Aut-O-Rama drive-in tabbed for 2013 Chamber Biz of Year

Tim and Del Sherman of the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In Theatre pose with the plaque that named the business the North Ridgeville Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. NRP photo - Michael Fitzpatrick

By Michael Fitzpatrick

A longtime North Ridgeville business that makes its living under the stars by showing the stars of the big screen was selected as the North Ridgeville Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Business of the Year.

The Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In Theatre, 33395 Lorain Road, which opened for business in 1964, beat out Climate-Tech Inc. as well as First Place Bank for the award, which is given annually and is in its 35th year of existence.

“It’s wonderful,” Tim Sherman, treasurer for Aut-O-Rama Theater Enterprises Inc., said after accepting the award with his brother Del during the June 20 chamber luncheon in a party room at the Del Webb Pioneer Ridge complex.

Aut-O-Rama epitomizes the notion of a family-run business. Tim’s mother, Deborah, is the president. His older brother, Del, is vice president. Del’s wife can be found nightly at the drive-in working the concession stand.

“We’ve been around for a long time, and it’s because of our community we stick around,” Del said.

The Shermans invested $140,000 in the business this past winter when they went out and bought two digital film projectors, which provide drive-in goers with a far superior picture and sound experience when viewing a movie, according to Del.

“The new units are unbelievable,” said Del, whose father and grandfather first opened the business. “We are carrying the brightest projector in the world right now according to the Guiness Book of World Records. The picture is beautiful. The sound is beautiful. You couldn’t have asked for anything more. The investment was definitely worth it.”

The drive-in, which features two movie screens, draws between 25,000 and 30,000 cars a year. It attracts patrons from not only Lorain County, but also Cuyahoga, Medina, Lake and Huron counties. It is just one of around 370 drive-ins still in business in the country.

Aut-O-Rama’s involvement in the community as well as its ability to provide positive buzz for North Ridgeville in its advertising was a key factor in it winning the award, said Dayle Noll, the chamber’s chief executive officer.

“Certainly with Aut-O-Rama being the only drive-in on the whole West Side of Cleveland and being located in North Ridgeville, they do a great job of bringing people to the city,” Noll said.

Noll also noted how Aut-O-Rama backs local youth baseball teams and is also involved in local fundraisers.

“We feel it’s important to give back to the community, give back to local businesses, try and help out whichever way we can to make North Ridgeville a better place for everybody,” Del said of Aut-O-Rama’s community involvement.

Two other awards were given out as well.

Senor Coyotes, a Mexican restaurant, located at the corner of Lear Nagle and Center Ridge roads, won the 2013 Pride Award. The award was founded in the early 1980s and is given to the local business that makes investments in its outward appearance “that enhance not only their businesses but their neighborhood and the city in general. The improvements can be to their structures, signage and/or landscaping,” according to criteria for the award provided by the Chamber of Commerce. Senor Coyotes, which opened this winter, “added an outdoor patio with brick columns and fencing and added a new sign and maintained neglected landscaping,” the chamber said.

Also considered for the award was Aaron’s, a national retailer that specializes in rent-to-own furniture  and electronics. The business is located on Center Ridge Road in what had been an abandoned Rite Aid drugstore.

The Lorain County Community College North Ridge Campus building, which was built on Lorain Road near the Interstate 480 on-ramp, won the award for best new building in 2013. The state-of-the art building uses green technology and used recycled materials in its construction.

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