Mid­dle­town gains high­lighted in show

Film fo­cuses on im­pact of Torch­light Pass founder.

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Ed Richter Staff Writer

Nearly a MID­DLE­TOWN — decade ago, Forbes Magazine iden­ti­fied Mid­dle­town among Amer­ica’s 10 fastest-dy­ing cities.

This week, Mid­dle­town is back in the na­tional spot­light as its re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts will be among 11 com­mu­ni­ties fea­tured in sea­son two of “Up­standers,” an orig­i­nal Star­bucks se­ries. The episode is ti­tled “Sav­ing Mid­dle­town.”

The five-minute film fea­tures the story of Ami Vi­tori, founder of Torch­light Pass, a din­ing and re­tail des­ti­na­tion, and how she gave up a suc­cess­ful ca­reer and tapped her re­tire­ment fund to rebuild her strug­gling Rust Belt home­town, ac­cord­ing to Star­bucks. The film also in­cludes a num­ber of Mid­dle­to­ni­ans such as J.D. Vance, Ken Co­hen, Wil­bur Co­hen, Heather Gib­son and Richard Is­roff.

Star­bucks is pro­duc­ing 11 sto­ries from across the na­tion to prove change can oc­cur when peo­ple have the courage to stand up, in­stead of stand­ing by, and the com­pany said it be­lieves these are the kinds of sto­ries that need to be told.

Through short films and au­dio books, the sto­ries can be ac­cessed through star­bucks.com/up­standers and also are be­ing streamed through part­ners Ama­zon Video and Audi­ble. Other “Up­standers” sto­ries fo­cus on sup­port for veterans, the opi­oid epi­demic, ju­ve­nile in­car­cer­a­tion, refugee re­set­tle­ment, cli­mate change, and cre­at­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity and eq­uity.

“Ami’s story, and others like it in ‘Up­standers,’ re­veals a dif­fer­ent side of Amer­ica than we of­ten see on tele­vi­sion or in our so­cial-me­dia feeds,” said Ra­jiv Chan­drasekaran, “Up­standers” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, au­thor and for­mer Wash­ing­ton Post editor. “These sto­ries are set in small towns and big cities, from coast to coast, and they in­tro­duce us to peo­ple just like Ami who are fear­lessly chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo and mak­ing our com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter. We are proud to work with Ami and thank the city for the warm wel­come we re­ceived when film­ing this episode in Mid­dle­town.”

On Wed­nes­day, city of­fi­cials hosted an in­vi­ta­tion-only screen­ing to cel­e­brate Mid­dle­town be­ing por­trayed in a pos­i­tive light and high­light­ing the work done by many over the years to re­vi­tal­ize the city and the down­town dis­trict. More than 40 peo­ple at­tended.

Mayor Larry Mul­li­gan noted the changes in the down­town area as he looked back to when Mid­dle­town was an All-Amer­i­can city in the 1950s and the var­i­ous chal­lenges it faced over the years since. “There was a time it looked like a Hol­ly­wood movie lot,” he said.

Mul­li­gan praised past lead­ers such as for­mer city man­ager Judy Gil­le­land, who en­vi­sioned us­ing the arts and en­ter­tain­ment to be­gin the re­vi­tal­iza­tion, as well as Jay and Linda Moor­man of BeauVer­rre Rior­dan Stained Glass Stu­dios, the Pendle­ton Arts Cen­ter, the late Perry Thatcher whose prop­er­ties helped to bring Cincin­nati State’s branch cam­pus as well as the found­ing the Broad Street Bash, the Win­damere Event Venue, the form­ing of the Com­mu­nity Build­ing Ini­tia­tive, and trips to Pa­d­u­cah, Ky., and Greenville, S.C., to see how other cities trans­formed their down­towns. He also noted the city saw 24 busi­nesses open last year.

Mul­li­gan said Vi­tori, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion Mid­dle­to­nian, re­turned to her home­town and “jumped in with both feet” as she and her fam­ily worked to pre­vent the for­mer TV Mid­dle­town build­ing from be­com­ing an eye­sore as they cre­ated Torch­light Pass. “It’s a good pos­i­tive mes­sage that high­lights the good things about Mid­dle­town. We’re not with­out our warts and faults. We still have things to work on.”

Vi­tori, who is one of five peo­ple seek­ing two open seats this Novem­ber on Mid­dle­town City Coun­cil, also cred­ited the peo­ple be­fore her who have been work­ing to re­vi­tal­ize the city and hopes this na­tional pub­lic­ity con­tin­ues to help Mid­dle­town move forward. She said her fel­low down­town busi­ness own­ers con­tinue to work to­gether and help each other. “Lots of peo­ple came in the past few years to make things hap­pen,” she said. “I hope this story can con­tinue to grow. It speaks to what other small towns can do.”

NICK GRA­HAM / STAFF

Ami Vi­tori and her fa­ther, Den­nis Vi­tori, in the of­fice of the Torch­light Pass build­ing Wed­nes­day in front of an im­age of Den­nis’ par­ents, Nick and Grace Vi­tori, in Mid­dle­town. “Sav­ing Mid­dle­town,” a five-minute film in the Star­bucks se­ries “Up­standers,” fea­tures the story of Ami Vi­tori.

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