2022 Family Business Achievement Awards

These companies represent some of Northeast Ohio’s successful family-owned businesses that are growing for the next generation.

Here are the 2022 Family Business and Business Longevity honorees:


The story pf Ahola Payroll & HR Solutions has humble beginnings, with the launch of the company by the wife and husband team of Rheta and Chet Ahola. What started as a data processing service for local companies has grown into a 50-plus employee company having issued over 40 million paychecks to 10,000 clients across the U.S. Today, Ahola provides payroll and HR software and services that continue to expand to meet the needs of clients and adjust to the ever-changing

Jeff Ahola CEO & Owner

landscape of HR and compliance.

Keypunch Services was founded by the Aholas in 1967. Chet and his data-analyst wife, Rheta, utilized their IBM training to assist local businesses with their introduction to automation. In 1980, oldest son Mark Ahola joined the business, followed by Marja, Scott and Jeff. In 1985, Chet and Rheta retired and passed the business to their children. Within the four-sibling second generation, Mark managed operations, Scott developed the first integrated payroll and payroll tax filing and processing systems, Marja managed payroll processors and Jeff managed sales and key business relationships.

In honor of the company’s 45th anniversary in 2012, an Ohio Historical Marker was placed at the building entrance that recognizes the company as, “The world’s longest continuously operating family-focused payroll service provider.” ●



Allen Refrigeration Services Inc. was founded in 1974 by Jim Allen, a U.S. Navy veteran who learned the complicated business of refrigeration during his service in the military. After his discharge, he was employed by a large refrigeration firm for many years, but a prolonged labor dispute in the early 1970s prompted him to examine his alternatives. Encouraged by his father, he formed Allen Refrigeration Services, and a reputation for skilled workmanship and quality material soon developed.

By 1986, Allen Refrigeration Services had outgrown its facility and relocated to Avon Lake. The new building provided space for a large sheet metal fabrication shop, an area for in-house repair of small equipment, a vehicle maintenance bay, warehouse storage and a large office area. Expansion into new market areas followed, as did a dedicated residential unit, Allen Heating/Cooling.

Allen’s family is now part of the firm, and their assistance allows their father to devote more time to field service, the work he enjoys most. The future course includes continued growth and more diversity in product and service offerings.

Today, the company provides commercial building control and energy management, including climate control, ventilation, refrigeration and cooling, and has earned the designation of Honeywell Automation Control Specialist. ●


In 1972, Mort Stein and Mel Lyons saw a need in the Akron community for a sophisticated insurance agency and created Brunswick Companies. While Lyons eventually exited the business, Brunswick quickly became a family business when Stein’s son, Todd Stein, joined in 1979.

Todd Stein
President & CEO

At that time, there were four other employees, one of whom was Gerry Stein — Mort’s wife — who served as office manager. With dual majors in accounting and insurance, Todd was named president at 29 years old. He has grown the business from a small property and casualty agency serving clients in Akron to a large risk management consulting firm serving clients nationwide.

In 2004, Todd’s oldest daughter, Michelle Hirsch, joined the business and saw the opportunity for growth using the internet. She expanded the firm’s industry-specific program business and created a Brunswick Private Client division. In 2008, Todd’s daughter, Rachel Weinberg, joined the business. She leads Brunswick’s commercial/risk management division and handles its largest real estate and manufacturing clients. And in 2017, daughter and son-in-law Abby and Adam Diamond joined the personal lines department.

Mort Stein was quick to empower Todd to take his small startup and create a growing business, and Todd is following his father’s lead in empowering the next generation. ●



Jeff Stohr, CEO

Founded in 1961, Conveyer & Caster – Equipment for Industry is a third-generation, family-owned, material handling solutions provider headquartered in Westlake, Ohio. The company is driven by a mission to improve the material flow and safety of its customers, helping them achieve greater operating efficiencies and success.

Over the past four years, Conveyer & Caster has experienced immense growth in sales, human capital and capabilities, including a move to a more advanced, larger facility, sales territory expansion, employment of fourth-generation family members and deployment of a growth-optimized organizational structure designed for longevity.

Trevor Stohr, President

Conveyer & Caster was founded in 1961 by Albert T. Stohr Sr. with a focus on selling casters and conveyors to the local market. Albert passed away in 1964, and his shoes were filled by his son, Albert T. Stohr Jr. In 1989, Stohr Jr.’s son, Jeff Stohr, joined; three years later, Jeff’s brother, Trevor Stohr, came on board.

In 2004, the brothers purchased the company from their father and stepped into their roles as CEO and president. In 2020 Travis Stohr, Jeff‘s youngest son, entered the family business and is a key member of the business development team. Soon after, Tyler Stohr, Travis’ brother, joined the technical sales team. ●



Since its founding in 1951, Dar-Tech Inc. has become one of the Midwest’s largest manufacturers’ representatives and distributors of specialty chemicals, raw materials and laboratory equipment.

Originally named the Steven F. Dimlich Co., then the Dimlich-Radcliffe Co., the business specialized

Brett Walburn

in the chemical coatings industry. In 1962, it expanded into the plastic, ink, rubber, adhesive and ceramic markets. Several years later, in 1967, Walt Walburn joined the company, and in 1972, James Benduhn joined. That same year, the company was renamed Dar-Tech Inc., with the “dar” standing for “Dimlich and Radcliffe” as a nod to the founders.

In 1998, Thomas Kramer joined as CFO. And in 2012, Walt Walburn was named chairman of the board and Brett Walburn as president. In 2017, Thomas Dressel joined Dar-Tech’s ownership team, and in 2018, assumed the role of sales manager.

Over the past few years, Dar-Tech has expanded its sales offices and warehouses in Buffalo, New York, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, with market areas in 12 states.  Across various industries, Dar-Tech has been a trusted partner to its suppliers and customers in the distribution of specialty raw materials and chemicals for over 70 years. ●


In 1919, William R. Day founded Piston Day Co., a small family-owned manufacturer of pistons for a variety of industries and applications. Day Piston Co. began manufacturing pistons for automobile engines, and in 1934 began machining compressor pistons for air braking systems for semi-trucks.

In 1943, William Day passed away, and his son, Floyd Day, stepped into the leadership role of the

Myron Day

company. In 1985, Myron Day, William R. Day’s grandson, took over as president. Today, at age 94, Myron continues to provide advice and input, while his nephew, Clyde Jones, helps lead the organization.

Non-family members work alongside family members at the business, wearing the same uniforms and being held to the same standards and expectations to meet production requirements. Non-family employees receive the same benefit package as family and also receive bonuses.

As a loyal and reliable supplier for over 100 years, Day Piston has continued to meet the needs of customers as it has consistently maintained production despite war, the Great Depression, recessions, the manufacturing wave of offshoring and unexpected business cycle trends. With their success, the Day family established a foundation to support charitable organizations, and family members are active in serving the foundation and assisting in determining where funds will be granted. ●


Fire-Dex is a global manufacturer of personal protective equipment and an Independent Service Provider of PPE care and maintenance under the Gear Wash brand. Founded in 1983, the business is headquartered in Medina, hometown of owner and Chairman Bill Burke. His daughters, Lauren DeVere, president of Fire-Dex, and Taylor Gilman, president of Gear Wash, joined the team in 2019.

Lauren Burke DeVere

Family comes first at Fire-Dex, and for DeVere, that means investing in a dedicated team of associates who are the driving force behind the organization’s success. From giving staff her time, support and praise for creating growth opportunities, she has been a staunch family advocate. She was also the driving force behind the implementation of a new paid maternity and paternity leave policy, which allows 12 weeks of maternity and two weeks of paternity time. Additionally, there are options for adoption and foster child placement.

As the company’s PPE services operations continue to grow, Gilman’s hands-on approach and competitive nature continue to be invaluable assets. This year, she successfully led the onboarding of the acquisition of Minerva Bunker Gear Cleaners. Having acquired Minerva and its six locations, Gear Wash is now the firefighting industry’s largest turnout gear cleaning and repair operations in the country. ●


Fleet Response continuously evolves to meet the needs of its customers, but its values never change. Since opening its doors in 1986, it has consistently added capabilities and defined industry standards by applying the founding principles of innovation, professionalism, accountability and effectiveness. The company strives to meet the needs of both its customers and employees.

Scott Mawaka
President & CEO

Fleet Response operates on the founding principle of innovation, with a culture that places clients and employees at the forefront. As it grows, it maintains a family-like culture focused on employee and customer satisfaction. The combination of its people and culture gives it a powerful competitive advantage.

It provides innovative and effective service to its clients and maintains a high standard of professionalism and partnership in an environment that fosters opportunity, integrity and excellence. To create a family-like culture, it ensures all employees feel their voices are being heard, creating opportunities to address issues that matter to employees.

Fleet Response is a family-owned company founded by Ron Mawaka Sr. in Cleveland in 1986 as Rental Concepts Inc., with a focus on managing temporary business rentals. In 2003, RCI and IVS combined to create Fleet Response, one company that offers comprehensive custom fleet services. ●


Bill Gardiner arrived in Cleveland in 1957, selling Trane heating and air conditioning products, and sold the equipment for the first air-conditioned multi-story office building in Cleveland in 1958. In 1962, he founded Gardiner and became the local Trane Commercial Systems franchise for Northeast Ohio.

Gardiner’s mark on the region has a lot to do with its growth, mirroring the prevalence of air-

Todd Barnhart
President & CEO

conditioned buildings. It has had an impact on more than half of the large buildings in the Greater Cleveland area, from Hopkins Airport to most of the major hospitals and universities, school districts and office buildings.

Leadership and vision have allowed Gardiner to continue pushing for growth and development. In 2017, Bill Gardiner made a critical decision in his succession planning. Trane was reacquiring legacy franchise offices, and rather than leave his legacy and his business and people to chance, he terminated the relationship with Trane and formed a partnership with Daikin Applied Americas, ensuring the company continued as an independent, locally based business.

Gardiner also sold majority interest to second-generation associate Todd Barnhart, who invested in the business in 2020 and carried on the Gardiner commitment of local, independent ownership. Bill Gardiner remains a shareholder and an active adviser, along with sons Todd Gardiner and Gary Gardiner. ●


Established in 1957 by Howard and Anne Freyvogel Hanna, with a single office in Pittsburgh, the family-owned Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is now the largest family-owned and operated real estate company in the country. Founded as the Howard Hanna Co., the family business was an integral part of growing up in the Hanna household.

Howard W. “Hoby” Hanna, IV

Today, Howard and Anne’s three children and several grandchildren carry on the family tradition at the company and focus on innovative ways to best serve customers.

As a pioneer in the industry, the second generation of Hanna leadership led to the creation of its mortgage division, title and escrow services and the establishment of its insurance division. These new entities were born out of a common goal of providing solutions to clients and sales associates. Today, its approach to one-stop shopping for all things housing related has resonated with clients, who rank their experience with core services as one of the highest in the industry.

Continued growth and expansion have remained at the forefront under the third generation of Hanna leadership. The company’s emphasis on providing sales associates with best-in-class platforms and resources for generating and managing their business has allowed its people to reach new heights in their careers and been a differentiator for Howard Hanna. ●


Todd Leebow President & CEO

From a phone booth in New Haven, Connecticut, Dennis Leebow started Majestic Steel USA, with a focused vision, passion and persistence. Previously a salesman at his grandfather’s company, Baldwin Steel, he took a calculated risk to leave the family business for his own adventure.

A disrupter himself, he took a gamble stocking galvanized steel to sell into the HVAC market. In 1979, with two kids and a third on the way, he relocated his family from New Jersey to Cleveland and turned an idea and a dream into Majestic Steel USA. Founded on the principles of innovation, Majestic quickly grew into a leading national distributor and processor of prime carbon flat-rolled steel.

Still family owned today, Todd Leebow — the youngest of Dennis’ four sons — carries on the tradition of innovation as president and CEO, uniquely positioning Majestic Steel for the modern economy at the intersection of talent and technology. Growing the company in footprint, processing capabilities and product offerings, Majestic continues to disrupt conventional steel buying, providing strategic, responsive solutions for its partners through any market condition.

Leebow has transformed Majestic into a culture-driven company focused on attracting talent and developing innovative technology solutions. ●


Meaden & Moore has been part of the Northeast Ohio business community since its founding by Douglas S. Meaden in 1919. Meaden, one of the earliest CPAs in Ohio, launched his income tax preparation business by setting up shop in the lobby of The Cleveland Trust Co. and preparing income tax returns for the bank’s patrons.

James Carulas

The Story of Ohio Accountancy (1954) describes Meaden as “an early Drew Pearson [a muckraking columnist] for he made predictions, got himself into print frequently, and carried on a voluminous correspondence with men of importance.” As his business expanded, he asked a key employee, Vernon J. Moore, to become his partner.

In the 100 years since its founding, the firm has grown to over 225 employees in 18 locations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Meaden & Moore has adapted, expanded and thrived for over six generations of ownership because of the culture of professionalism and entrepreneurial spirit created by its founders. Its core values are preserved from one generation to another: Do what’s right for clients, people and communities.

Keeping true to its values and principles, understanding the businesses of today, while always preparing for the future, has been the key to its longevity and success. ●


Founded in 1952, MidWest Materials Inc. is based in Cleveland. Currently in its third generation of family ownership, the company has been family-owned and operated for 70 years. As a leading carbon flat-rolled steel processor and distributor throughout North America, MidWest has grown from a one-room sales office to its current 240,000-square-foot facility.

Noreen Koppelman Goldstein, President;
Brian Robbins, CEO

MidWest Materials was founded by Joseph Koppelman with his brother, Harry Koppelman, and Eugene Fant, which began as a small steel sales office in Cleveland. The company moved in 1956 and added processing and warehousing facilities. In 1960, MidWest moved to an 11-acre facility to accommodate a larger warehouse and better rail and truck access, and in 1969, acquired 70 acres and a 26,000-square-foot warehouse.

Noreen Koppelman Goldstein became president in 1995, and in 1997, new offices, a maintenance building and more warehouse space were added to the Perry location. In 2002, Brian Robbins was named CEO.

MidWest celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012 with the completion of a multimillion-dollar capital improvement project that included property, facility, technology and equipment upgrades, energy-efficient lighting and additions to the truck fleet. The steel service center has been committed to the highest levels of service, quality, technology, safety and reliability for 70 years. ●


MISCO Refractometer’s mission is to assist its customers in finding solutions to fluid measurement problems. It is uniquely poised as one of the only companies specializing strictly in refractometers, precision optical instruments used for testing fluid properties.

Michael Rainer

The company sells these devices mainly to the aerospace, transportation, industrial, metalworking, agriculture, medical, veterinary, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industries. After 73 years in business, MISCO’s energy level, atmosphere and culture are more akin to a start-up than a mature organization. What does it take for a company to survive nearly 75 years, to evolve from the Industrial Age to the high-tech world? How can a mature organization stay vibrant and relevant in modern times?

Maturity rewards a company with a sort of institutional wisdom born from surviving the cyclic nature of a dynamic economy, together with constant innovation, risk-taking, occasional luck and mostly learning from mistakes — lots of mistakes. Most would concur that business development is the road to success. But all too often, that development is narrowly focused on new customer acquisition instead of on empowering employees, cultivating its culture, building a mechanism for quality and continuous improvement, and developing the processes that provide resilience, agility and scalability.

As a result, more than 75 percent of MISCO’s business is from its existing customer base. ●


Oatey Co. was founded in 1916 in Cleveland by L.R. Oatey. In 1947, Oatey established its first manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters on Berea Road, and the first product ever made was ​​a roof flashing.

Neal Restivo

From 1958 to 1959, Oatey started its hardware DIY division and opened its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities on West 160th Street in Cleveland. Twenty-five years later, Oatey began manufacturing solvent cements.

In 2017, the company moved its headquarters to a new state-of-the-art customer support center on Emerald Parkway, transforming its former offices into a world-class training facility, Oatey University, and maintaining manufacturing across the street. The facility offers best-in-class education, research and real-life application opportunities, developed by the company’s expert team of plumbing specialists.

Oatey has been privately and family-owned since 1916 and remains committed to ongoing growth and progression under family leadership, while still staying true to its core purpose to deliver quality, build trust and improve lives. Despite operating as a family business for over a century, Oatey stays relevant in the ever-changing world of business by adapting to emerging technologies, industries and trends.

After a century of incredible progress and numerous acquisitions, Oatey is recognized today as a leading manufacturer of high-quality plumbing products. ●


Orlando Baking Co. has been a Northeast Ohio favorite for decades. The bakery is known for balancing its original Old World style with New World innovations that keep it adding new products.

John Anthony Orlando
President & CEO

As Orlando celebrates its 150th anniversary throughout 2022, it also celebrates its tradition of doing things the right way with its slow baking process, smaller batches, traditional European style, state-of-the-art equipment and on-trend flexibility. Orlando’s first-to-market innovations include ciabatta bread in 1987 and probiotic bread in 2011.

Founded in Castel di Sangro, Italy, in 1872, part of the family moved to Cleveland in 1904 and re-established their Old World ways of baking European classics. The company’s signature ciabatta bread is a staple on menus across the United States, along with its variety of specialty breads and rolls. Headquartered in Cleveland, Orlando is a leading bakery, producing more than 250 varieties of fresh and frozen hearth-baked bread, rolls and specialty items.

The fifth-generation family-run business employs over 300 associates in its 200,000-square-foot facility on Cleveland’s east side. In addition, the family has just broken ground on a 156,000-square-foot public cold storage facility called Cleveland Cold Storage. This project is spearheading development on the city’s Opportunity Corridor and is the beginning of Orlando Baking Co.’s next 150 years. ●


The year 2022 marks the 130th year of operation for The Osborn Engineering Co.

Founded by Frank Osborn in 1892 at the height of the Industrial Revolution, Osborn incorporated eight years later as a 100 percent employee-owned engineering design firm.

Gary Hribar

Osborn operates under its original articles of incorporation, surviving for 130 years as generation after generation of professional employees have bought stock in the company, surviving economic depressions, world wars, monumental societal changes and major technological inventions. Osborn strives to imagine possibilities and design solutions for clients to meet their complex and unique business needs.

Woven throughout its design process are the principles of sustainable, responsible engineering. It is driven by an attitude of “Do whatever it takes and do it right.” The Osborn bottom line is integrity. As an employee-owned firm, its collective vision is to maintain its status as a premier engineering company dedicated to innovation, sustainability and client service.

All aspects of the value system introduced by Frank C. Osborn in 1892 are followed today. Professional excellence, 100 percent client satisfaction, creativity and respect are values that make up Osborn now and will continue to do so as it moves forward. By staying true to its values, the company continues to build lasting relationships. ●


Pavement Technology Inc. helped bring America’s first Maltene Replacement Technology to public works professionals. Today, PT continues to leverage the pavement preservation experience and knowledge of sustainable technologies by developing, distributing and applying life-extending, environmentally responsible asphalt and concrete preservation solutions. Products for roadways reduce the harm of pollution caused by vehicle exhaust emissions.

Colin Durante

For nearly 50 years, PTI has partnered with public works agencies, research institutions, environmental planners and community activists to apply maltene-replacement technology and rejuvenate asphalt roadways, runways and bridges across America. As PTI’s products reduce the damaging effects of vehicle emissions, they extend road lifecycles. That lowers the frequency of road replacements, saving financial and environmental resources.

PTI was founded by Colin Durante, who continues to run the operation nearly 50 years later. His daughter, Susan Durante, is the chief of staff, and his son, Michael Durante, is vice president of Finance and Strategic Planning. The synergies among the immediate family members are extended to employees, who cover the eastern half of the United States, with substantial work in Ohio and Florida. Despite the expansive area covered, employees refer to each other as family.

PTI continues to test and advance its products to sustain the environment and create a brighter future for all generations. ●


Peoples Services Inc. was established in 1914 by Joseph Schrader as Peoples Cartage and Storage Co. and was the first commercial trucking business in the Massillon area. Ray Sibila bought the company in 1947 and changed the name to Peoples Cartage in 1950; he was honored as one of Massillon’s most important businesses in the Stark County Story.

Douglas J. Sibila
President & CEO

His sons, Donald Sibila and Ronald R. Sibila, worked with their father and helped the company branch into public warehousing in the 1960s. Ray Sibila retired in 1971, with Donald serving as president until 1986, and Ron Sibila serving as chairman of the board and CEO.

Douglas J. Sibila, Ronald’s son, joined full time in 1990. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, he worked for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) before returning to help manage Peoples. Upon his return to the family business, Douglas ran operations in West Virginia and Atlanta. He was named vice president in 1992, president and COO in 2001 and became CEO in 2004.

The company has achieved 108 years of growth and longevity through its ability to adapt and change. What started as a gravel and coal hauling business has evolved into a true transportation company. ●


In 1951, Maria Carmina and Fred Pollutro started Pollutro Rossley Insurance Agency in Paineville, Ohio, founded on the principles of hard work, the client first and service to all.

Fred Pollutro

In 1976 Fred Pollutro Jr., now principal, joined the firm. The Pollutro and Rossley agencies have operated out of the same office downtown all these years. The agency added commercial accounts, where before it had always been heavy in personal lines. Pollturo Insurance has a history of family members working together — Fred’s wife and two sons have worked alongside Fred Jr. for over two decades. Nick Augustine and Nick Pollutro are both third-generation agents.

In 2018, Fred Jr. acquired Callender Insurance in Geneva to expand the agency’s reach. He has encouraged his team to champion charitable causes through work and get involved in the community in various ways.

The insurance agency is constantly striving to better serve its clients, partnering with insurance groups to offer the best home, auto and life insurance possible. People are the center of influence for the business, which follows basic values of offering great service, honesty and integrity and being there for clients and the community when it is needed, something passed on through three generations. ●


The story of SEMCO Carbon begins in 1971, when Vince Thompson Jr. founded the company to provide raw graphite material to customers who machined graphite. The company also did some simple graphite machining.

Vince Thompson III, President
Matt Thompson, Owner

In 1989, it moved to Lorain and set up a larger and more sophisticated machine shop, and the founder’s sons, Vince Thompson III and Matthew Thompson, joined the company. In its new location, SEMCO machinists developed the expertise to produce graphite components that met very precise specifications, and the new facility provided more space for manufacturing and warehousing raw material the company still sold to clients.

Matt and Vince III led the company in its efforts to incorporate in-house CAD design and machining services to satisfy customer demands for more complex and larger machined components and assemblies. By 1995, SEMCO doubled the size of its machining facilities to meet growing demand for custom graphite components.

In 2010, Vince Thompson Jr. retired and sold his shares to Matt and Vince III, who led the company to its 45,000-square-foot facility in Lorain. The company invested approximately $2 million in new facility upgrades, and today, SEMCO remains an authority on graphite material, helping its customers select the precise grade and block of graphite to suit their purposes. ●


On Nov. 11, 1911, 21-year-old Jay H. Zucker, the second-eldest son of a working-class family, started State Chemical with one product, Green Sweeping Compound. It would give birth not only to one of the best industrial cleaning suppliers in America, but also to one of the nation’s most successful family-owned companies.

Seth Uhrman

Since 1911, State Industrial Products has had just four CEOs and today operates throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. A key factor for its success and growth has been the continuity of family ownership. The Zucker/Uhrman family has owned and led it since its inception. Zucker passed the helm to his son, Mac Zucker, in 1971, while Hal Uhrman, Mac’s son-in-law, became CEO in 1989 and served until Seth Uhrman became CEO in 2013.

Each of State’s CEOs held multiple roles in the organization, gaining valuable experience in all areas of the business. The transfer of knowledge and depth of understanding of the business and industry has been a critical factor in the evolution of the business. Most recently, State has embarked upon a strategy to convert from a transactional sales model to a strategic and service-led model in response to customers asking it to partner with them to improve operations, assist in meeting sustainability goals and deliver economic value. ●


Volpini Realty was born soon after Marisa Volpini immigrated to the U.S. from Italy as a teenager

Laura Volpini, J.D., M.B.A., REALTOR®
Real Estate and Business Attorney & REALTOR

and met her now-husband Richard Volpini. Richard was a builder-developer and came from a long line of builder-developers. Though Marisa spoke little English and had no formal training, she soon entered the world of real estate and began a legacy that continues in their family over 40 years later.

Laura, one of Richard and Marisa’s three children, opened a Cleveland Volpini Realty office after establishing a legal career, primarily practicing in real estate, construction, employment and business law before opening her own firm. By combining her skills as an attorney and licensed Realtor, she has driven the family business forward with strong leadership and top-of-the-line technology to market properties for clients. She leads a team of agents and sees them like family, as they are the lifeblood of the company and culture, passionately representing buyers and sellers in residential and commercial real estate transactions in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Laura’s goals are to positively impact others in her day-to-day interactions and carry on the self-sacrificing spirit and legacy of her mother, who worked tirelessly to build her business and represent her clientele. ●


Owner and founder Gopala Pillai has embraced risk throughout the history of Wild Republic, abandoning a steady career as an electrical engineer to pursue his passion. He identified a gap in the market and made it his mission to meet this need through innovative nature-related products.

Vishnu Chandran

Pillai was excited to find and provide realistic plush that could represent the range of species in a zoo. He went abroad and located makers who could produce the desired products. He then used a low-risk model, taking orders from samples with fulfillment to follow. He recruited his wife to assist with the business and hired two people to package and ship product to customers.

Thirty-five years later, Wild Republic is a leader in zoos and aquariums, with offices in multiple geographies, international distribution, wholly owned factories in India, Retail and Software Solutions divisions and a Representative Sourcing office in China. His grandson, Vishnu Chandran, has elevated to CEO, driving this global mission and pushing the company to new heights.

Forty-three years after Pillai introduced the first plush dolphin to the zoo, museum, and aquarium market, Wild Republic is recognized around the world as a leader in plush. ●