by Laura Bednar
The former location of the C&B Garage on Brecksville Rd. has been vacant for some time but will soon host an exhibit detailing the businesses that once called it home.
Today, the building houses Carlo’s Barbershop at one end, and the remaining empty space has been used for holiday displays and the city’s “Santa in the Window” event. City employee Paul Kershner said he was taking down the Christmas display when councilperson Dale Veverka suggested a new idea for the window and the perfect organization for the project.
Independence Historical Society member Paula Slater had moved back to her hometown of Independence four years ago, and her family’s roots within the city made her uniquely qualified to curate a historical exhibition for the space.
Slater’s parents, Danny and Betty Borowski, were the owners of C&B Garage for many years. Her brother worked at the garage and her sister, Janice, later took over the business until it closed in the late 1990s. Independence Historical Society President Deb Hudnall said the city was looking to create an exhibit for the window, and Slater agreed to head the project. A reunion took place when Kershner contacted the society and was directed to Slater. The two were neighbors and childhood friends growing up in Independence and had not seen each other for decades.
“We were talking old times, like Monopoly games that went on for days,” Kershner said, laughing.
Slater recalled playing football, baseball and riding go carts together with Paul and other neighborhood boys. “It’s been fun working with him and catching up again,” she said.
The C&B Garage was housed in the back portion of the Brecksville Road building and the “Snak Shop” was in front. Both will be represented in the exhibit, which will feature a written history of the building and its past businesses including Kramer’s Meats, Len Gaab’s barbershop, the post office, and a gun shop among others.
Slater found much of the historical information at the library but also went through the genealogy of people with connections to the building.
“I sent letters to people, and they all called me back,” said Slater. “It was fun digging into the building.” She found the Kubicek family, which owned the building, and connected with one of their relatives, who offered photos of the owners for the exhibit.
In addition to the historical write up and photos, the exhibit will feature a table and chair set from the Snak Shop, and items from the garage including a Toro sign, Champion brand spark plug and a Briggs & Stratton coffee mug. Slater said her father was a Toro distributor, and while not all of the items are original pieces, they recreate what the garage was like at the time.
The garage offered repairs for lawn mowers, snow blowers and other power equipment as well as tool sharpening. Slater said the garage would send someone to pick up a broken piece of equipment from a home and return it fixed. In the winter, the garage had a machine shop in the back with a lathe to make parts for manufacturing companies.
“C&B was a gathering place for friends to talk in between customers,” said Slater.
Though the space is empty, it is still a hub of activity around the holidays when Kershner creates a display in the window. This past Christmas, Slater was able to contribute to his yearly project. Growing up with mostly boys, Slater said she had a set of matchbox cars that she and her friends played with that included ambulances, police cars, fire trucks and construction vehicles.
“My father said to hold on to them, I may need them one day,” Slater said. The set of cars traveled with her across the country with every move she made from Pennsylvania all the way to California and Washington state. Now back in her hometown, she gave the cars to Kershner to use in his holiday display. He said they were vintage cars and in mint condition.
“My dad would be so delighted,” Slater said.
Kershner has been cleaning out the building in preparation for the new exhibit. He even found a cardboard Coca Cola sign from the days of the Snak Shop and framed it for use. Slater and other historical society members are gathering artifacts for the display, with the goal of having the exhibit up through the months of March and April.
“We’re hoping it’s an evolving thing,” said Kershner.
Slater said it was an honor to work on the display.
“My parents worked so hard at the shop and made their mark on the city. I wanted to do something for them,” she said. ∞