The small town of Kilbourne is described as a ghost town by some locals, but four families are trying to bring it back to life.
KILBOURNE, Ohio – If the idea is to get everyone to the table and the table is where you find family; so that’s where this table is made.
“We are in Kilbourne, Ohio,” said Josh Scheutzow.
Scheutzow has called Kilbourne, Ohio, home for the past two years. Before that, Columbus.
Fifteen years before that, Cleveland. His wooden furniture business, “A Carpenter’s Son”, has grown steadily since its inception six years ago. Company motto: We build rooms that bring people together.
Scheutzow, his wife and their four boys have always wanted to live outside the city.
Kilbourne, for them, was the perfect place. It’s small with around 150 people living there. And with these people come generations of character that can be seen by its aging infrastructure.
“There are buildings that fall on themselves,” Scheutzow said. “90% of these buildings are unoccupied and have been for decades. “
When his family first moved to Kilbourne, all the town had to offer was a convenience store, which Scheutzow says calling it ‘convenient’ was generous.
Kilbourne, originally called Eden but was later changed to Kilbourne as an Eden already existed in northern Ohio, since the early 1800s. The 1860s brought in a handful of stores like household items. and hardware.
But, small towns do what small towns tend to do and over the years the doors have closed but the walls have resisted.
“It didn’t start out like we wanted to buy the whole town,” Scheutzow said.
An idea which, according to Scheutzow, came from Garret Gandee and Nate Hatfield. The two men own an engineering firm in Westerville. They are also Scheutzow’s neighbors. And if they needed a sign, they had one.
“We saw a sign for an auction,” Hatfield said.
“It started out as a puzzle to figure out,” Gandee said.
A puzzle with different pieces and buildings. The city settled the succession of a deceased man.
“His name was Bruno,” said Paul Clay.
Clay is a local historian. His family has been in Kilbourne since 1836.
“This is a first for me,” he said of what Scheutzow and the company are doing.
The Scheutzows, Hatfields, Gandees – four families in all – started buying property. At first they thought about buying one or two for business.
“We have 15 plots with 10 buildings on it,” Scheutzow said.
If you think this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. Have you ever heard of Schitt’s Creek? This is a family who buys a small town in the middle of nowhere.
“I’ve been told this 1,000 times now,” Gandee said with a laugh.
Families didn’t buy a city per se, but the idea is the same; buy land and buildings with big plans to make it more attractive.
“Is this Ohio’s Schitt’s Creek,” 10TV’s Bryant Somerville asked.
“I can’t say it for sure,” Scheutzow said with a chuckle.
What he can say is that it has been a business.
“We quickly realized that the reason no one could run a business here was that there was no infrastructure,” he said.
Scheutzow says the problems he and his partners found were almost immediate. Many places did not have sewers. The storm water systems were bad. There was no parking and even things like gas and electricity were difficult due to zoning written in the early 1900s.
“We had to work hand in hand with the engineers from the county, with the county of Delaware, with our township commissioners to come here and walk around and it was very easy to work with them,” said Scheutzow.
“It was actually a really unique project,” said Bob Lamb.
Lamb is the director of economic development for Delaware County. After the initial shock of such an ambitious goal wore off, he said the county agreed to support the vision that was built and implemented by the people.
“I think the awesome part of it all was the effort Josh and his team put in to just work with the local community to make it happen,” Lamb said.
Lamb says this vision has worked financially, economically and socially for the county. So much so that the county has allocated $ 250,000 in urban development funds to help reposition infrastructure in the Kilbourne area.
“Currently, we have invested around $ 800,000 of our own money,” Scheutzow said.
Lots of money which, without a doubt, comes with a lot of worry and doubt.
“We have this moment on a weekly basis, I would say,” Gandee said. “And [we] from the very beginning.
Overcoming doubt and financial responsibility and infrastructure problems lead to the obstacle of the people.
“I mean they were skeptical of us, as they should be,” said Hatfield, acknowledging how strange it must be for outsiders in town to have such lofty goals.
“We took our time with this process,” Gandee said.
The concerns that were dismissed were noise and traffic, which are things new businesses would surely bring.
“I think some of the main concerns people have is that this has been a quiet, abandoned town for decades,” Scheutzow said.
Scheutzow says that in two years there were several town halls which allowed people to come, hear ideas and share plans. In addition, the team would modify their plans based on the feedback received.
Bob Ebright has lived in Kilbourne for 25 years. His wife has lived there for 35 years.
“I mean, it was a ghost town,” he said.
At first, he admits he had doubts about the renovation. Now he says he’s encouraged.
“I applaud them 100%,” Ebright said of the partners. “They are doing a great job.”
The same goes for Ruthann Harrel. The old town bed and breakfast where the horse riders rested their heads after a long day of traveling is where she lived.
“And these are probably the best memories of my life at Kilbourne,” she said.
His old house is now one of the buildings to be renovated. She remembers it; the sights and smells. Memories reflected in every broken window, every inch of rust on a tin roof and every flake of paint that has fallen.
“These houses they have are so old. They have a lot of work ahead of them to bring them back, ”she said.
Still, she hopes to have the same feel of this same small town.
“I still remember old Kilbourne but that’s the way things are now and I think Kilbourne really enjoys what’s going on here,” said Harrel.
What is happening here is not to take anything away, but to put back in what has already labeled Kilbourne as the home of so many people.
“This whole project goes beyond just owning and developing certain buildings,” said Scheutzow. “We’re really trying to build a really special place for the people who live here.”
Welcome to Kilbourne where the table is set and you are always welcome.