Saving Downtown: Whattaya Got?

Way back in the day, Lorain’s downtown was one heckuva shopping mecca. Shoes, suits, pharmacy, Penney’s, the list goes on, you needed it, downtown had it. Now? Well, not so much. If you really look at our downtown, the list of retailers that you might window-shop, or stroll in and maybe make an impulse buy are few and far between.

Seriously, by my count, there are three retailers there that you might wander into, stroll around and peruse the merchandise, and if you see something you liked, actually have the money in your purse or wallet, and say, ‘I’d like to buy this.’

Those three stores? The 530 Shop, Time and Again Renovations, and Rags 2 Riches Women’s and Children’s Resale Shop.

Going through the pictures that I’ve taken, I counted two banks, two jewelry stores, an insurance agency, a printer, a BMX bike and skate shop, an rec vehicle store, a music store, 3 bars or restaurants, an appliance store and more. 

You know what downtown has the most of, besides empty or under-utilized buildings? Attorneys. Go figure. Four different law practices, thriving I’m sure, on Broadway.

I’m not into spur of the moment diamond buys, the budget doesn’t allow it. No room for impulse buys on appliances. Not in the market for a bike (just bought some) or an ATV (no time or a place to ride), and I have all the insurance I need and my banks are close to home.

Now there are quite a few empty buildings. QUITE a few. I know someone that’s VERY interested in locating an office downtown, due to the work that he’s been doing recently (big smile).

But, what would the citizens of the city of Lorain like to see downtown? What would draw them to good ol’ Broadway, in addition to what’s there, that could make them bust open their wallets and purses and spend some cash?

A book store? How about a bulk foods store, like Mr. Bulky (anyone remember those)? A candle and incense shop? Or a bathroom scents and candles-type store? Would a bakery be able to make it? A bakery and donut shop, since we don’t have Bob’s Donuts anymore? With pies, and breads and maybe cakes made to order? Could a Kiedrowski’s branch get enough business?

What about technology? Like a small version of Best Buy or Circuit City? PC’s, CD’s, video games and movies? A camera shop? No more Ritz Camera in the mall, only Loomis in downtown Elyria.

How about an outlet store that made wines from local wineries available? A store that carried wines from Single Tree, John Christ, Matus or Klingshirn wines?

Specialty coffees and cookies? What about an Indians, Cavs and Browns Team Shop? Sporting goods? Is there a professional photographer downtown anymore? Is there a need?

Throw some ideas out there folks, or tell me about one that I’ve already mentioned. Let’s see if we can get some ideas about what might make it downtown, and maybe some budding entrepreneur may take a shot at it.

How’d that line in ‘Field of Dreams’ go? If you build it, they will come.

Whattaya say we try it?

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23 thoughts on “Saving Downtown: Whattaya Got?

  1. I like the wine shop idea maybe with the candle shop. A consignment business with businesses like those above plus the book shop. The ice cream/ dessert/tea & coffee shop might be a good idea for a place to go after a movie at the Palace.Kiendrowski’s had a branch in the old Hart’s Jewelry store at one time. I see that Linda’s Lighthouse Flowers is coming in to the old Micheal’s Photography. Is the Boat Pad moving into Casey’s? What is going to happen to the Hotel, any renovations? What happened to Flashbacks? Starbuach study stated that we have an original “Crocker Park” on Broadway, but I didn’t hear any suggestions on how we could entice building owners or potential buyers to bring in businesses. There are so many people who want Lorain to succeed but don’t know how to go about it. Hopefully there is someone who can get these folks together and make something happen.

  2. Thanks for the input, Carolyn! As you know, there are quite a few buildings that have been vacant for some time now. I don’t know if the owners bought the property because it was cheap, or with the intent to do something, or what. Some are sitting there being used as storage space, which is a horrible waste of the building. It would be great if someone could find out from these folks if they have some intention of doing something with these properties, if they need money and resources, or if they’re just holding it, waiting for everyone around them to do something, so that they can resell the property at a premium price.

  3. Henery, Kiedrowski’s did try it downtown at one point if I am not mistaken in or near the old Eagles building. I think we have to not look at individual buildings but by the block . I was at Crocker Park Saturday , hadn’t been before …. and the first thing I thought was this is any up market “high street” in Europe especially England that I grew up with…. even to the roundabout 🙂
    To me Com Dev or whomever needs to take a block and put all the efforts into that one block rehab, put the candle shop next to guy that sells the matches ( if you get my drift) they have to link and once one block is up and running move on down or up the street…….focus….. Loraine

  4. Definitely a good idea, Loraine. Which gives me another project to work on: What buildings are empty in each ‘block’, what’s there, and maybe I can find something out by contacting the owners.

  5. Oh, if I had only the time and money! I know that the sandwich shop under Arkinetics is open. It was SO my wish at one time to have a coffee shop with Equal Exchange coffees, and to see if Kiedrowskis would supply the pastries. Maybe some soups at lunch…I also thought it would be a great place to have open mics for poetry and music, local artwork and photography on the walls, and a “mom’s area” for when they have to get out of the house and just need some time to chill away from home with adults. Maybe host some book groups there and have checkers/chess at some tables. The BIGGEST thing we need in a coffee shop is someone who could work closely with the Palace so that they knew their schedule and would be open before and after events. It seems like the places that are currently open/were open had such wierd hours that if you wanted to stop in, it wasn’t open. I would love to see a coffee shop as a collaboration of the downtown churches which sold the Equal Exchange stuff (including chocolate!) and maybe sold the 10,000 Villages merchandise from other countries. (www.equalexchange.com and http://www.tenthousandvillages.com) The closest 10,000 Villages store is in Rocky River, I believe. Everything would be ecologically and socially conscious, and the prices are very reasonable. Like I said, woud love to embark on this, but kiddos are small, and time isn’t there. Anybody who reads this can run with the idea, though – it isn’t copyrighted!!!!!!!!

  6. In addition, I think it would be GREAT to have a store that focused on local wines, or just what the heck to serve with what!!!! Maybe someplace in conjunction with what I mentioned earlier; only serving between such and such times, but also selling local wines. There could be a huge cultural site here if we just had the wherewithal to do it. How about a ballet studio/place where you could take lessons in music, gymnastics, etc. I have to drive my daughter to Avon at the closest for gymnastics, and I think True North is actually offering the others, but that’s either at French Creek or Avon Lake. My son does drama classes in Avon Lake. I KNOW we have people who could teach these things – why should we have to drive our kids so far away?? Could people collaborate with a space for an “Arts Center” of some kind? Even Club West could get involved with some fitness classes. If I’m thinking about this, there have to be others who live close to downtown who wish they didn’t have to go all over for these services….. Plus, with the decline in the arts programs in LCS, it would be so great to get some cultural center going (even if small at first) plus there is a HIGH potential for grants in the arts in Lorain County. All the foundations are extremely supportive of the arts. OK, I just got all fired up about other stuff. Sorry. No guarantees this will be my last post on the subject!!

  7. Hi Kerri that was part of the Eagles annexation plan , the building has a sprung stage for dance ( whole other subject as to flooring and dancers) everything you mentioned could be located on the floors of that one bulding along with the coffee shop/ wine bar/ bistro .. ballroom it is all there….and the view from the roof top magnificent looking our to the river and harbor… a roof top garden .again it is those with the money and the people who can run it at a loss for a length of time until word of mouth 🙂 can help build up a clientele.. maybe that is where they should start I know that Com Dev had asked the state and representatives etc. toured the sight….
    Whe I produced King and I and Brigadoon we did a deal with the then Broadway Cafe at Spitzers for a before theatre dinner and and apres theatre coffee , wine desert which was part of the “package” went well….

  8. I remember a coffee house back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. It may have been in the Eagle’s building – not sure, but it was on Broadway. Went to hear Paula Scrofano there. She was wonderful, of course, plus they had the best sandwiches! Would love to see something like that there again, but maybe only old fogies like me would go. The idea of selling fair trade coffee & chocolate along with 10,000 Vilages items I think would work well.

  9. Kaye,

    If you enjoyed it that much that you still remember it, then I’d be willing to bet there are more ‘old fogies’ that would make a place like that a lucrative business.

    Here’s something, and I don’t know if it’s what you meant by ‘10,000 Villages items’ or not, but how about a coffee house/ beverage house with photos and art from local folks? Framed Lighthouse pics, sunsets, historical photos from the area (Art at The 530 Shop has some GREAT pics!), etc., for sale. People get some great looking art, photographers such as Rona, Holly, P. Csizmadia, myself and countless others get a little name-time with the community. And the city gets a promo wherever one of these pictures is hung.

  10. Henery, if you see posts 5 & 6, I mentioned the local artists, as well as an open mic night for poetry, etc. The 10,000 Villages is a company which purchases goods from 3rd world countries at a fair price, then sells them here in the US. This includes musical instruments, clothing, toys, jewelry, purses, etc. It is an absolutely fantastic venture. I also listed their website on my last post. When I used to live in Bluffton, they had a shop called One World Shoppe (I’m not sure if they’re still there)and it did a booming business. I have sold 10,000 Villages stuff at our church (First Cong UCC, Lorain)and we are still selling Equal Exchange coffees, teas, and chocolate. (yes, Loraine, they have Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, and Earl Grey!!! YUM)
    Kaye, I can’t speak for all of us 30- somethings, but I’d love a place here that I could visit just to hang out and catch up with old friends, and to have something with a cause would be even better. When I was home with my kids, I longed for somewhere I could take them and still be able to talk to “big people.” I SO wish this would come to fruition. The biggest key to a successful operation is to have regular hours. It seems like the past ventures failed because every time I would try to go and patronize the establishment, it was closed! (afternoons, before a movie/after a movie at the Palace) To add more arts components would be even better.

  11. Sorry about missing the link, Keri, don’t know how that happened. I saw everything before and after it.

    Thanks for the background on the 10,000 Villages, too. I’ll do some looking into that, it would be something good to get behind.

    There is SO MUCH potential for our downtown that it boggles the mind. You’ve given me some questions to pose to Mike Challender, too.

    Tell ya what: I’m pretty confident that I’ve got a ticket with the numbers for tomorrow nights Mega Millions. When I win, I’ll see what I can do about buying one of the blocks downtown, and we can all sit down and plan out what will go in each building. Deal?

  12. ……..nah Keri, you just added to “my” winnings. And I’m going to buy all of Lorain and rename it “Muleyopolis” when I cash the winner’s check.

  13. My husband and I are a late 20-early 30 something couple that recently moved to the Lorain Lakeview area, and we do see quite a bit of potential for renewal downtown. We often wonder why so many downtowns such as Lorain get left behind, and new Crocker Park-type places are built up. With all of the focus on the enviornment and the green movement, one would think that all of this new construction would be frowned upon and instead be viewed as wasteful. There must be some company somewhere in California that specializes in revitalizing old downtowns across America and making them the shopping hubs of a city or region. I think that someone should come downtown and develop Lorain as a destination like Crocker Park, only with an environmentally-friendly spin. I’m not entirely sure of the condition of the current buildings, but I’m sure that there are many energy-saving/reducing techniques that can be used to fix up the buildings. This could be a great project that would make downtown Lorain a destination once again, and a cutting edge “green” destination as well. Combine that with a commuter rail, development along the waterfront (maybe a Kalahari type waterpark, boardwalk, food, etc.) and Lorain could thrive.

  14. Michelle,

    Welcome to Lorain, and welcome to our dream.

    There is a lot of history in the buildings that line Broadway. History that needs preserved. As you familiarize yourselves with the area, take some time to check out downtown Amherst and downtown Elyria. Matter of fact, farther back on this blog, are pics that I took and an article I did about their restoration. That is exactly what needs to happen here in Lorain.

    Here: http://www.locophotogblog.com/?p=46

    This is the detail that exists in the history of Elyria’s downtown:

    http://www.locophotogblog.com/?p=45

    Keep your fingers crossed.

  15. Michelle,
    I like your idea about a water park, but the biggest problem I see with that is, unlike Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge, Castaway Bay, and the new one they’re building, we are not directly off any highway. You can get to those others via the turnpike and Rt 90/2. Now, I know you CAN get here, too, but you have to take Middle Ridge and drive all the way down Broadway, or take 58 all the way down, or 57 all criss-crossed around Lorain. I live on 4th Street, and many a friend has commented on how LONG it seems they are on these other roads after getting off the highway/turnpike. When you can pretty much immediately see your “target” in Sandusky upon exiting, there is a definite benefit to that. Having a rail system will provide a bit more accessibility to Lorain, especially downtown. I always thought that the Renaissance hotel chain (for which I worked for 9 years), which specializes in “boutique hotels,” or hotels that aren’t cookie-cutter and have some character (um, hello????)would benefit from taking over the Spitzer hotel, but the biggest factor for them would probably be once again, “What is in Lorain? How can we get there easily?”
    I think there are lots of potential “Green” endeavors for downtown, if someone would just step up and get started to show others that it CAN be done.

  16. ……a perfect example of the difficulties of getting people to the downtown area, try giving someone who has never been here directions to the downtown area. You’ll explain it several times, I bet. And also, it would be nice if someone came in and developed our downtown like Crocker Park, but could you imagine the headaches trying to negoitiate with all the property owners downtown?

  17. And on top of that, if there are going to be directions to a locale downtown, you would absolutely HAVE to bring them by the most aesthetically pleasing route.

    Could you imagine, right now, bringing someone north from the Middle Ridge/Broadway exit, past the Ruskan building, past my favorite on 14th (is it?), past the Gel-Pak building, etc? If it were you, would you make it all the way to the attraction? Or would you turn around due to the looks of the neighborhood? Don’t you dare bring’em up 21st St, past the car wash-turned-video-store and those.

    There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around here. While we build up downtown, how do we go about cleaning up the ‘front steps’? What do we do to get businesses to keep their storefronts well-kept and attractive?

    Desvari is gone now, we need to put someone in that position that will get the job done, and we have to give him the money to make it happen. It doesn’t do any good to condemn a building if you can’t afford to raze it. And if we’re going to cite people for housing infractions, then we need to make it stick. None of this ‘he brought a lawyer to get him off of the charge that he hadn’t mowed his yard for 6 weeks’ crap.

    I feel an article coming on…..

  18. Howsa ’bout if you are coming into Lorain and really don’t know what is where or are unaware what is happening …come in by car, commuter rail, ferry boat or Lorain County Transit Bus. Get off at Black River Landing Station or park your car in one of Lorains convenient parking lots and take a tour by streetcar. You will visit a 21 block long 1925 vintage downtown and get to see the shops and restaurants, you will go thru the developing areas right by the Black River Historical Society, the Lorain Maritime Museum and the Industrial Heritage-Streetcar Museum. Advertisements on board will give you shop locations and information for lighthouse, river tours, ferry boat,festival events, and the Palace. Having trouble parking for the festivals that are happening more often and growing larger, park uptown, take the trolley downtown. Say hi to the tourists that are coming in on the buses and boats as they visit Lorain. All a devious plot to bring Lorain back to life using the resources at hand.

    Dennis
    PS: please don’t waste waterfront property on a water park … they are completely inwardly focused and pay no attention to the externals.
    Fun to be at but not much to look at.

  19. I don’t think anyone wants to pay the cost of bring any of the empty building up to the city building code. New electrical, plumbing, fire suppression or sprinklers, etc.

  20. There’s money available from Community Development. And if you’ve got your head on straight, you’d more than get your money back by opening a business that folks will patronize. Otherwise, sell the property to someone that’s interested in doing something with the property, other than using it to store boxes or turning it into a flophouse.

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