TRANSFER — All along, the effort to re-open Reynolds Drive-In has faced challenges.
Fixing the effects of decay that accumulated during the six years it was closed. COVID-19. Technological changes to the movie business that demanded expensive equipment upgrades.
But the family — Stephanie Davis and her parents, Jeff and Peggy Fiedler — that took over the drive-in this year had put in the effort and was ready to once again start screening movies in the spring.
But fate intervened yet again Sunday, in the form of near-hurricane-force winds that toppled the drive-in’s screen.
Davis said she couldn’t believe it.
“I just stared at it,” she said.
They blocked off the drive-in’s entrance and exit with caution tape, to prevent passersby from getting too close to the damaged components scattered around.
No one was hurt, and the drive-in was already closed for the season. A drywall installer had been at the concession earlier Sunday, but he left before the wind storm hit, Davis said.
The storm — packing wind gusts of up to 55-60 mph, according to the National Weather Service Cleveland office — roared into Mercer County Sunday afternoon, leaving behind fallen trees and power lines.
In Brookfield, police blocked off a section of Brookfield Avenue to protect motorists from a precariously tilting utility pole that threatened to fall on the road.
Farrell firefighters performed traffic control duties for a traffic signal outage at Martin Luther King and Roemer boulevards.
A Mercer County 911 supervisor said the department had received calls about downed wires and trees from throughout the county.
Penn Power’s website indicated nearly 2,500 customers in Mercer County had no power as of 5:45 p.m. Sunday, with about 900 customers impacted in Pymatuning Township.
Traffic lights at the intersection of Route 18 and Edgewood Drive near the Reynolds Plaza were out Sunday afternoon. Emergency crews directed traffic in the area. Electricity service was out at surrounding businesses, including Sheetz.
In spite of the damage at Reynolds Drive-in, Davis said the family will repair the damage. The drive-in, closed since 2014, reopened in June with concerts by local bands, whose performances were projected onto the now-toppled movie screen.
Davis said the initial ventures — including the year’s final event, a concert on Oct. 10 — were successful and the theater was preparing to show movies again in the spring.
The family purchased a new projector a month ago and was in the process of securing new equipment.
“That was our next venture. We just redid it,” Davis said of the screen.
Her father got a call early Sunday afternoon from someone who drove past the drive-in on state Route 18.
They reported that part of the screen had fallen over. Davis said she thinks the damage occurred happened about 2 p.m.
Davis and her husband, who live in Mercer, immediately went to see for themselves.
They don’t think anything is salvageable. That structure also houses some storage areas and the property’s main electrical components.
“Now we’re at square one again,” she said early Sunday evening.
Davis said she still needs to contact their insurance company. The owners can’t even check the extent of the damage until Penn Power shuts off the drive-in’s main electrical supply.
Word spread quickly about the disaster, and support is already pouring in, she said. Residents and patrons offered well-wishes on the drive-in’s Facebook page, where commenters lamented the setback, particularly after Davis and her family had put so much work into the business.
She said the owners appreciate anyone who wants to help, even if it’s just through a few kind words.
Davis said they met a lot of great people during their first year in business.
“They’ve stood behind us through all of this,” Mrs. Davis said.