Sharon Awards $75K to Support Downtown Business Projects

SHARON, Pa. – The city of Sharon awarded $75,000 to three revitalization and development projects from its share of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The grants, which the city announced in a Thursday news release, will go to three projects: a brunch/lunch concept that includes a separate pet boutique with “barkery”; a rentable photo studio with a short-term rental apartment; and the expansion of a long-time Sharon business to create additional room for more customers.

The three projects are near or at the Vine Avenue-State Street corridor, adjacent to the former Huntington Bank building site. 

“Because we had been very ambitious with our funding allocations in 2022, we decided to pause the process for a few months as we worked with our new businesses and projects, to make sure they were given the proper support to take off,” Bob Fiscus, Sharon city manager, said. “With this round of ARPA funds, we are really focusing specifically on the downtown near the former bank site to help build out this business district location.”

City Council approved the business grants Wednesday evening.

The largest share of the funds awarded this round, $50,000, will go toward a new venture by mother-daughter entrepreneurs Bergen Giordani and Morgen Chretien, owners of One Hot Cookie, OH Donut Co. and Sweet Sips mobile bar service, based in neighboring Mahoning County in Ohio. In 2021, they also launched the Mabel & Bren brand of products for dogs.

The new venture, which has yet to be named, will be at 123 E. State St. The lunch-brunch concept will be based on the first floor of the building, along with the pet boutique and barkery, and the second-floor space will be renovated to provide short-term rental space for visitors to the city.

The entrepreneurs are in the process of finalizing the purchase of the building, Giordani said in a phone interview. If all goes well, they anticipate opening during the first quarter of 2024. 

Giordani and Chretien were interested in expanding their business concept in downtown Sharon because of the revitalization efforts taking place there, according to the news release. Giordani, a Mercer County native, said being part of that revitalization is “an exciting opportunity” and “feels like we are coming home.”   

She also said she had “fond memories of growing up in the Sharon area. Her father’s first business was located in Sharon, and her first job was in the city as well, and she remembers taking her daughter, now business partner, to her first swimming lessons at the Buhl Club.

“I have always believed that a strong city center is integral to a community’s sustainability and growth,” she said. “The strength in leadership and support of small businesses that the city of Sharon has demonstrated is an example that other cities should follow.”

Another new business, Ano Photography, was awarded $10,000. Inspired by The Suite on Federal, a rentable studio space in downtown Youngstown, photographer Sue Stigliano and her husband, Craig Laskowitz, a Sharon native and owner of Lasko Properties, decided to purchase the former Joel P. Ways building at 87-89 E. State St.

The photo studio will have a prop library and other amenities for other creatives to use when Stigliano is not using the studio. She and her husband plan to build out the second floor as a short-term rentable apartment to support events and businesses in downtown Sharon. The goal is for the photo studio to be completed in the fall, with the short-term rental space to be completed later in the year. 

“To have a brick-and-mortar studio to make our own, plus with what’s happening in Sharon, we felt like we could be part of something bigger,” Stigliano said. “We like the idea of supporting the event scene in downtown Sharon.”

Penn-Ohio Cigar Shop, 91 E. State St., will use the $10,000 grant it was awarded for improvements. Specific plans call for expanding the shop by upgrading the façade windows and moving out the frontage space about 5 feet instead of the current angle that cuts into the inside shop space.

The façade change will allow owner George Joseph to add additional inside seating and expand his inside footprint for events, allowing the business to increase visitors by at least 10%, Joseph estimated. The updated façade and increased frontage also will provide more visibility for this part of downtown. Future plans include upgrading the second floor as either an additional lounge or rental space. The shop is celebrating 30 years in business this year.

“We are a downtown staple and a destination for Sharon because our visitors come specifically to visit our store and cigar lounges,” Joseph said.

“These are the kinds of dynamic projects we want to see in our downtown business district,” Molly Bundrant, City Council president, said. “These projects will continue to grow our business community and continue to support citywide revitalization.”

“With this round, we are looking to make a direct impact right in the heart of our downtown, which in turn will attract more visitors, impacting the city with increased foot traffic,” Fiscus said. “Our goal is to make lasting changes with the awarding of the ARPA funding.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.