Changes to Downtown Kent 2020-2021

Carnaby Street Style announced their closing on Instagram.

Chloe Zofchak Reporter

Kent is known for being the college town with a tight-knit community of students, families, businesses and more. People come from near and far towns to enjoy the scenery and frequent social events Kent has to offer.

Being known as the hub for hospitality, Downtown Kent continuously filled the streets with crowds of people weaving through the many businesses. 

Now, with the pandemic, social distancing rules and limited capacities, much has changed in Downtown Kent. 

“The very unfortunate part  [COVID-19] affected hospitality the most and we’ve lost workers because of this,” said Tom Wilke, economic development director. “The impact of the pandemic can be seen on the business sectors.”


Carnaby Street Style: This boutique brought London culture to Downtown Kent in 2013. After being in business for seven years, the business closed February 2020. Carnaby Street Style announced their farewell in an Instagram post on their official page. 

Longhitano’s Gallery Pub and Grille: The Italian restaurant moved to its Kent location in 2012 after operating out of Cuyahoga Falls. The restaurant permanently closed their doors in May 2020. 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe opened at 1005 East Main Street, Kent August 2020. The restaurant offers smoothies, wraps, flatbread and more. 

Pita Pit opened its Kent location in Acorn Alley August 2020. The restaurant offers a fully customizable menu with pitas, rice bowls and more. 

Gracylane: This women’s accessories and gift shop opened their Kent location in 2012. Gracylane decided to close the Kent location in October 2020. The business announced their closure on the official Gracylane Facebook page, accrediting the closure to the location’s lease expiring, “current economic conditions” and the impact of COVID-19. The Gracylane Hudson location remains open.

North Water Brewing Company opened at 101 Crain Avenue October 2020. The brewing company brought artisan ales and lagers and focuses on sustainability and environmental responsibility. 

The Kent Cheesemonger: This shop brought artisan cheese, meats, wine and more to Acorn Alley in 2015. After serving Kent for five years, The Kent Cheesemonger decided to permanently close December 2020. Prior to the official closure, the owner posted on the business’s Facebook and Instagram, as well as posting a message on the website letting visitors know.

RUSH by Dino Palmieri: The salon opened its Downtown Kent location in 2013. Although with its abrupt closure, there is no record if the salon closed towards the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021. The salon posted a message on their website informing readers about the closure. Other RUSH locations are still open.

Burger King: The East Main Street Burger King location closed some time between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. The location’s building “won’t be empty too long” according to Wilke, due to its close proximity to campus. 


Peace, Love and Little Donuts: The ’70s-themed donut shop opened its Kent location in 2016. The shop permanently closed the doors to the Kent location in January 2021. Wilke said the closure may be due the location’s lease coming to an end. 

While Kent saddened with the loss of these businesses, Kent also had many additions to Downtown over the past year. 

“I think people really did step up and try to help small businesses. While we’ve seen a few closures, I don’t think we’re as hard hit as other places,” said Susan McGann, certified business adviser. 

The Fruit Stand opened in Acorn Alley January 2021. Making its home in Popped!’s prior location, the Fruit Stand offers acai bowls and more. 

Uncle Maddio’s is the newest business in Downtown Kent that opened in March. The Atlanta-based pizza shop moved into the previous PizzaFire location. 

New Business Spotlight

Kwench Juice Cafe is the newest healthy lifestyle restaurant to open in Downtown Kent, offering smoothies, acai bowls and juices. Kwench uses all natural ingredients to create a healthy option in Kent. The cafe opened Feb. 14 in the previous Peace, Love and Little Donuts location.

“It’s been slow. It all depends on the weather,” Natasha Bastrakov, owner of Kwench Juice Cafe, said. “On good days, I’m running around. Then on slow days, I have a lot of things I can do but there’s not a large flow of customers.” 

While Bastrakov is enthusiastic about the cafe’s unique healthy menu, she worries about the two competitors who opened just before Kwench and how the pandemic has affected the business. 

“I’m counting on the warm weather and the summer months and becoming more visible to the audience,” Bastrakov said. “It’s my chance to survive or not and it all depends on how this business does in the summer.” 


With Kent being known for its annual events, COVID-19 also affected the ability to gather for these events. No one expected the first ever Rainbow Weekend in March 2020 would be the last event of the year. 

The cancellation of annual events like Oktoberfest and the Art and Wine Festival saddened many, especially Heather Malarcik, executive director of Main Street Kent. 

“I can’t give them the credit they deserve,” Malacrik said. 

However, working with the health commission, Main Street Kent has been able to host some events in 2021, including Kent Goes Red and Putt Around Downtown. 

“We reformatted the events to fit COVID guidelines,” Malacrik said. “We have to watch and see what the governor puts out.” 

Kent’s Small Business Development Center

Fortunately, Ohio developed Small Business Development Centers to assist small businesses. The Small Business Development Centers are a resource partner with the Small Business Administration. 

“We work with small businesses from cradle to grave,” McGann said. “If I can’t help you then I’ll find someone who can.”

McGann began her career at the Ohio SBDC in 2008 and works out of the satellite office in Kent. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, she was one of the people who businesses turned to. 

“Actually when everything dropped last March, I often told people I did more mental health counseling than business counseling,” McGann said. “You can imagine having your livelihood pulled out from underneath you with absolutely no warning.” 

Over the past year, McGann has mostly been helping small businesses with COVID-19 relief packages and answering the many questions that were coming from all over Northeast Ohio. 

“Once the programs got underway and people started to get some checks, they started to feel better,” McGann said. “The thing about this pandemic is just the whole uncertainty of it all. We feel like we are at the end, people are getting vaccinated and then sometimes you look at the numbers and think — maybe not.” 

McGann expressed her opinion that when opening a business it is important to do research and understand the industry. However, McGann also felt it is important for the public to be conscious of their small businesses as well. 

“We all just need to be diligent and what people need to understand too, is by wearing masks and that sort of thing, they’re actually helping small businesses,” McGann said. “The only way things are going to get back to normal is if the virus goes away.”

Chloe Zofchak covers the City of Kent. Contact her at [email protected].