In 2005, Pemberville made plans to pay $132,000 to purchase the old Ford
Garage at 118 East Front Street for the purpose of revitalizing it into a “mini-mall.”
Bob Renz purchased the building from the village at auction for $38,000 last year, and three businesses are now located inside.
Bob Renz, his brother Bill, and a nephew have done “a lot of renovation and more is planned for the future,” stated a letter written by Bob and Bill's mother, Joan Renz. Bob estimates he has spent $15,000 so far, which includes removing part of an old wall and rebuilding a new wall, removing two windows and replacing 16 windows and siding, remodeling the bathrooms, and adding a bathroom, new door, and an office in the back.
Bob Renz was among four bidders, and although his bid may not have been the highest, the bid specifications were to sell the building “as is” and a higher bidder was expecting renovation by the village. Bob was not. At least one bidder had plans to raze the historic building.
An article in The Press’s annual Progress edition last month stated there were four businesses in the building, but Renz said only two are leasing — a craft shop and car restoration business. Renz and his brother operate a third business, which is a dealership featuring outdoor wood and corn furnaces. A fourth business, an art gallery, is not leasing from Renz but various antique signs hang on one wall.
Two of the three business owners, Bob Renz and Lori Moore, are former
employees of the closed Modine manufacturing plant in Pemberville.
Lori’s Country Closet, owned by Moore, is located in the front portion of the Ford Garage with a window facing Front Street. The shop is a retail outlet for primitives, crafts, and candles.
Lori, who worked at Modine 27 years, was not in her shop when The Press stopped by. Her husband Glen was tending to business.
“She likes this stuff and her plant closed down up here. She didn’t want to go onto another factory and this is what she’d liked to do, so she opened up this store,” Glen said.
Glen and Lori reside in Wayne, Ohio, but Glen said the Pemberville location was good spot for her to start in. The business opened January 1, and is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10-5:30, Saturday 11-5, and closed Sunday and Monday.
Randy Doll owns Randy’s Body and Paint, which he relocated into the back part once he heard his friend “Bobby” Renz purchased the building.
Doll started his car restoration business in Luckey in 1990, and the Ford Garage is his third location. Doll said he enjoys having the business there because he lives in Pemberville.
“That’s what’s nice. I can walk to work,” Doll said.
When classic car shows arrive in Pemberville, Doll often spots six to ten autos that he has worked on.
“I really like these older muscle cars,” Doll said. “I just concentrate on these older cars because that’s what I’ve always liked. I’ve had a hot rod ever since I was young and started doing them and people kept bringing them. So I just made a go of it. I’ll work on anything, but as long as I got these older cars it keeps me busy. What I like is they are big jobs where they last two to six months.”
He is the only employee, but on any given day you might find several other retired auto enthusiasts tinkering around. Rebuilding classic cars is Doll’s niche, but the shop is also equipped for collision insurance body repairs.
Bob and Bill Renz, owners of B&B Woodburners, are not new to their business, either.
“We got into business because my brother use to install them for another owner of this business, and (the previous owner) got another business and we were still getting phone calls from people wanting a place to get parts and service,” Bob said.
“The advantage of wood burners is that all the dirt is outside, all the garbage is outside, the smoke is outside, and most importantly, the fire is outside. So you won’t burn your house down like so many other people do because you open the door, sparks are outside and there’s nothing to burn. It’s usually on a concrete bed.”
The furnaces are highly efficient, so having one installed will lower your heating bills, Bob said. It is an EPA-approved renewable energy source and if you have an indoor fireplace, it can lower your insurance bills, too. Bob has had one hooked to three structures, his home, garage, and domestic hot water, at his residence just outside Pemberville for 17 years.
“It has multiple hook-ups. You can hook-up to two, three buildings. My propane use is very ‘nil so that was the best use I made as far as saving money and heating my house,” Bob said. “They are a top of the line product, too. I mean, snow sits on the roof. If snow sits on the roof of something that has almost 200 degrees of water in it, you know it’s insulated very well.”
“You’ve got a little more self-control. Like the wood burners, you don’t have to split wood anymore. The biggest one we have on the floor right now has a 24 by 30 inch door, and if you can get it in, it will burn. Then you throw the little stuff around it, and it works great,” Bob continued.
“We have wood burners, wood pellet, and corn burners, too, so you can use the pellet and corn burners if you don’t have access to firewood, per se. You can burn corn, which usually, depending on how your house’s insulation is done, will cut your heating bill by three-quarters, anyways, because you have to buy corn still. Of course, there is not much emission off the corn. In the wood pellets, we see very little smoke. There is more steam coming out of the stack and sometimes you can’t even see that.”
B&B also supplies parts and service, and the Renz brothers plan to stock certain parts at the Pemberville location.
“I’ve had mine 17 years, and I’ve replaced five or six pumps, and the people I’ve bought pumps from said four years is pretty good on a pump and I have two pumps on each line. But that’s just the way I’ve set it up. One pump in each building is enough,” Bob said. “I’m very happy with it, and anybody that has ever had one, I have never had anybody complain about it. Very little mechanical parts with it.”
Of course, the manual labor is up to the owner of the furnace.
“You’ve got to shovel it in, and you’ve got to shovel the ashes out, but my ashes are roughly every six weeks, and its outside,” Bob said. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever invested in. I would recommend it to anybody.”