The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 16, 2014

Bridge Street is full of life

New businesses are rejuvenating Ashtabula Harbor

ASHTABULA — The Ashtabula Harbor enjoys some major advantages: an exciting history, charming architecture and adjacency to a lake, a river, beaches, parks, museums and an active, working industrial harbor. But despite these advantages, for the last 50 years or more, commercial activity in the Harbor has languished.

With the formation of the Lift Bridge Community Association in 2008, a small group of interested citizens developed a mission to promote and develop the “Historic Ashtabula Harbor” into a major destination for tourism, recreation and entertainment and a strategic plan to accomplish the mission.

Today, there are 23 occupied, three   under   construction   and

two vacant storefronts along lower Bridge Street. This means the downstairs portion of almost every building on the eastern end of the street is in use.

Flowers adorn the street in spring, summer and fall, new crosswalks were painted a few years ago, Goodwill Drive boasts new bricks, historical buildings don historical plaques, and shopkeepers do all they can to keep the street tidy.

Ren Carlisle, co-owner of Carlisle’s Home in the Harbor, couldn’t be happier.

“We were also helped by Alice and Tim McCarthy who became deeply involved in assisting businesses like the Harbor Perk and Beaches and others to get started and succeed,” he said. “All of these combined efforts resulted in a Renaissance on Bridge Street with the original designated Historic District filled with interesting and unique shops and good places to eat and drink.”

January and February are normally the quietest months in the Harbor and even the coldest, snowiest winter in 35 years didn’t freeze activities this year.

The Beaches store moved into a new storefront (formerly the Silver Branch) at 1012 Bridge St., a new look and menu appeared at Rivers Edge Diner, a shiny new floor in Carlisle’s Home in the Harbor, and an addition of the Refurbished Furniture at Silk ‘n’ Treasures.

“We were growing out of space,” said Lorie Dalrymple, co-owner of Beaches Boutique. “Now we have our clothes and jewelry together.”

The snow drifts and wind chill factors didn’t dampen the crowds at Briquettes and Brennan’s Pub either!

When warmer weather arrives in the next few weeks, visitors to Bridge Street will find a relatively new ice-cream parlor — Cones at 1019 Bridge St., which opened last year, opening its doors again.

Come April 25, Donny and Molly Taylor are hosting the first 1025 UP-Bridge Street Art event at the Concept Pop studio. The art event will be a collaborative effort from local artists.

Last week, Jan Powell worked inside the former Beaches location, 1034 Bridge St., preparing to open Classic Treasures, a curiosity shop benefiting autism.

She plans to open at the end of April.

The idea for the Rennick Meat Market, opening in May at 1104 Bridge St., was influenced by the building’s history as a butcher shop that was run by T.J. Rennick in the late 1800s - early 1900s. The owners, Jennifer and Alex, are embracing the historical decor of the building and are restoring it as much as possible.

The businesses that are coming or have recently moved into Bridge Street are solid tenants that should continue to do a good business, Carlisle said.

Melody Shiflet has owned Heartmade Boutique at 1028 Bridge St. for three years.

“(Bridge Street merchants) carry all the stuff people go out of town for,” she said. “Between all of the shops, we got it covered.”

Ren Carlisle and his wife, Toni, represent the fifth generation of the family behind Ashtabula’s grand department store. They opened Carlisle’s Home in the Harbor at 1005 Bridge St. in 2002.

Across the street from Carlisle’s, a hair salon called, Salon 1020,  flourishes. Owner Shannon Pennell started the business seven years ago.

“I could see it was going to be an up and coming neighborhood,” she said. “I could see it was going to be the place to be and I loved the people already down here.”

Although she’s “a Conneaut girl,” Pennell moved to the Ashtabula Harbor to be close to her business and she loves it, she said.

Businesses on Bridge Street are not the only entities benefiting from renewed interest in the Harbor.

City Manager Jim Timonere applied for a grant, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to restore Walnut Beach, which is only a short walk from Bridge Street. City officials have big plans for the beach, removing some of the asphalt parking and restoring it to its natural state.

Point Park and the Marine Museum on Walnut Boulevard also have become popular tourist attractions.

Fast forward to 2013, and the Ashtabula Harbor held its first-ever summer arts festival — The Arts on Bridge Street. The Lift Bridge Community Association organized the event. This year, the TABS festival will expand to two days, July 19-20, and will feature local artists, a juried art show, live music and hands-on activities.

Merchants point out the success of the Beach Glass Festival — now going on its sixth year on Bridge Street this June — and the Wine & Walleye Festival in late August.

But the biggest news comes in the form of $700,000 in grants for the Bridge Street area. The grants will create a public, 50-60 car parking lot complete with lighting and landscaping on the south side of Bridge Street between the Iroquois Club and a city-owned storage building.

“Parking, especially in the summer months, has become a major issue,” Carlisle said. “This parking lot, which the city hopes to complete by the end of June, will greatly alleviate this problem.”

Merchants also look forward to building improvements for business owners and the re-bricking of the south side of Hulbert Avenue and the trail from Point Park to Bridge Street.

The city will have two years to complete the projects for the Harbor area.

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