The challenge of finding quality space in the historic downtown Delaware increases, prompting a soft revitalization on the south block of Sandusky Street.
The stretch features an eclectic mix of downtown eateries and bars including the Backstretch, Opa Grill & Tavern and Clancey’s Pub, which will have two new neighbors.
Honey & Abernathy Studio started sharing space with Royal Cabinets, 38 S. Sandusky St., in October, while Olivina Taproom will open at the former Verizon store, 44 S. Sandusky St., by Thanksgiving.
“I’m just thrilled,” said Sean Hughes, the city’s economic development director. He said the north and central blocks of downtown have improved as business has fed off the foot traffic cultivated by interest in the area’s retail, eateries and nightlife along with help from the city’s grant program for facade improvements of storefronts.
“It’s a combination of new business interest and new building owners that’s kicked off the revitalization of the south block,” he said.
Melissa Clark almost decided to wait until the spring to find a storefront for her specialty retail boutique for apparel and jewelry in downtown. But the owner of Honey & Abernathy Studio was fortunate to connect with the Kreiner family, who opened the Royal Cabinets at downtown in May.
The owners were looking for a business partner to take over the front portion of the nearly 2,000-square-foot store.
“We had a lot of space to fill,” said Josh Dicken, a counter-top specialist of Royal Cabinets.
Clark, who was born and raised in Delaware, has an extensive background in luxury retail, which involved a lot of travel. Although it was a rich experience, Clark was interested in becoming more grounded at this point of her life.
“I knew if I started a my own business… I knew I would want to open it in my own hometown,” she said.
In 2013, Clark used deconstructed pieces from old jewelry and with household tools constructed her first pair of homemade earrings. She started posting pictures of her work online, which gained traction with people. She started a base of operations in her one-car garage home.
“I wasn’t trying to be hipster-chic,” she said.
Now with her own space, the relationship with Royal Cabinets has been smooth, Dicken and Clark said.
“We don’t compete; we complement each other very well,” she said.
While Clark is gearing up for the holiday season, Chris Schobert looks to help cultivate the “food vibe” in downtown with Olivina Taproom.
“The whole south block (of Sandusky Street) is being revitalized,” he said.
Renovations are now under way at the 1,700-square-foot venue. Originally from Wisconsin, the Lewis Center resident has visited Delaware with his family for various events and functions over almost a decade. He has a background in marketing and advertising for twenty years but wanted to start his own small business.
Downtown Delaware has become more sophisticated while maintaining it’s hometown charm, he said, which attract the right kind of demographics.
And he hopes to bring that feeling with a welcoming taproom that will feature about 50 different kinds of olive oil and vinegar, available for sampling and tasting.
“(We want to) infuse a way for us to engage and interact with the community by providing interesting and unique products,” he said.
Schobert has family connections to a distributor of oils from across the globe and hundreds of acres to produce their own oils. Nearly 55 percent of its products will come from Spain, which is the prime country for premium oils in the world, he said.
“We can control the product from the olive,” he said.
Schobert said he’s received a lot of support from the city of Delaware with Hughes providing information on the process.
“I think it’s been really great.”
Additionally, the new small business owner is actively interviewing for about four positions in preparation for the holiday season. When the taproom is up and running, Schobert envisions hosting special events that include guest chefs and summertime cookouts at the taproom’s parking lot.
The downtown hasn’t slowed down with new businesses as the year comes to a close. Coffeeology, 43 N. Sandusky St., opened in September, while Mohio Pizza Co., 23 N. Sandusky St., had a soft start about two weeks ago.
Mohio owner Mo Nelson said he wants the restaurant to start organically and is looking for qualified help in the kitchen.
On the horizon are two new eateries for the downtown. The Flying Pig Ale House, 12 S. Sandusky St., looks to finish construction within the next four months. The owners of 12 West, 12 W. William St., plan to present their plans for a BBQ restaurant at 14 W. William St. to the city of Delaware’s Historic Preservation Commission in the next few weeks, according to Hughes.
At the end of October, the downtown had hit a 96 percent occupancy rate, which will drop after presidential campaign offices close shop, he said. But a permanent tenant is expected to replace Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign office at 22 S. Sandusky St.
With occupancy increasing along Sandusky Street, the city’s economic development may look at filling vacancies on Winter Street going east, Hughes said.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.