Our Towns

New Life for Poland’s Old Stone Tavern

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POLAND, Ohio — With all that’s taken place at the Old Stone Tavern over more than two centuries, it’s no surprise that two history buffs have reinvented the space inside.

The tavern has served many purposes since it was built in 1804: stagecoach stop, restaurant, an inn and, of course, a bar. After the Civil War broke out, William McKinley, still 36 years away from the presidency, enlisted in the Union Army. The building was also – or so legend has it – a station of the Underground Railroad. Try as he has, owner Jack Shetler hasn’t been able to find any definitive proof.

“The appeal is different for each person. For me, it’s the history of the building,” says Town One Realty broker Paul Sherman. “I sit here and find myself daydreaming about who stopped here over the years that aren’t in the history books. And that draws my interest even more into the building.”

Town One Realty was the first tenant to move into the building when Shetler converted it in 2010 from an antiques shop to offices. Other tenants are Mike Capps Photography, Bronzing For Health tanning salon, Moderalli Law LLC, artist Monica Currie and Shetler’s antiques business, Old Stone Tavern Antiques.

When space became available, Sherman says, it wasn’t hard to find people who wanted to move in. It’s close to U.S. Route 224, which runs through the heart of Poland and connects to Interstate 680. And the building provides a relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s the most peaceful place in the world. There’s a reputation for ghosts, but I’ve never heard one,” Shetler says. “But there is an aura about it that if you’re in there, you feel at peace.”

Shetler got into selling antiques as a landlord in Warren. Tenants in his apartment buildings often left furniture behind that was in decent shape and could be refurbished. That grew into selling what he repaired, which turned into a full-fledged store, in turn transforming into a traveling antiques dealer. In 2010, he decided to close the store.

“I did not want to hang around this area in the wintertime selling antiques. I decided it’d be best to discontinue the store itself and rent those offices out to let me go to Florida,” he says.

Old Stone Tavern Antiques travels throughout the South during the colder months and treks north again when the weather breaks. During the summer, he’s mostly in Ohio, and participates in antiques shows in Columbus, Columbiana and Springfield.

But even with the travel, Shetler says, he hasn’t considered letting go of the building.

“I’ll never change it. If you want to tear it down, it’d cost you $100,000 in fines straight away. It’s here to stay,” he says. “We had a fire a year ago and completely rebuilt from it. There was never any hesitation.”

And, he observes, the two fronts of his business – as landlord for the historic tavern and dealer of vintage goods – have worked well together,

“That’s why I’m here. It all fits together,” he says. “It’s a passion, not a business.”

Part of what’s made the Old Stone Tavern successful as an office building, Sherman says, is the niche corner of the market it fills. It‘s an alternative to home offices for those whose need a storefront, but only a little space.

“Sometimes it can be hard to work from home with too many distractions. This fits into that same budget, but with privacy and professional exposure,” he says. “The art studios have done very well with people coming in for photography shoots. People like coming here just for the history of the building.”

Still, there are challenges that go along with operating a 200-year-old building. Rather than go into the structure to rearrange electrical lines and plumbing, he charges the lessees a flat fee on utilities, Sherman says. And both the owner and real estate broker agree that keeping the Old Stone Tavern open is a plus for the building, the oldest building that still stands in what was the Connecticut Western Reserve.

“If you keep using them, it’s better for the building. It’s like atrophy within a body,” Sherman says. “Any time a building is shut down and not used, whether it’s new construction or a building that’s over 200 years old, it’s not good for the building.”

Shetler adds that the building is “a cornerstone to this community.

“I have to keep this building. Instead of a boat or a yacht, this is my toy. I love history and the history of this building,” he says. “Now that I’m retired from my regular business, I put so many hours into this that you wouldn’t believe it.”

Pictured: In 2010, Jack Shetler converted the Old Stone Tavern from an antiques store to office spaces for six businesses, including his own.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.