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A faded yellow and blue banner dominates the back wall of Mantua's NAPA store above rows of polished steel tool sets.
"Welcome to Mantua Auto Parts Store, Where Customer Service is Number 1," it reads.
Below it are row upon row of boxes containing filters, oils, and miscellaneous nuts and bolts. Behind them, tires in stacks can be seen in the dimly lit back room.
At the counter is Matthew Denzinger, his grease-stained khakis a sign of a hard-day's schedule of running the small store. People more often than not drive slowly past on their way through town.
But not for long. Mantua's NAPA store, currently located at 10507 Main St., is set to move into a new building just down the road.
"I'm a mildly well-kept secret," Denzinger said. "But the store isn't."
He's been working in the shop since before graduating from Crestwood High School and took over from his father three years ago.
Property owner Larry Lietzow offered to sell him the store along with the neighboring two buildings for a price he couldn't afford. It would be cheaper to build an entirely new structure that was up to code and ready for future sales than it would be to maintain the entire complex.
Currently, the store's roof leaks in multiple places and the building is in extreme disrepair in other ways as well.
"When it rains hard, it'll fill up a 5-gallon bucket in less than a night. The windows are bad, there's a San Andreas fault in this concrete flooring, and you can see into the building from multiple spots from outside where the floor is literally separating from the foundation," he said.
So he looked into purchasing the land at the edge of the village. Owned by members of his family, it's the last property within village limits and actually sits on about 40 feet of land within Shalersville.
Because the almost 7-acre property sits in the 500-year floodplain zone, Denzinger leveled the land and raised it above the necessary height to be safe from the rising Cuyahoga River waters.
"The 100-year floods are what you have to worry about and what you've got to have insurance for, like here," Denzinger said of the current building. "Everything over there now is going to be at 1,087 elevation. This is well below that."
The new location will be 12,000 square feet, with 5,000 going to store space, 3,000 for the tire garage and bulk storage, and 4,000 for rentals. It will be "nice and cleaner," he said, but still have the same small-town customer service.
Denzinger said he hopes to break ground next spring, weather permitting and if he can obtain all the necessary building permits.
"We've been meeting with three different builders, going over options," he said. "We don't even have a price yet."
The store sells mainly tires and automotive parts, but also services the farming communities of Mantua, Garrettsville and Hiram. Compared with other automotive stores, the store doesn't carry many items like floor mats, windshield wipers or air fresheners.
"At the new store, I will have a small selection of that stuff," he said. "More customers are looking for repairs to their cars (now) than that."
There will be parking along S.R. 44, with entrances there and on Canada Road, as well as to neighboring Kohler's farm stand.
During the flood-plain raising, Denzinger said he tried to save the brick and concrete roadway -- the original S.R. 44 -- near the site but was unsuccessful because the bricks crumbled when disturbed.
He knows the current building isn't the friendliest to look at. It's an eyesore, he said, especially for some female customers who have told him directly that the shop isn't very welcoming to non-regulars.
"People have been saying 'Oh, this is so exciting,' and I've just been like 'Dude, it's just a building,'" he said. "'Right,' they say, 'but this is Mantua. This is exciting.'"
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or email@example.com