MANSFIELD -- White chalk on a wall outside Charles (Chuck) Hahn’s downtown Mansfield office reads “Senior 2019” and a few flakes of shiny silver confetti from a recent photo shoot are stuck in the mortar of the alleyway’s brick surface.
When Hahn, owner of the Cleveland Financial Group, landscaped the area outside his business, he didn’t intend to create a photographic destination for seniors, newlyweds and families. But he’s pleased to see people visiting the brick alley regularly, using it as a backdrop for their special occasions.
“I’d be surprised if as we’re sitting here someone doesn’t show up and start taking pictures in the alley. It’s become a daily occurrence,” he said of the hidden space, which can be found tucked between Fourth Street and Temple Court’s Brickyard.
On Mansfield Senior High School’s homecoming and prom nights, lines might form along one of the two connecting brick alleys directly off Fourth Street, as students wait to take a photo in the picturesque space.
Even mayoral candidates have used the space. According to Hahn’s planning assistant, Suzy Beeson, both Democratic mayoral candidates, Don Bryant and Victoria Diez-Norris appeared to have campaign shots taken in Hahn’s alleyway before the primary. She recognized her employer’s flag in the background.
“They were different, but you could see Chuck’s flag flying behind both of them,” she said.
Hahn purchased the building that houses Cleveland Financial Group in 2003 and immediately began a few inexpensive beautification projects. His staff would plant flowers in the window boxes and flower beds that he had constructed out of the old concrete steps from St. Peter’s Church.
Several years later, he renovated the second floor of his building into a modern, two-bedroom loft that overlooks what is now the Brickyard stage.
Then, two years ago, Hahn decided to step it up. He hired a professional landscaping firm, Pacific Impressions, to create maximum visual impact in the alley. What had once been an abandoned alleyway off Fourth Street was dramatically transformed into a cozy space with what many passersby have called an “old-world, European feel.”
Hahn has also heard clients compare the space to the German Village neighborhood in Columbus.
“I think it’s a stretch, but … without soliciting comments from them, that’s their reaction when they come,” he said.
Hahn grew up on South Main Street and spent much of his childhood in downtown Mansfield. As a result, he’s passionate about downtown progress and hopes his efforts encourage others to enhance their Mansfield properties, too.
“Imagine what Mansfield would look like if everyone did what they could to make their own little area of town look its best?” he asked. “It’s not hard at all, and I think I’ve been able to show that.”