From his office in Ravenna's Riddle Block No. 1, Bruce Kirby has a perfect vantage point of the downtown.
Across the street is the newly renovated Apaydin Building, which once housed Second National Bank. Kirby's grandfather, William H. Waggoner, was president and chairman of the board of that institution, which was a downtown mainstay for more than 100 years.
Next door to that is Guido's restaurant, which houses an outdoor patio that Kirby considers to be "the greatest thing since sliced bread."
And directly across the street from Guido's is the Portage County Courthouse lawn, which Kirby thinks holds a lot of potential to be a gathering place for the public.
To Kirby, all are examples of his town's potential as he takes over as president of the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I think we've got a lot of great assets here," he said. "It's just a matter of utilizing the resources we have to promote the area."
Kirby is in charge of the Ravenna branch of Hometown Bank, which has its office in the county-owned Riddle Block No. 1 at the corner of Chestnut and Main streets. Kirby landed there after a long career of banking in Kent and Ravenna at various banks.
A Ravenna native, he started his career at First Federal Savings in Kent, where he stayed for 20 years until First Merit took over. He then came to Ravenna to work for Ravenna Savings until that bank, too, merged with a larger conglomerate.
He calls his move to Hometown Bank "a step back in time."
"Working for a community bank was a breath of fresh air," he said. "They're more customer-oriented, more community-oriented and community-minded. And I think it's a great location in town."
The bank hosts outdoor concerts in the summer months, including two in Ravenna in May and July, and one of his biggest frustrations is that they don't have better attendance. People also don't seem to come to the city at night, he said.
He said downtown festivals seem to be reversing that problem, and the outdoor patio at Guido's is an example of what experts have said brings activities to downtown.
His window overlooks Main Street and many empty storefronts. In addition to boosting chamber membership, Kirby hopes to help existing retailers not suffer the same fate.
He said the chamber's board of directors is considering a number of networking opportunities, but declined to be more specific about those plans until they materialize. But he did say he hopes to give chamber members better exposure to the community and help them be more successful.
"A lot of opportunities are right in front of us," he said. "We've just got to be positive."
Kirby and his wife, Donna, have an adult son, Brad, who lives in Ravenna with his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Kahne, 7, and Kylee, 18 months. His brother, Dave, lives in Ravenna. His sister-in-law, Becky, is a guidance counselor at Brown Middle School who was grand marshal of the Balloon A-Fair parade last year.
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