When people ask our latest Daytonian of the Week about his keys to success, he has a two-word answer for them.
“Courage and stupidity,” Doug Sorrell said. “I was always brave enough to undertake things and too dumb to realize it was likely impossible to achieve. I think Dayton and our suburbs need these kinds of dreamers to succeed.”
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Sorrell, a driving force behind the Plaza Theatre in downtown Miamisburg, has conducted hundreds of auctions, raising millions for local charities, including the first auction ever conducted at the Schuster Center’s Wintergarten.
Among other things, he penned the book “Beneath The Gavel: A Charity Auctioneer's Complete Guide To Fundraising.” He also is emeritus treasurer of the Shriners Cincinnati Burns Hospital Board of Governors and a former potentate of Antioch Shrine, an organization that has existed in downtown Dayton since 1898.
He was on the committee that created the children’s downtown Dayton Christmas festival.
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Q: What do you do?
I’m a charity auctioneer. In my early working career, I worked in the radio & TV industry in Dayton & Denver. With Sam Yacovazzi and Don Kidwell, I helped create WTUE and later was employed at TV 2 during Phil Donahue’s run in Dayton. In Miamisburg, I spent 20+ years working with my parents and brothers in Sor-Rell’s, our family retail business. For 15 years, I operated a Boarding/Training Stable west of Miamisburg with my wife Diana and our son JD. I became a licensed auctioneer 40 years ago. I’ve worked equine auctions across America for over 45 years in every conceivable capacity. The Pony of America’s organization inducted me into their National Hall of Fame for my 25 years as their auctioneer in 2005. I’ve always had “lots of irons in the fire” when it came to working.
Credit: Jim Witmer
Credit: Jim Witmer
Q: What superpower would you love to have?
The ability to cure cancer. I’ve survived two very serious kinds of cancer, surgeries and radiation over the last 26+ years. I’ve been blessed. I’ve lost grandparents, my father and brother (at age 36) to cancer. I’ve watched as far too many friends have lost their ‘battles with this beast.’ I have friends currently battling cancer. Over the decades, I’ve helped raise well over $10 million to fight cancer. Terrible disease that doesn't care if you are young or old, rich or poor, educated or not.
Q: Why did you decide to settle in the Dayton area?
I was born in Dayton and raised in Miamisburg.
Q: What do you love about life in Dayton?
Cost of living and how we are about two hours to multiple big cities. I live in Miamisburg. People are friendly, we greet each other, we seem to know everyone. Sometimes that’s NOT so good!
Q: What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
Pick a film, show or concert preceded by a dinner. The Dayton area has lots of great options here. Of course I have to plug our Historic Plaza Theatre here... but there are also fabulous options at the Schuster, Rose Music Center, the Fraze.
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Q: Where do you go for a great time?
To work. I work in a tuxedo. I mix with people gathered for a wonderful cause. They are happy, enjoying themselves. That’s a real adrenaline rush for me. In 2015, I conducted 43 charity galas. I’ve backed off to about 22/23 per year now, but the thrill has never diminished.
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Q: How did you ring in the New Year?
Quietly for the most part. I walked in two audiences at the Plaza then Diana and I ate at home. We did stay awake for the Times Square Ball Drop...but barely.
Q: What should people know about Daytonians?
In contrast to the situation in DC, I feel like our regional elected officials work together trying to find the best solutions to our challenges. That’s certainly the case south of Dayton.
Credit: Chris Stewart
Credit: Chris Stewart
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?
I spend a lot of time in the public eye. Sitting at home in my jammies, listening to music and napping in my 'coma chair' is really enjoyable.
Q: What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
It’s hard to say. Dayton and every suburb needs to decide what defines them. I’ll use my hometown of Miamisburg as an example. Decades ago Miamisburg was a retail destination, with a couple of dining options. Even after the onset of malls. The Burg had Suttman’s, Philhower’s Drug Store, Jack Summers Tire Center, Star City Hardware, our family business Sor-Rell’s. Everyone of those locally owned businesses reached a regional customer base that attracted customers into the Burg. All were very successful. None exist today.
>> Miamisburg’s historic Plaza Theatre is chock-full of history
Miamisburg needed to re-invent itself. Restaurant Entrepreneurs re-created the Burg as a dining destination. We are beginning to see small, local retail businesses open in the empty spaces, able to succeed on the foot traffic now being generated by our multiple fabulous dining options.
Key in this evolution was a city staff, mayor and council who were supportive, but pretty much hands off. Everyone has a skill set. If everyone listens to each other and brings their skills to the table you can accomplish a lot. In 2018 the volunteer run Plaza Theatre, under the direction of our paid Executive Director Emily Smolinski attracted 22,016 people in downtown Miamisburg. Three years ago the Plaza had just opened the doors. A local university shared their opinion before we opened that the Plaza was a flawed business model.
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