Business this week: Lion opens plant more than a year later following tornado damage

Tange Herron tapes hazmat suits at Lion Inc. in Dayton. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Tange Herron tapes hazmat suits at Lion Inc. in Dayton. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Among the many Dayton-area businesses struck by last year’s Memorial Day tornadoes was Lion First Responder, which saw three-quarters of its 66 Janney Road plant destroyed.

John Granby, Lion vice president, government relations, took a visitor to the rear of the facility Tuesday. Waving his arm around the 35,000-square-foot section of the building, Granby declared: “All of this was destroyed.”

And then rebuilt, thanks to months of work, quick adaptability and a $3.5 million investment by Vandalia-based Lion, an Ohio and Kentucky manufacturer of personal protective gear for first responders, military and other customers, with some 1,000 workers nationwide.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley first cut the ribbon on the facility just two days before the spate of tornadoes struck late on May 27 last year.

“One of the first calls we made was to Lion to say, ‘How are you guys doing?’” Whaley recalled Tuesday, seconds before cutting the ribbon once again. “We just had opened the facility.”

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Amisi Pelo works on a damage control navy suit at Lion Inc. in Dayton. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Amisi Pelo works on a damage control navy suit at Lion Inc. in Dayton. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Amisi Pelo works on a damage control navy suit at Lion Inc. in Dayton. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Before the tornadoes, Lion invested $1.7 million to buy and renovate the 55,000-square-foot plant, pledging to create 75 full-time jobs.

Today, Lion has 72 workers at the Janney plant, and Steve Schwartz, Lion president and chief executive, said he could easily use 15 more.

Lion is the largest family-owned manufacturer of first responder personal protective equipment in the United States. U.S. Navy firefighters used Lion gear in fighting the massive blaze that tore through the billion-dollar USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship docked in San Diego last month.

Wright-Patterson executive honored

A Wright-Patterson Air Force Base executive whose ingenuity has kept aircraft flying high has been awarded the Air Force’s highest honor for an individual.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett awarded the “Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service” to Charles “Chuck” Babish IV, Air Force senior level executive for aircraft structural integrity.

The award was presented to Babish in a ceremony presided by Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) commander Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Wednesday.

This award has to be personally approved and signed by the secretary of the Air Force.

The secretary established the award to recognize an individual or group for “exceptionally meritorious service of major significance to the Air Force in the performance of duties in a manner clearly exceptional to others,” the Air Force said.

It is the highest recognition granted to an individual or group within the Air Force.

Speedway to be sold to 7-11

Marathon Petroleum Corp. has agreed to sell its Enon-based Speedway unit to the corporate parent of the 7-11 convenience store chain for $21 billion, creating questions about the fate of Speedway’s recently expanded Dayton-area headquarters.

In 2018, Marathon announced plans to expand and update Speedway’s headquarters building at a cost of about $48 million, a project that was to feature a new 140,000-square-foot structure connecting two existing buildings on the headquarters campus.

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Investors last year pushed for Marathon to spit into separate entities, including making Speedway independent of the oil company Marathon. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Investors last year pushed for Marathon to spit into separate entities, including making Speedway independent of the oil company Marathon. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Investors last year pushed for Marathon to spit into separate entities, including making Speedway independent of the oil company Marathon. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Findlay-based Marathon announced that it and certain of its subsidiaries have entered into a “definitive agreement” with 7-Eleven, Inc., a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings Co., Marathon said Sunday.

In the agreement, 7-Eleven will acquire Speedway for $21 billion in cash, Marathon said. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, subject to the usual conditions and regulatory approvals.

“This transaction marks a milestone on the strategic priorities we outlined earlier this year,” Michael Hennigan, president and chief executive of Marathon, said in a release Sunday. “Our announcement crystalizes the significant value of the Speedway business, creates certainty around value realization and delivers on our commitment to unlock the value of our assets.”

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said that the hope is that Speedway’s headquarters will remain in Enon and operations will mostly stay the same as it is a major employer in the area.

Lohnes said there is always a fear that positions will be transferred out of the area as a result of an acquisition or leadership change.

“We are anxious and hopeful at the same time. This could be good news for us or it could be bad,” he added.

However, Mike McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield, said that Marathon and Speedway have indicated to his organization in the past that they would want to keep their assets in Enon as part of any acquisition.

McDorman said that they had indicated in the past that would be a high priority for them. However, the chamber has not engaged in recent talks with Speedway regarding news that it will be acquired by 7-Eleven, he added.

Steak ‘n Shake will have car hop service

Steak ‘n Shake is going back to its drive-in roots to offer a new — well, old — service model that appears to be well-suited to battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials with the Indianapolis-based chain announced this week that hundreds of its restaurants throughout the country — including five locations in the Dayton region — have resurrected drive-in service by carhops, which they called “a perfect way to enjoy some old-fashioned fun while staying socially-distant.”

Here’s how it works, according to a Steak ‘n Shake release:

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Steak 'n Shake has announced it has brought back drive-in-style carhop service to help fight coronavirus pandemic. Five Dayton-area locations offer carhop service. Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Steak 'n Shake has announced it has brought back drive-in-style carhop service to help fight coronavirus pandemic. Five Dayton-area locations offer carhop service. Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

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Steak 'n Shake has announced it has brought back drive-in-style carhop service to help fight coronavirus pandemic. Five Dayton-area locations offer carhop service. Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Customers can pull into one of the designated carhop parking spaces, denoted by signage evoking a 45 RPM record. They then open the Steak ‘n Shake app and place an order, then select a “Car Hop” option and enter vehicle details. A server will deliver a tray and attach it to the car window, just as Steak ‘n Shake employees did for decades in the chain’s early years. Customers can dine in their car or at one of each location’s socially-distanced, umbrella-covered picnic tables.

“The Steak ‘n Shake parking lot was the place to be on a Saturday night in the 1950s, with carhops buzzing in between rows of cars filled with families, couples on dates, and teenagers,” company officials said in a release.

A spokeswoman for Steak ‘n Shake listed five Dayton-area locations where carhop service is available: 6380 Wilmington Pike in the Centerville-Sugarcreek Twp. area, 2856 Center Drive at the I-675/North Fairfield Road interchange in Fairborn, at 8311 Old Troy Pike in Huber Heights, at 8420 Springboro Pike at Lyons Road south of the Dayton Mall, and at 1741 Bechtle Ave. in Springfield.

Geez Grill starts hiring process

Geez Grill & Pub is now hiring as it gears up for its first move since opening in 1994.

The family-owned restaurant that is still open and operating at its current location at 5841 Far Hills Ave. is relocating to the former Ruby Tuesday restaurant at 6061 Far Hills Ave. in the Washington Square Shopping Center in Washington Twp.

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Family-owned Geez Grill & Pub is now hiring ahead of moving into the former Ruby Tuesday space on Far Hills Avenue in Washington Twp.

Credit: STAFF/MARK FISHER

Family-owned Geez Grill & Pub is now hiring ahead of moving into the former Ruby Tuesday space on Far Hills Avenue in Washington Twp.

Credit: STAFF/MARK FISHER

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Family-owned Geez Grill & Pub is now hiring ahead of moving into the former Ruby Tuesday space on Far Hills Avenue in Washington Twp.

Credit: STAFF/MARK FISHER

Credit: STAFF/MARK FISHER

The restaurant’s current location is tucked into a retail center with no street visibility, and owner Nick Giallombardo has said Geez outgrew its kitchen years ago. Giallombardo plans to continue to operate Geez at its current location while making improvements to the new space, then relocate the restaurant in late summer or early fall.

Geez currently employs 50, and Giallombardo has said he expects that number to rise to about 70 eventually. Those who wish to apply can pick up an application from a box at the front door of the new restaurant location on Far Hills Avenue at Whipp Road, Giallombardo said Thursday, Aug. 6.

Judge refuses to block curfew

A Franklin County judge on Wednesday refused to block a statewide 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants while a lawsuit over the restriction continues.

A group of 21 Columbus-area bars, restaurants and individuals filed a lawsuit Tuesday, Aug. 4, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court seeking to overturn the statewide curfew on alcohol sales. But after a hearing Wednesday morning in Columbus, Judge Kim Brown refused the bar and restaurant owners’ request for a temporary restraining order to put the ban on hold until the full case is heard.

The judge cited the state’s right to restrict alcohol sales in denying the request for a restraining order, news outlets in Columbus reported.

The curfew, which took effect Friday, was ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine and approved by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to help ease the coronavirus pandemic. Both DeWine and the liquor-control commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which sought the temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the new rule. The case will now turn to the bar owners’ full arguments that the order unfairly singles out bars and restaurants that are following all safety guidelines and violates the Ohio Constitution.

The lawsuit said there is no evidence that the safeguards bars and restaurants put in place are effective at 9:59 p.m. but ineffective at 10:01 p.m. “The power afforded to governments to address public health and safety issues is not limitless. The rights secured by the Ohio Constitution do not disappear during a public-health crisis,” the lawsuit says.

The bar and restaurant owners who joined the lawsuit “genuinely believe their businesses may cease to exist” if the curfew is allowed to stay in place, given the precarious position that the pandemic has forced upon bars and restaurants statewide, the lawsuit said.

But in a strongly worded response from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on behalf of DeWine and the Ohio Liquor Commission, state attorneys said the lawsuit is based on “simply partisan, personal opposition to the steps the state of Ohio has taken to protect its citizens from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.”