Restaurant Complex Offers a World of Experiences

SHARON, Pa. – The first phase of The Block – which is best described as a culinary theme park – opened June 7.

Located in a formerly vacant block-long, four-story building at 23 Chestnut St., downtown, The Block is starting with four interconnected dining and drinking spots, each with a different theme. More will be added.

It’s an ambitious plan with a goal of creating a guest experience that is unlike anything else in the region, says Walt Novosel, who is the man behind the project.

“Different is better,” Novosel says. “I wanted to create an immersive experience that guests can explore, something new and exciting.”

The Block development in downtown Sharon really is a block long.

The first phase includes The Bluttered Bloke, an Irish pub, on the first floor; and Lost & Found, a speakeasy bar and grill in the basement, which both opened last week. Opening later this month and also part of the first phase will be Emerald Sea Horse, an outdoor tiki bar; Cantina, a Spanish-Portuguese-Mexican themed restaurant and bar with a stage; a German beer hall; and an event space for live music and theatrical events.

Two more phases will take shape after the first is up and running smoothly, Novosel says.

The second phase will include a Western saloon; a coffee shop and French bistro; retail shops that will sell wine, olive oil, coffee and other items from Novosel’s other businesses; a Japanese garden restaurant; and a fourth-floor bar with garage-door type windows for an open-air effect.

The third phase will include a wedding and party rental room, an Italian grotto wine cave, and a family-style game room.

Novosel is also the owner of Nova Destinations, which owns and operates Nova Cellars-Brew 32 winery and brewery in Pulaski; Knockin Noggin Cidery and Winery in Volant; and Fractured Grape Wine Cellars, Hop Asylum Brewing and Pulse Coffee Company in New Wilmington.

He took control of the 65,000 square-foot Sharon structure – it’s actually four interconnected buildings – last summer from Sharon businessman Jim Landino, under a lease-to-own agreement. Novosel received $150,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for the project from the city.

He would not reveal the estimated price tag for the entire project but noted that he is doing a good bit of the construction work himself.

“My father taught me a lot [about construction], and we are frugal,” he says. “We stretch every dime and had generous help getting started from the city and from [Landino’s] JCL Development [the building owner].”

When Novosel first looked at the building last year, he began to envision its possibilities.

“I considered everything in the book and did the research,” he says. “The final concept, the whole picture, came together about a month ago.”

Novosel knew he wanted the  theme to be a series of restaurants and bars, each with its own menu.

“You walk through the door and you’re in Ireland,” he said. “You turn, and then you’re in Germany.”

Guests can start with a drink in one room, get dinner in the next, and then finish with dessert or drinks in another. Their tab would follow them from room to room, so they don’t have to settle up in one restaurant before heading to the next.

The Block is greater than the sum of its parts. An intangible spark runs through the entire project that elevates it. Novosel describes it as a youthful spirit, or a sense of adventure and exploring.

The playfulness that permeates The Block is best seen in the speakeasy.

A guest would never know it’s there, unless he heard about it by word of mouth from a patron or asked the bartender. Its entrance is hidden in plain sight but impossible to find.

The guest can get instructions on where to find it and what he must do and say to gain admission.

One kitchen will supply the food for all of the phase one restaurants. It will be under the direction of chefs Jason Puryear of Meadville, and Anthony Murdock of Greenville.

With so many cuisines to cover, the menu for each room will be small – maybe three appetizers and three entrees, plus specialty drinks.

Novosel is bullish on downtown Sharon. “It’s turning the corner,” he says. He envisions The Block as a destination that will attract visitors from outside the area.

“When people from around here think of Sharon, they have strong feelings [that are either good or bad],” he says. “But people who live outside this area have a positive image of Sharon… It’s a great little downtown with a big city feel.”

The Block will be open from 3-10 p.m. Thursday; and 3-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will expand its days and hours in the near future.

Pictured at top: Walt Novosel stands behind the bar of The Bluttered Bloke, the Irish pub in his new development in downtown Sharon, Pa.