heels has become a ‘Safe’ salon,” announced salon owner Sue Gehring. She credits one of her staff, advanced nail technician Megan Lewallen with the salon’s new designation.

“Megan is pursuing her Medical Nail Technician Certification through the Medi Nails program,” Gehring explained. After completion of her class work, Lewellen will begin a 40-hour internship with podiatrist Andrew Clark of Northwest Ohio Podiatric Center. “We anticipate developing a relationship with that practice and establishing a referral system for our clients that we feel would benefit from his professional services.” she said.

Head  Over Heels owner and nail technician Sue Gehring puts a tray of packaged tools into the salon's newly purchased autoclave as her associate Megan Lewallen, an advanced nail technician, looks on.
Head Over Heels owner and nail technician Sue Gehring puts a tray of packaged tools into the salon’s newly purchased autoclave as her associate Megan Lewallen, an advanced nail technician, looks on.

Lewellen cited a number of issues involving nails, which could be symptomatic of disease or other conditions requiring professional help. “I am learning so much, including identifying nail situations to be referred for professional help or others needing special treatment. As nail technicians, we are only able to provide manicures and pedicures.” Lewellen acknowledged there are certain situations that require alternative procedures such as a soakless pedicure or substituting massages for a wax treatment or nail art,” she said.

In addition to applying her knowledge on clients, Lewallen shared her knowledge and new skills  with her co-workers and Gehring. “Once you learn about different infections and other problems, you have to do the right thing,” she said. “While state regulations mandate sanitizing equipment, the only proven way to kill bacteria is to sterilize, which is what the autoclave does. I just had to be in an environment that responds to these concerns.

“I am very fortunate to work here with Sue who is so very supportive and co-workers where were receptive to becoming a ‘Safe’ salon,” Lewallen stated. “This represented quite an investment. Sue had to purchase the autoclave and each nail tech was responsible for purchasing stainless steel equipment, which can be sterilized.”

The nail techs at Head Over Heels also offer soakless pedicures and other options tailored to meet each client’s needs. According to Gehring, Head Over Heels is the only ‘Safe’ salon in the area. “We try to get as much health information as we can from every client, which allows us to provide the healthiest service for each client,” Gehring said.  “We strive to set our salon above the rest.

Amy’s Allie to open in January

Sylvania area resident Amy Parker, a Northview graduate, majored in interior design in college and was also interested in fashion merchandising. However, her career path followed a different route until recently when she decided to open Amy’s Allie, a unique fashion boutique at 3146 Markway in Cricket West. “This a good, central location and easy to find. We are also just down from Biggby’s Coffee, which is a very busy location,” Parker said.

Amy Parker puts a finishing touch on one of the displays.
Amy Parker puts a finishing touch on one of the displays.

“I had been a sales representative for fashion eyewear and I got tired of all of the travel I had to do,” Parker said. “I decided that the time was right to open a women’s clothing boutique. This has always been my dream and is something I have always wanted to do.”

With help from her good friend from high school, Michael Szurko, and her husband, Craig, Parker was able to transform the former yoga studio into a high-style boutique. “We used a lot of fun items like the pipes we used for displays. We also polished the concrete floors to complete an industrial look,” she added. One of her friends, Dawn Hackett, painted the store’s logo on a canvas and painted “Amy’s Allie” on one of the side interior walls. Her friend, Deb Dartt helped with inventory and social media, among other things. Another friend, Cyndy Maxwell, a teacher at Rogers High School, had one of her students, Colleen Urbina, designing a website for Amy’s Allie as a school project.

According to Parker, women of all ages, from ‘tweens’ to mature older women will be able to find suitable apparel that is age- and size-appropriate. “We have clothing from petite to plus sizes,” she noted. “We have a lot of layering pieces along with leggings and other popular pant lines. We also have a selection of party dresses, shoes and boots,” Parker said.

“And, best of all, all of our clothing and footwear is reasonably priced,” she added. “We offer quality merchandise that is affordable. Shoppers do not have to spend a fortune here for trendy fashions.” Shoppers will also be able to purchase handmade jewelry by Cyndy Maxwell and other gift items as well.

In addition, Parker is working with Brooklyn Hauck of neighboring salon French Twist, who will coordinate all of the makeup and hair styling for models wearing fashions from Amy’s Allie. “This is a great center with lots of synergy between the different business owners. I am looking forward to working with other business personnel for various projects,” Parker said.

The new store is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A new restaurant, POP Grille, Party on Palate, opens on Holland-Sylvania Road

Chef and owner Ray Oka is realizing his dream when his restaurant, POP Grille, Party on Palate, opens at 3309 N. Holland-Sylvania Rd. “We are offering ‘world cuisine with Asian fusion,’ and diners will find a menu of healthy offerings on a whole different level,” Oka explained. “Diners will experience many dishes with sweet, spicy and fruity tastes.”

The Bali-born chef plans to introduce some of the specialty dishes from his native land combining them with the more traditional offerings. “We’re going to combine dishes such as ribeye steaks in a pineapple marinade and use a fruit-based barbecue sauce for our swordfish and shrimp dishes,” he stated. “We are also going to do a lot with pickled carrots, cucumbers, radishes and more.”

Partners Ray Oka and Tom Parent have made significant changes to the former El Matador facility.
Partners Ray Oka and Tom Parent have made significant changes to the former El Matador facility.

He continues, “Look for the menu to include such specialties as a cold lobster sandwich with peach sauce and wasabi coleslaw and three pieces of lamb rack marinated in a tropical barbecue sauce. There will also be an ocean delight of shrimp and calamari paired with pineapple and topped with a house vinaigrette, to name a few. Even our burgers will have a totally different flavor.”

Oka and his partner, Tom Parent, recently leased the former El Matador restaurant and reconfigured the space to accommodate the new concept. An upscale bar has returned to the main room adjacent to the entrance. High-top four-seat tables complement the row of booths that line the bar area. A separate dining room has been created that will accommodate diners and even private parties for up to 60 people with projections for meetings. According to Oka, the new restaurant has a seating capacity for 137 guests. “This is a good location in the heart of other businesses and residential communities,” Parent said. “We saw great potential for this location.”

According to Oka, the new restaurant looks forward to offering a Bloody Mary and Mimosa Sunday brunch. “We are also anticipating hosting regular monthly events. We plan to have different tastings such as wine, whisky and even cognac,” he said.

The White Family Dealership Continues a Century-old Tradition

When Hugh White opened his first Chevrolet store in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1914, little did the family realize that was the beginning of a long-standing tradition of four generations in the automotive industry.

White’s son Jim began working at the family dealership as a teenager in the late 1920s. He returned to the Zanesville dealership after college during the Depression. The younger White moved to Toledo to continue the family business by opening his own Chevrolet dealership on Monroe and 14th Street in 1940. It was at that location the dealership became known for what was to become a familiar jingle used to this day, “The place to go, 14th and Monroe!” That jingle, altered a bit through time, is still encouraging customers to buy their Chevrolet from the dealership. White also developed several other innovations in retail marketing, finance and insurance and centralized statistical controls.

L-R: Keith Walker of Walker Funeral Homes, Neal Mahoney, Sylvania Township Trustee, Mary Westphal, Sylvania City Council president, George Cordray of Budget Blinds and Dave Achen of EdwardJones, joined Hillary and Dave White Jr., Dave White Sr., and Stephanie White to cut the ribbon to open the new used vehicle showroom on Alexis Road at Monroe Street in 2012.
L-R: Keith Walker of Walker Funeral Homes, Neal Mahoney, Sylvania Township Trustee, Mary Westphal, Sylvania City Council president, George Cordray of Budget Blinds and Dave Achen of EdwardJones, joined Hillary and Dave White Jr., Dave White Sr., and Stephanie White to cut the ribbon to open the new used vehicle showroom on Alexis Road at Monroe Street in 2012.

Over the next 20 years, the family dealership continued to grow as White acquired a total of 12 additional Chevrolet dealerships throughout Ohio. In 1968, he purchased Suburban Automotive on the corner of Alexis Road and Monroe Street in Sylvania. From a one-car showroom and a two-car service garage, the dealership has grown to encompass the entire corner under the leadership of Dave White Jr. The Acura dealership was added in 1998. In 2012, the dealership expanded, again, to include a renovated 100,000-square-foot building to house an upscale used vehicle showroom and offices. A large collision center is located on Alexis Road, Lexus of Toledo is on the corner of Central and King and Jim White Toyota is at 6123 W. Central Ave. in Sylvania Township, all part of the group. Currently, the dealership employs over 250 people in the five locations in the Sylvania area while Jim White Honda is located in Maumee.

Dave White Chevrolet has long been a driving force in the Sylvania area and employs over 250 people in the five locations in the Sylvania area. Company-wide, there are 850 employees in the 21 dealerships in Ohio, South Dakota and Wyoming.