Hometown flavor is shopping at a local business and saying hello to passersby because you know them by name. It’s appreciating town history and welcoming progress. It’s generations who settle in because the community feels comfortable — like home. And it’s why residents of Wellington and Columbia Township take great pride in their towns. 

Here’s a snapshot of two Lorain County hometowns and what makes these quaint locations a coveted place to live, work and play. 

Year Founded: 1818 (incorporated as a village in 1855)
Population: 4,846
Size: 3.89 square miles 
Local Flavor: “Catch the spirit,” is Wellington’s motto, and the friendly nature of its people are what make the village special, Mayor Hans Schneider says. “People smile,” he says. “They say hello. It’s just that small-town atmosphere where everyone kind of knows everyone.”

It’s a comfortable place where people say hello and smile. That’s what makes Wellington feel like home, says Mayor Hans Schneider, who has lived in town since 1972 and became mayor last year. He calls the village a “best-kept 
secret” because it’s far enough away from urban congestion but close enough to 
city amenities. “People live here for a reason — to get away from the congestion and the big city,” Schneider says. “But, we are close enough if we want to get to that.” 
Wellington is home to the Lorain County Fairgrounds, where the Ohio Scottish Games are held each June. Residents and visitors also enjoy a variety of other yearly events, including the Summer Concert Series, Small Business Saturday and Wine About Winter. The Gazebo Garden Walk, which hosts crafters selling homemade art, crafts, edibles, upcycled furniture and more has been a staple in the community for 19 years.
While some longtime members of the community relish in years of memories made during local gatherings, Tony Farago, 80, remembers the Wellington Creamery. He got paid to collect farmers’ milk and deliver their cans to the creamery. The milk was transported to Cleveland and processed. “Wellington sent millions of pounds of cheese to all over,” he says, giving the village a title of the “Cheese Capital of the World” from the late 1860s to early 1900s.
In Farago’s day, his graduating class of 1955 had 53 students. His grandparents moved to Wellington in the early 1900s from Italy. Eventually, Farago started a company, Farago Construction, which built houses in the area and provided other general contracting services. In fact, Farago’s outfit was the first to build homes on Winter Street in the 1970s. 
Then and now, Farago says that in Wellington, “you seem to know everybody.” And that’s the charm that keeps people in the village or draws them back later in life, he says. 

In Business 
Small-town businesses thrive in Wellington, where staples like Pizza House and Farm & Home Hardware are part of the town center’s fabric. The village continues supporting this effort to revitalize and sustain the livelihood of its central business district through Main Street Wellington, a nonprofit organized in 1998. Main Street America is a national program that has developed a network of more than 2,000 historic downtown and neighborhood commercial sites throughout the country. Wellington’s Main Street is one of those sites. 
“In Wellington, people support the community,” says Scott Jerousek, owner of Farm & Home Hardware at 120 S. Main St. 
Jerousek is the third generation in the business — his grandfather started it in 1960. “We built a really loyal customer base here by just doing business the right way,” he says, adding that they reach customers from well outside of town. (Wellington’s population is about 5,000, but more than 13,000 people are enrolled in the Farm & Home rewards program, he notes.) 
The community backs its local business, Jerousek adds. With Tractor Supply Co. moving in, he says that getting more business in town is a good thing. “I don’t think that will be negative for us,” he says. “Over the years, we adapt, 
we compete…”
And people in Wellington appreciate their local owners. Jerousek says, “They want to have a butcher. They want a hardware guy. They want a mechanic. It’s almost coming back to the 1950s mentality, and it’s a good movement.”
Farago remembers when Wellington had several meat markets, a theater, a delicatessen, a dairy and an egg shop with a hatchery. “You could buy baby chickens there, peeps,” he says. “Back then, we all raised our own chickens.”
Dimitri’s Corner Restaurant is a spot Farago and his wife enjoy. He recalls when it was an Ullman’s clothing store, where he and his twin brother would sweep the floors on Sunday mornings. 
Breathing new life and business into Main Street’s historic buildings keeps the town center area lively. “We have nice shops that people like to visit,” Schneider says. “It’s that small-town atmosphere that was prevalent in the 1950s and just continues, in spite of our growth.” 

Growth Initiatives 
Last year, Wellington had its largest growth year in more than a decade. “People want to get away from the fast-paced life and enjoy a more rural setting and the safety of a town,” Schneider says. “Growing up here, you are without a lot of the concerns you might have in other communities.” 
People seeking village life within reach of big-city amenities are finding Wellington, though not in droves. The town maintains its charm and modest population, which has but doubled since the 1980s and is just under 5,000. Home development is sparking growth. “When I was growing up, there was nothing past Kent Street, which is on the south side of town,” Schneider says. Today, there is a housing development in this area.  
“We want to make sure we make smart choices from a development perspective,” Schneider says, relating that the town protects its friendly, hometown feel while welcoming development opportunities that suit the locale. “We want to be sure we grow without losing the charm.” 
One smart development effort was the building of a new McCormick Middle School in 2015, which left space for the city to develop a new park south of the Willard Memorial Square in front of town hall. Also, the town just opened a $70,000 baseball field at Recreation. 
Meanwhile, a railroad underpass project put the brakes on a train stop in town, which backed up traffic. “Now Route 58 is clear of that and we are pursuing quiet zones for the community that would add more ambiance to our village,” Schneider says. 
“We are the best-kept secret that is starting to come out,” he adds. “Once people come here, they fall in love.”

Columbia Township 
Year Founded: 1807
Population: 6,912
Size: 25.7 square miles
Local Flavor: “Columbia has been a nice town to grow in,” says Ron McKinley, president, Cross Roads Asphalt Recycling, a business that has nearly doubled its size in 35 years operating in the township. 
“It is a supportive community.”
More acreage and some peace and quiet is what draws many people to Columbia, a township that is seeing growth in housing yet still maintains its hometown flavor. People help each other. 
Ask Jean Frawley, owner of J&J Greenhouse. In business since 1969, the Frawley’s property endured a tragic fire on Nov. 30, 2013, that wiped out a good portion of their business. “We had planted our Easter bulb crop the week before, and we do up to 35,000 bulb products,” she relates. “We lost all of that, and that accounted for half of our business.” 
Frawley says that two-thirds of the business was burnt to the ground in the tragic fire, which they believe was started by mice that tore through electrical wiring. The situation was devastating — but the community’s support and outreach was “nothing but amazing,” she says. 
“The community rallied for us,” she says. They organized a benefit at the local VFW and raised enough money to help keep J&J operating while it focused on cleanup and rebuilding. “Whatever they could do, they offered,” Frawley says. “We were just stunned at the help and of the kindness of the people here in Columbia.”
From bringing donuts and hope to turning out at a packed benefit, the township lifted up the Frawley family so they could focus on getting their business back together again. And, they did, reopening May 1 the following year. 
“I don’t know what would have happened if we lived in a big city,” says Frawley, 80, whose husband, Jay, bought the property they live and work on when he was 18 years old. They built their own house — the one they still live in today — and all of the greenhouses. Their children, John and Vickie, work in the business along with some help from the third-generation grandchildren. 
This spirit of giving and caring is what characterizes small towns like Columbia, says Mark Cunningham, a trustee who has lived in town since 1977. “We are growing right now, but it’s controlled growth because the first thing everyone says is that they want to maintain the rural atmosphere,” he says. 

In Business 
Columbia’s township government includes three trustees who oversee the community’s operations and are accessible to residents and business owners. Working with a township is different than dealings in a big city, says Ron McKinley, president, Cross Roads Asphalt Recycling. His business has been located in Columbia for 35 years, and he moved there because of the open land and space for his business.
“I can talk to the trustees on the phone on any given day by calling them direct, and they’ve been easy to deal with,” he says, relating that their support has helped him grow his business over the years. And, the township is business-friendly, encouraging commercial growth because it will help support infrastructure and balance the residential development that is taking place. 
“We now have 45 acres, and I sold 2 acres off to another business, and the township was very happy to see another business come to town,” McKinley says. “The processes here are quicker than in a larger city. There aren’t as many hoops to jump through in order to get something accomplished.” 
Accessibility is important for businesses and residents, Cunningham says. 
Supporting businesses and homeowners are strong services, including a volunteer fire department with 36 members, three-quarters of which are paramedics. Columbia also has parks, a rec center and plenty of commercially zoned areas. “The former trustees did some zoning at the railroad tracks on Hawk Road on our southern border,” he says. 
Industrial/commercial development is tough without sewers, Cunningham acknowledges. “Eventually, we will get sewers on Route 82, and that will open up more opportunities for commercial and industrial-type development,” he says.
This kind of development is positive for the township. “It expands services for people,” McKinley says. 

Growth Initiatives 
In the last several years, more housing options have cropped up in Columbia, with an average of 30 homes built per year. “This year, we are already at 30,” Cunningham reported in June.
The addition of sewers is spurring more residential development, he says. “But when sewers come in, the lots get smaller,” Cunningham adds. Maintaining green space in these areas with tighter lots is a priority. 
There is talk of potential development at the old Riverside Golf Course, which is closed. “They sold pieces-parts of it and want to develop the rest into a housing development,” Cunningham says.  
Columbia Township is gaining housing options — you can plant yourself on several acres or, today, find a modern subdivision. “If you want more acreage that is still available here, and if you want a development with no sewers and 2-acre lots, that is here,” McKinley says. “And, if you want a small-city lot, those are here. And, there was never that choice before.”  
 Strong schools with top ratings in Lorain County are a draw for residents. With less than 1,000 students, the system is small yet provides the resources and opportunities for students to grow, Cunningham relates. And so is the greenspace, including the Columbia Reservation of the Lorain County Metro Parks. 
Then, there’s Columbia Township Park with its baseball fields, pavilion, playground and concessions. It is essentially the town center, encompassing the fire station and library. 
Today’s Columbia Township holds the charm that made it an attractive place for people wanting land and a small-town vibe, while progressing with development to support the amenities that residents desire. “Growth will bring more benefits to everyone,” McKinley says.