NORTH RIDGEVILLE — For the past 30 years, Joe Buescher has worked in the landmark that is his family’s hardware store near the corner of Center Ridge Road and state Route 83.
“We’ve done pretty good all these years,” Buescher, 48, said of the Buescher’s Hardware store that has served the needs of locals since the 1930s with paint, plumbing supplies, electrical items, and nuts and bolts.
The business is facing an uncertain future, thanks to the right-of-way the state needs for the planned widening of Center Ridge Road set to begin in a few years.
“I’d say we’re the most affected by it because I’m not just losing a business, I’m losing my home,” Buescher said.
For the past 25 years, he has lived in an apartment above the hardware store.
“From what they’re telling me, they want the entire building,” Buescher said of information he has gleaned so far from conversations with a building assessor and relocater representing the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Buescher has heard conflicting figures for the amount of front footage that will be needed to widen Center Ridge Road, a state route, from three to five lanes in a 2.3-mile stretch from Lear-Nagle Road to the east to Stoney Ridge Road to the west.
“We were hearing 38 feet is needed and now we’re hearing 51 feet,” Buescher said Wednesday. “We’re not sure what to believe. Apparently there’s no thought of us being able to save any part of the building.”
The longtime business is one of about 20 properties, the majority of which are commercial, that the state will have to purchase to permit the widening to proceed, according to information from the city Engineering Department.
The $55.4 million project, which has been proposed several times over the past 20 years, is now set to go to bid in phases in 2015 and 2016, with construction slated to start in 2017.
The city’s main east-west traffic artery, the portion of Center Ridge to be widened is among the most congested and accident-heavy in the community, having produced more than 300 crashes between 2007 and 2009.
It was the high number of traffic mishaps and crashes that led ODOT officials to give the widening priority.
Heritage Land Services, a nationwide company with offices in Westerville, has been hired by ODOT to acquire needed properties for the widening.
Buescher and his dad, Ken, have operated the business together for years, and Joe’s mother, Nancy Buescher, recently stepped down from her seat as 1st Ward city councilwoman after serving 5½ terms.
The hardware store was purchased from its original owner in 1936 by Buescher’s grandfather.
“It was originally just a 20-by-40-foot store,” Joe Buescher said.
The business has undergone four additions over the years, and now is 12,000 square feet.
The family has yet to receive a formal offer from the state for the hardware store. Until that occurs, Buescher doesn’t know whether the store can continue in another location.
“We have no idea what we can do from here,” Buescher said.
The younger Buescher also worries about what will happen to the one-man guitar repair business he has operated in an adjoining space to the hardware store for some 15 years.
“I’m hoping if we relocate, that can come with me,” Buescher said.