Oakwood Square: A community hub

The Oakwood Square plaza has been revitalized since its remodel

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Sean Saunders

A view of “Saturdays at the square” a monthly farmers market hosted at Oakwood Square.

Sean Saunders, Staff writer

It’s astonishing how an eroding Plaza, in which one of the most interesting stores was a Dollar General, has now become a cultural phenomenon to many Plain Locals Residents. 

Oakwood Square has transformed into a flourishing hub of business since its multiple stages of remodeling.  Despite its success now, the plaza was once a conspicuous sign of failure for a majority of Plain Local District residents. 

The plaza was a steady stream of customers and income until Giant Eagle left and relocated to Washington Square, causing many of the tenants to leave due to the lack of business caused by the removal. 

To worsen matters, Giant Eagle, which had become a vacant lot of property, had a lease agreement that lasted until April 2015. The lease got rid of opportunities for new businesses to take its place. That is if any masochistic entrepreneur would do so. 

By the time Giant Eagles lease expired, the square had been a desolate wasteland of parking lot potholes, peeling paint on the structure of former businesses, and an elephant in the room for anyone driving down Easton. 

“It felt incomplete,  like it was missing something. It also had almost an unsettling feeling to it.” ”

— Logan Hiner

The incompleteness he felt might have been due to the fact that a majority of the plaza had been empty at the time.

To bury the nail in the coffin, a Dollar General and Mcdonald’s had both relocated in an act of escape from the economic doom of being located in an unappealing ghost town.

Everything changed when general contractor Glitz and Associates signed a lease for the construction of a Drug Mart out of 30,000 square feet of the former Giant Eagle in 2017. Along with this, the company with the help of Plain Local and Canton was able to get a $6 million tax break for a complete remodeling of the plaza.

The Drug Mart opened in 2018 with the complete overhaul of the plaza, and since then a myriad of other businesses have decided to follow suit. The most notable of which being Royal Docks and The Bistro. 

“I grew up in Plain township. I went to GlenOak myself. I graduated in 1988 so I’m very familiar with Oakwood Square over the years. The shopping center was a little tinier in the beginning but the growth finally caught up with the shopping center with all the new homes being built in the area,” Oakwood Square owner Grant Glitz said. “We knew discount drug mart would do well. The shopping center just needed a facelift. And a new parking lot. We knew the new tenants would eventually show up.”

Gltiz’s confidence in Oakwood Square’s success has had noticeable output in the eyes of many businesses.

“I think the remodeling has helped a lot recently. The landlord, Grant repaved the parking lot and added in new plants, trees, and bushes. It makes the area look real sharp and like a new plaza. I know he has plans of painting the back of the building,” Royal Docks manager Micalea Dale said. 

And there is evidence that the remodeling has helped.

“My favorite restaurant is Royal Docks. It’s a good restaurant and was the most eye-catching,” sophomore Mina Ramos said.

Every time he brings in a new business it really helps the plaza out, and all the things to improve the looks of it helps as well.” Dale said. 

However, there was another challenger in the way of Oakwood Square: COVID-19.  

“We opened up in June in the middle of the pandemic and it’s been a little crazy to finger out business when there’s masks and no masks and then there was the forced 10 pm curfew,” Dale said. “It’s really the struggle of trying to uphold the government standards versus what people actually want to do. It’s a definitely a balancing act.”

COVID-19 did not stop Oakwood Square from exponentially growing and since the pandemic started they have held multiple events anywhere from “Saturdays at the Square” a Farmers Market that is held the first Saturday of every month.

“The Farmers Market’s awesome. We open an hour earlier so people can come in and we do a brunch menu,” Dale Said

Despite this, Oakwood Square has not stopped at Farmers Markets. 

“Just this past August we did a hall of fame parking lot party and they had a bunch of people come out and they brought out a stage,” Dale said.

Live music might become a large aspect of the plaza instead of an occasional event as it’s considering adding a permanent stage. 

In fact, the plan to add a stage to Oakwood Square seems to have been long in the making.

“Plain township did a master plan study. And they said in the master plans study ( this was even before we bought the shopping center) plain township was lacking a focal point, a community local area, I think an outdoor pavilion type stage would help bring the community for concerts, venues, and more fun outdoor events” Glitz said. 

“I think that being able to have live music outside will be a great way for the community to be able to connect and enjoy time together in an area that’s a lot closer to their houses,” Dale said.

Overall, Oakwood Square is an inspirational and humbling underdog story.

“Always be learning, you’re the only thing that can hold yourself back. If you’re constantly trying to learn and improve and be the best version of you that you can be you’re going to be successful” Dale said.

And what Dale said can be found true for Oakwood square. It has continuously improved since its remodeling and has now found fortune and success.