Main Street Lorain County

Main Streets are synonymous with a simpler time and pace. In today’s urban-sprawl society those places sometimes feel like a lost way of life. Fortunately, there are still towns throughout Lorain County that beckon us back to a time of everyday people, hometown values and a close-knit community.


The intersection of Main and College streets has been Oberlin’s economic hub for more than 175 years. Founded in 1833 by two Presbyterian ministers, the city’s heart is a prominent thoroughfare of commerce, entertainment and social gathering venues.

Many of Main Street’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and date back to the 1860s. A series of fires in the late 19th century destroyed many of the building’s original wood frames — which is why many of the structures are now brick.

Eric Norenberg, city manager, credits Main Street’s longevity to its ability to evolve and meet the needs of the city’s residents and visitors. For example, a storefront that was once a dry cleaner is now becoming a bicycle shop, which caters to the local hot topics of sustainability and outdoor activity, he says.

The bike shop will be a welcome addition as cyclists travel the rail-trail — a bicycle trail built along the abandoned railroad right-of-way that once linked Toledo, Norwalk and Cleveland to such booming cities to the west as Chicago. Where the bikeway reaches Main Street in Oberlin, it passes alongside an old train depot, a great spot to stop for water or a quick bite from one of the quaint restaurants that dot the strip. While designated trail parking is not yet available, a park-n-ride project is under way that will transform Oberlin’s historic Gasholder Building into a transportation hub.

Shear Delight

Heading out to a cold barn at 4 in the morning and completing a list of chores, then putting in a day’s work at a full-time job may not seem like an ideal situation for most, but for Brian and Joy Turner it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.

The Turners are the owners of Our Little World Alpacas, a six-acre alpaca farm in Grafton. Their herd of 23 thrives on their farm, which they purchased two years ago. They began their alpaca business in 2006 with two female alpacas, which they boarded at another local farm.

Ohio has the most alpacas and alpaca farms in the U.S., with nearly 12 percent of the alpacas raised in the U.S. being registered to Ohio owners. This is due in part to this area’s ample pastoral areas, a climate compatible with the needs of the alpaca and individuals looking for a return on their land investment.

The alpaca, a close relative of the camel and llama, is one of the most valuable of all fiber-bearing animals due to the quality and quantity of its fiber. This breed’s shearing season generally runs from April through May before the average temperature rises above 70 degrees. Joy explains that while alpaca fleece is similar to that of wool, it is much warmer and does not necessitate the use of chemicals to process. Alpaca fiber is simply rinsed with a mild detergent, which allows it to retain its natural softness and gloss, unlike wool which gets course and scratchy with processing.

Countless products can be produced with alpaca fleece, including clothing, purses, hats and felted insoles for shoes. Our Little World Alpacas sells its products at the farm’s store and online. While the products and the fleece themselves are a large source of income for alpaca farmers, there are also other areas for earning potential. Boarding, breeding, showing and handling fees are all income generators.

The Turners not only view their alpaca farm as a supplement for their current income, but as a source of stability when they retire from their full-time careers. “Our farm has grown to give us the financial freedom we crave, as well as business we can fit easily into our lives now, with just a few hours a day,” adds Joy.

Our Little World Alpacas is located at 16800 Cowley Road in Grafton. For a tour of the farm or additional information, visit

Kitchen Fun

With students traveling from as far west as Toledo to attend classes at Laurel Run Cooking School, Marcia DePalma’s lifelong dream of owning her own business is really heating up.

In 1996, DePalma opened Laurel Run Herbs to teach others how to enjoy cultivating and cooking with herbs. As an avid cook, she soon added basic cooking skills to her classes and quickly received requests to offer additional lessons in preparing soups and appetizers, and making bread. She attended a series of professional culinary courses, and in 2000, she renamed her herb-focused business the Laurel Run Cooking School.

Situated on 11 scenic acres in historic Brownhelm, the school’s namesake is the quaint mountain town of Laurel Run, W.V., where DePalma’s grandmother, who shared her love of gardening and cooking, was born.

DePalma offers demonstration and hands-on classes in the school’s 1,300-square-foot kitchen. She also maintains a kitchen herb garden and a flock of chickens on the school’s property to incorporate fresh ingredients in cooking.

In addition to DePalma, several chefs teach a variety of classes — from beginner to gourmet. “Our classes attract cooks who would like to become more comfortable in the kitchen, as well as experienced culinary enthusiasts who are looking to master classic techniques while creating restaurant-quality recipes great for entertaining,” says DePalma.

Laurel Run Cooking School is at 2600 North Ridge Road, two miles south of Route 2/I-90. For additional information or for class schedules, call 440-984-5727 or visit