Collins never forgot rootsWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Area business owners remember Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins as generous and personable, someone always ready with a smile or hug, who was still actively involved in not only visiting the businesses he once represented on Toledo City Council, but in helping them grow.
Collins never forgot his South Toledo roots. Like his Irish heritage, he held strongly to that connection. Even when he became mayor, he still helped neighborhood businesses, owners said.
Sue Meadows of Caper’s Pizza on Byrne Road has known Collins since he was a Toledo Police officer.
When he was a councilman, Collins attended all the Byrne Heatherdowns Business Association meetings. As mayor, he continued to attend.
“He was big on neighborhoods,” Meadows said. “He was very personable and he cared deeply about what he believed in and he sure believed in the City of Toledo and that the neighborhood had to be strong.”
Collins was a busy guy, Meadows said, but always took time to help with the business association, offering guidance and contacts.
“When you’re working and got a group of 20 businesses and trying to bring back the neighborhood and having him so supportive, it was impressive that he would take the time with everything he had to do,” Meadows said.
Meadows will remember most the support and direction Collins gave to the South Toledo businesses, and his hopes for the former Southwyck Mall site.
“His heart was for Southwyck,” she said. “He wanted something to go in there.”
Dina Villa, the owner of El Tipico on South Avenue, said she considered Collins a personal friend and a friend to her business. She said she could always count on Collins visiting in one of his Irish sweaters, one of which had come directly from Ireland.
“He was just always so kind and supportive of our business as a friend,” Villa said. “I’ve never met another man who has that twinkling in his eye. I would never want to cross him, either.”
Villa said she was “completely heartbroken” over Collins’ death.
“It’s shocking, to only have been in office a little over a year,” she said. “He supported us and he supports all small business.”
Villa recalled Collins taking the time to attend El Tipico’s taco-eating contest. She said he had a good time as a judge and was personable with everyone. He had had a funeral and a wedding to go to that day but still made the time to come, she said.
“He always had a hug and a smile for me,” she said. “I’m grateful he died doing what he loved the most, caring about his city. He was doing his mayoral responsibilities. God bless him.”
Michael’s Café & Bakery
Michael Armstrong, owner of Michael’s Café & Bakery on Main Street said Collins would visit his business once or twice a week.
“He went through here several times without saying a peep, and stood in line and waited like anyone else. He was a humble, hardworking, nice man.”
Armstrong called Collins’ death a “tremendous loss for the city.”
“He never came in like royalty or like he expected anything,” Armstrong said. “If he could come through incognito and never be recognized, he would be happier. He always went around supporting Toledo businesses the best he could. One time I told him, ‘If there’s anything we can do for you, let me know.’ And then the mayor responded very humbly, ‘If there’s anything else we can do for you as a business owner, let me know, too.’”
Jeff VanPelt, manager of The Fresh Market on West Central Avenue, said Collins would often interact with people when he visited once or twice a week.
“People always said hello to him, and he was always very friendly,” VanPelt said. “When he was first elected, I told him I didn’t vote for him and he said, ‘Why’s that?’ And I said, ‘Because I live in Michigan,’ and he got a big chuckle out of that.
“He’s a good guy and I’m going to miss him a lot,” VanPelt said. “He had a good relationship with a few guys in the meat market, and he just walked around and shopped like everyone else, always with a smile on his face. Those weeks with the water crisis were tough, but he always had a smile on his face. We’re going to miss him.”
Brian Wixey of Wixey Bakery on Glendale Avenue called Collins “phenomenal” and said he was a frequent customer. He looked after his community, Wixey said, and his visits there were very personable.
“It was very off-the-cuff and very communal,” Wixey said. “We are glad to have shared time together.”
Toledo Free Press Associate Editor Tom Konecny contributed to this report.
Tags: Brian Wixey, Byrne Heatherdowns Business Association, Caper's Pizza, D. Michael Collins, El TIpico, Fresh Market, Jeff VanPelt, Michael Armstrong, Michael’s Café & Bakery, South Toledo, Sue Meadows, Wixey Bakery