STORY AND PHOTOS By ROBERT K. YOSAY
Driving on Market Street, just south of North Lima, watch out for 7-foot cats, alligators, a few moose and bears — and horses, of course.
All, fortunately, are concrete statues and yard ornaments.
The quaint Farmer Dave’s Gift and Garden Shoppe is loaded with concrete and sandstone statues and lawn ornaments of every size and shape imaginable.
Owner Arleen Fitzer almost considers the items extended family of sorts. Arleen, the mother of four boys, sold designer clothing before pursuing a psychology degree and graduating in 2004 from Youngstown State University.
She opened the original Farmer Dave’s in 2002 in Berlin Center, operating the store part time. She moved the store to 11529 Market St. just over three years ago.
Faced with the death of her husband, Chris, Arleen still had responsibilities with her youngest son in South Range Elementary School, her other sons in college, and still paying on college loans.
Arleen knew she had to do something to keep everyone going. With her artistic eye and business sense, she expanded her North Lima shop, and she hasn’t looked back.
Arlene always is looking to improve the shop and soon will have a small pond added to the hand-laid brick parking lot built by her son, Richard.
In the pond will be concrete alligators and ducks and such that amuse and are all lawn-friendly.
She recently picked up a line of sandstone markers that are hand-created in southern Ohio and can be personalized with your favorite school or theme.
As the store’s sole operator, Arleen takes solace in hand-painting the concrete statues to customers’ specifications.
It’s her “quiet time,” she says.