Wonder Woman Wilkof

Her strong work ethic, spirituality and stylish eye keeps Ruthanne Wilkof active professionally and philanthropically

Article by Jennifer Draher

Photography by Terry Fravel

Originally published in Canton Lifestyle

SERVICE-ORIENTED SALES LEADER. Real estate and lifestyle entrepreneur. Proud philanthropist. Dog lover.

There are many ways to describe Ruthanne Wilkof, and she would say there are many people in her life who have helped her achieve success and happiness.

“I love what I do because I love working with and helping people,” says Ruthanne.

After 29 years in banking, ten at the helm of the Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce and 7 in real estate, there aren’t many folks in Stark county Ruthanne hasn’t met. In fact, before the blind date where she met her husband, Ron, she expected to have already met him somewhere. She was wrong, but Ron was “Mr Right,” and the pair married six months later.

After 21 years of marriage, Ruthanne describes her husband as a “precious and caring” man and a “true blessing” in her life. “Not a day goes by without Ron telling me how lucky he is to be married to me,” says Ruthanne. “In fact, I’m the fortunate one!”

She is quick to crack a joke, but even quicker to credit Ron with the enduring support that has contributed to her happiness and success.

Ruthanne also credits her hardworking parents for the strong work ethic that has contributed to her successful career and good life. As the youngest of four in a middle-class Italian family in Plain Township,

Ruthanne learned how to work from her mother and father, who were loyal and hardworking employees at the local credit bureau and Stark Ceramics, respectively.

“Our dad strongly encouraged my brothers to have a paper route when they were young, and later to work their way through college,” recalls Ruthanne. “My parents couldn’t afford to pay for college, even though my dad was very frugal.” Like their brothers, Ruthanne and her sister learned the value of hard work, saving their money and stability at a young age.

During her senior year of high school, Ruthanne worked three different jobs while studying stenography. She went to class from 8 a.m. to noon, then work 1 to 5 p.m. at Citizens Savings Bank. After graduation, while employed full-time at Citizens Savings Bank, Ruthanne worked nights at the Caren Charles store at Belden Village Mall and hosted Home Interior & Gifts parties in private homes..

“I always loved interior design but never went to school for it, so I sold ‘decor on wheels,’” explains Ruthanne. “Women would host in-home parties, and I would pack my car full, then unpack and creatively display home decorating items in their homes. I did this parttime for eleven years and had great success.”

After 29 years in banking, Ruthanne was appointed President & CEO of the Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce. Her first new member was her husband Ron, owner of Wilkof Supply Co. It was the first of many as she grew the Chamber from 211 to 800 members during her leadership.

After sales and networking success at the Chamber, Ruthanne made the move to real estate. While studying for her real estate license, she also pursued her love of interior design by opening Anew Room, a high-end furniture and home decor consignment shop on Whipple Ave., near Belden Village.

“Being a realtor at Dehoff Realtors is my full-time job, so it’s a blessing that Sam, my long-time friend, who is also a fabulous salesman and designer, manages Anew Room,” says Ruthanne. “Sam has an eye for design, staging and merchandising, as well as the brains for business. He sets goals for himself and the store. Sam loves his job, and it shows!”

“You have to be willing to take the leap of faith,” advises Ruthanne. “Follow your dreams, pray every single day and don’t give up.”

Ruthanne recommends aspiring entrepreneurs have a solid business plan and take advantage of resources available at local colleges. On the networking side, she encourages involvement in community organizations, volunteerism and service on nonprofit boards.

In her “spare” time, Ruthanne is an active community volunteer, serving on the JRC Women in History luncheon committee, Pregnancy Choices and the Glenmoor Homeowners’ Association. Next year she hopes to revive “Holiday House,” the non-profit fundraising event she created years ago before opening the store. Along with some friends, Ruthanne decorated 75 themed Christmas trees and 100 wreaths for corporate sponsorship and individual auction, then donated the proceeds of around $30,000 to area organizations.

While Ron and their prized Shih Tzus, Mia (12) and Zoey (1) would love to see Ruthanne spend more time at home, she has no plans of slowing down any time soon. One day, she might even run for township trustee.

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