By Kevin Kelley
When Murton’s Child Development Center – a day care center, preschool and kindergarten attended by more than 80 children – closes its doors at the end of the day Friday, it may not be for the last time.
Murton’s owner, Louis Radice, passed away in March 2009, and his family has sold the building that houses the preschool at 21500 Lorain Road, forcing its closure. Parents received only three weeks’ notice of the closing, leaving many scrambling to find child care services.
But Richard Read, the father of two boys who attend Murton’s, has launched an effort to reopen the center at another location within months.
“I really want Murton’s to come back,” Read told West Life last week.
A native of England who works as a medical lab assistant at Fairview Hospital, Read believes early education is the foundation for success later in life.
Murton’s gave his sons the freedom to express themselves, Read said.
“They don’t expect the children to be little adults,” he explained.
Started in 1956, Murton’s was very affordable, Read said, a factor that was especially beneficial for single mothers.
The staff of 18, who face unemployment if Murton’s is not relaunched, have displayed great professionalism and dedication in caring for the children,” Read said. Once when the Westlake resident was delayed in traffic coming from the Cleveland Clinic due to a snowstorm, staff stayed two hours beyond closing time with his children, Read recalled.
“We want to get them all back,” Read said, referring not only to current staff members but also to parents and their children now at Murton’s.
Even more importantly, Read wants Hajni Fekete, Murton’s executive director who has been with the preschool for 27 years, to run the new center.
“The only reason it’s any good is because of her, and her force (staff), of course,” Read told West Life.
Fekete has been reluctant to discuss details of the closing while still in the employment of Murton’s current owner. But she told West Life she is supportive of Read’s efforts to relaunch Murton’s.
“Everybody is really supportive,” she said, referring not only to Read’s vision but comments of other parents and community members who want to see Murton’s relaunch. “They really want me to open another one.”
Read, who also operates his own hard cider distribution business, said he hopes to obtain the rights to use the Murton’s name in a relaunched preschool.
“People know that name,” he said.
But even if use of the Murton’s name cannot be licensed or purchased, Read is dedicated to resurrecting the preschool.
Read, who said he’s willing to use some of his own money in the effort, is seeking additional investors.
“We need to get a coalition,” said Read, who estimates at least $50,000 in seed money is needed. Read already has a property in mind, but it would need enhancements, such as special doors, restrooms and a kitchen, to house a preschool. Fundraisers will likely be held and grant applications made, he said.
Read, who has been working on the relaunch for less than two weeks, is compiling an e-mail list of parents and other interested parties to keep them informed of his efforts. He plans to hold a public meeting in the next couple of weeks.
Mayor Eileen Patton told West Life that she called Murton’s to offer her assistance once she learned of the closing.
“We encouraged them to keep the city part of the process so they could stay in Fairview Park,” the mayor said.
Individuals interested in learning more about the effort to relaunch Murton’s may contact Read by phone at 440-785-7418, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.