Artists Face Eviction Because of Sale of Ward Bakery Building

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Ward Bakery Building, which has housed the studios of dozens of artists since the 1970s, has been sold, and the tenants have been told to vacate their space by June 10.

The new owner of the building has not been revealed, and the sale has yet to be recorded with the county auditor.

In an April 8 letter to tenants, building owners James and Tamara Deeley said they can no longer keep up with the maintenance and had to sell.

The three-story building was built in 1923 and originally was a bakery.

A city fire inspector found dozens of code violations in it last year. The cost of bringing the 30,000-square-foot structure up to code was reportedly at least $200,000.

Located in the massive building are many art studios, Ampreon Recorder recording studio, woodwork and furniture workshops, photographers and other artisans. The artists have traditionally held an open house and sale every holiday season, although they did not have one in 2023.

The Deeleys, who do business as Ward Riverworks LLC, purchased the building at 1024 Mahoning Ave. eight years ago for $220,000. James Deeley has had his woodworking shop in the building for 42 years.

The Deeleys could not be reached to comment.

In their letter to tenants, the owners wrote, “The buyer has new plans for the building and requested that it [be vacated]. We know how difficult this will be and therefore have made arrangements with the buyer to allow tenants until June 10, 2024, to vacate the premises. As of June 10, the building will close, and any remaining items will become the property of the new owner.”

The Deeleys will provide dumpsters outside the building for tenants to put unwanted items.

“We are sincerely disappointed that we were not able to reach the vision that we had for the [building]…,” they wrote in their letter to tenants.


Tony Armeni has maintained his studio and an office in the building since 1996.

It’s where he creates the large metal abstract sculptures that grace several public buildings and spaces in the Valley.

Armeni is currently working on a sculpture that will also be used as a bicycle rack. The city commissioned the piece, which will be permanently mounted at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West Federal Street, near the downtown fire station. Armeni said he expects to have it complete in late May or early June.

One of his sculptures has been placed in front of Westside Bowl, and another has been permanently cemented into the sidewalk on Central Square, downtown, in front of the former Chase Bank building.

Armeni has asked the Deeleys to put him in touch with the buyer of the building so he could negotiate for more time.

“I’m in a tough spot,” he said. “It’s unreasonable.”

Armeni has managed to secure warehouse space on Glenwood Avenue, on the South Side, where he will store some of his equipment and supplies.

“I’m one of the few people who has found space,” he said. “Most of the others are putting their stuff in storage [rental units].”

Armeni was a sculpture and design instructor at Youngstown State University for 30 years. He is also a trombone player in local band Sacksville Rhythm and Blues and hosts a monthly jazz jam night at Cedars West End bar.

“I planned on staying [in the Ward building] til the end of my life,” he said. “This was a shock. We all hoped that if they ever sold the building, the new owners would just raise the rent and let things operate as they always have. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case.”

Robyn Maas has kept a studio in the Ward building for over 25 years. She is a sculptor and jewelry maker who works in multiple media.

She will move her studio into a vacant garage building owned by a family member but feels sorry for other artists who have acquired a lot of equipment and inventory over the years and now must leave the building.

Gabriel Crish

“There’s not much time to find a new place,” she said. “It’s a mess. It’s a bit of a scramble.”

Maas said the tenants will have a meeting within the next few days. “We’re talking about having a big sale,” she said.

Gabriel Crish has maintained a portrait studio in the Ward building for 25 years.

“I have 25 years’ worth of stuff in there. I have to figure it out quickly,” he said. “I have until June 10 to get everything out.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.