YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown Cycle & Speed is moving from Boardman to the building occupied more than a century by Bye & Bye Hardware Co., 124 S. Market St., in downtown Lisbon.
The new space will allow the shop to have “an awesome showroom,” says Adam Pratt.
“We wanted to be like an old speed shop,” he says. “Even the building fits us better because we’re very old souls. And we’ll have this place decorated with antiques and all that stuff.”
Youngstown Cycle & Speed fits right in with the eclectic entrepreneurs in Columbiana County’s downtowns.
Terry and Ray Gatrell bought Ziegler’s Trophies in 2007. A few years later, they introduced laser engraving and sublimation printing on clothing.
“It’s easier for customers to get to us,” Terry Gatrell says of the downtown Salem site, 160 S. Broadway Ave. Although the shop doesn’t get much walk-in traffic, parking out front makes it convenient for customers.
Another downtown Salem merchant, Josh Buck, started State Street Records, 429 E. State St., two years ago. Buck’s personal interests coincide with the resurgence of vinyl records, although he acknowledges he probably has as many compact discs in stock.
Buck likes being in downtown Salem but allows the setting has its challenges. State Route 14, “a major trucking route,” runs right through downtown.
“There’s a lot of busy traffic,” he says. “The cars are driving past so quickly that by the time you blink you might miss three shops.”
That is one reason why his shop’s exterior is painted in purple and neon colors. Several customers tell him they saw the neon and decided to stop in. The exterior design was also influenced by the record shop aesthetics he remembers from years ago.
Natural Solutions Holistic Beauty Boutique & Salon, 465 E. State St., has been in business since 2001. Owner Jennifer Reed opened the business as a retail store that focused on natural hair, skin and other personal care products after having a reaction to more traditional products, says Calista Nuzzo, hairstylist and creative director.
“We use natural products here as best we can – ammonia-free, vegan,” she says. In 2011, the boutique began to offer salon services.
“I love the business that we get. There’s a lot of foot traffic,” Nuzzo says. She attributes some of the traffic to the Second Saturday events downtown as well as to referrals by other downtown businesses. Similarly, she refers patrons to other venues for services that Natural Solutions doesn’t offer.
The business climate in downtown Salem is improving from what it was five years ago, reports Lori Jewell, executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. The downtown features a mix of service businesses, retail and the kind of mom-and-pop restaurants she says make Salem special.
“We are growing. So that’s a good sign,” Jewell says. Second Saturday, an initiative sponsored by the Downtown Salem Partnership and the Visit Salem, Ohio webpage, aims to attract people to downtown.
“We are looking at our mix of retail and restaurants to make sure we have the vibrancy that we know will help the businesses thrive,” says Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, which has a downtown coordinator on staff.
Needs anticipates “quite a bit of change” coming to downtown. Several renovation projects are underway or upcoming, including some boosted by historic preservation tax credits.
Salem recently established a commercial building department, which has helped with the process of securing permits for commercial renovations, speeding processes and making smaller renovations less costly. “We’re seeing things move forward much quicker than we have in the past,” Needs says.
They’re coming downtown for all kinds of things,” says the executive director of the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce, Bridget Wolsonovich, who is also affiliated with the Squeaky Wheel Theater Co. “We have a lively downtown.”
Visitors come to downtown Columbiana to browse the assortment of antiques shops, as well as pet stores, artisan crafts shops, the recently opened Eldritch Bazaar tabletop gaming store and Birdfish Brewing Co.
Among the antiques and collectibles stores operating downtown is The Rustic Birdcage, 13 E. Park Ave.
Jane Bohrer opened the antiques and primitives shop after retiring in November 2019. The inventory of the store includes oil and gas memorabilia, signage and other merchandise connected to old businesses, toys and books, handcrafted jewelry and even bat taxidermy.
“It’s a fun mix,” Bohre says. Memorabilia and advertising connected with oil and gas – including gasoline pumps – as well as other industrial items sell well. She describes demand for oddities and curiosities as “huge.”
Downtown businesses in Columbiana tend to see more traffic on Thursdays and Fridays than earlier in the week. Many shops remain closed on Mondays, Wolsonovich says. Some business owners are pushing for more of their colleagues to open on Sundays.
Among those advocating for Sunday is the owner of Paws on Main, 112 S. Main St., Dani Edgerton, who is president of the chamber.
Edgerton, also owns A Place for Paws, a dog daycare center in the Columbiana Industrial Park. She took over a pet boutique and bakery that operated in the same space six years ago.
“It’s been steady growth since we started six years ago,” Edgerton says. Her businesses enjoyed probably the biggest upturn last year.
Edgerton points to the walkability of downtown Columbiana and its variety of venues as assets. Her main complaint is that more downtown business owners don’t open on Sundays as she does or stay open later into the evenings. Although Paws on Main is open only three hours on Sundays, she calls it a “big day” for the store in terms of sales.
Carly Brock, president and CEO of Richardson Monuments and president of the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce, says business in downtown Lisbon is slow but business everywhere is slow.
“Even at my business at the top of the hill we’re pretty slow,” she says.
Still, many people come to downtown Lisbon to do business at the Columbiana County Courthouse, then discover the assortment of local shops, she says.
Merchants include Almost Perfect Foundation & Resale, 2 S. Park Ave., which began as a concept in 2019 before opening the following year, founder Kristen Houston says.
The nonprofit retail shop accepts and resells donated items – from housewares and decorations to furniture – and donates profits to area organizations.
“There’s a lot of traffic for a small town,” Houston says.
Longtime Lisbon resident Mark Hamilton opened Source Gallery last year in a building he bought 13 years ago, 40 N. Park Ave.
Source Gallery exhibits works by local artists, many of whom lack a venue to show their work, he says. He also offers framing services, which account for about a fifth of his business.
“My intention was to make this a destination and there were a lot of changes going on in Lisbon,” Hamilton says. In the years before the pandemic, “positive change,” as he describes it, was happening in the village, including new restaurant openings.
So far, the gallery is doing a little better than he had projected, which he attributes to “word of mouth and getting people to know who I am and getting local clients.” He also gets “interesting cross traffic” from people coming through town.
Local government could do more to support local businesses – or at least not impede them, the chamber’s Brock says. She points to a banquet center that is being prevented from opening because of a decal on its window. “There’s a lot of stifling of business that’s going on in Lisbon,” she says.
The village has “so many rules” that prohibit people from starting a business, says Renee Lewis, owner of the Courthouse Inn & Restaurant, 116 W. Lincoln Way, and the Phoenix Building, 118 E. Lincoln Way. Someone can have a house that lacks running water in the village but lettering on signage has to be in one of five selected fonts.
“I had five meetings to get my signs approved,” she says.
Courthouse Inn, which specializes in vegetarian fare, closed during the pandemic and has held off reopening amid staffing challenges.
“We just went through four chefs that we hired and they couldn’t make vegetarian food to the quality that was necessary,” she says.
Pictured at top: Lori Jewell is the executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.