Local shops in Acorn Alley offer students unique experiences

Elizabeth Randolph

Students looking for a wide variety of shops and restaurants can find them in Acorn Alley, a walkable shopping and retail district in downtown Kent.

From the vision of local business leader and philanthropist Ronald Burbick, Acorn Alley made its debut downtown in spring 2009. The alleyway, which has many retail and dining options for Kent citizens to enjoy, serves as a way to bring life into the city of Kent.

Energy, innovation and excitement are some of the ways Michelle Hartman, executive vice president of the Burbick Companies, describes how students will experience Acorn Alley.  

“It not only brought architectural beauty to the landscape of downtown Kent and more retail and dining to the downtown area; it also brought renewed energy that Kent was on the rise,” Hartman said.

Hartman said that the location and the blending of the old with the new is one thing that sets Acorn Alley apart from surrounding areas like downtown Akron or Cleveland.

“Downtown Kent has always had tremendous potential, and Acorn Alley enhances its character with its unique flavor of one-of-a-kind local businesses,” Hartman said. “Downtown Kent now boasts many points of interest uniting the old with the new by preserving the historical integrity of the past while creating a destination city of today.”

Shops in the district include Figleaf Boutique, Off the Wagon, Wild Earth Outfitters, the Fashion School Store, Silver & Scents, International HOME Markets, Standing Rock Jewelers, Group Ten Gallery and 4Cats Art Studio.

Restaurants include Pita Pit, Laziza, Buffalo Wild Wings, the Secret Cellar, Twisted Meltz, Ashby’s Ice Cream, Tree City Coffee and Pastry, Rise and Shine Café and Belleria.

The majority of shops and restaurants that make up Acorn Alley are locally owned. Hartman said this was done intentionally to support local businesses and bring something different to downtown.

“The vision of Acorn Alley was to offer a walkable retail and restaurant district in the heart of downtown and to support local entrepreneurs help realize their dream of owning and operating a business,” Hartman said. “Acorn Alley has a multitude of one-of-a-kind locally operated small businesses each offering its own distinctive character, innovative products and personalized service. Towns elsewhere have similar chain restaurants and retail stores, but the local businesses that call Acorn Alley home are different from any other businesses, ensuring the uniqueness of our downtown.”

Hartman said Acorn Alley and Acorn Alley II, an expansion of more retail options in 2011, connects downtown Kent with Kent State students, particularly freshmen.

“Freshmen students not only have the opportunity to realize student success through their learning experience at Kent State; they also have a new, vibrant downtown to discover to enhance their cultural experience in their new home away from home, and Acorn Alley is at the forefront of this experience,” Hartman said. “It adds to the genuine college experience”.

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