Zoupwerks, Popped! and Outfitters to open mid-September in Acorn Alley II

Artist’s renderings courtesy of Fuller Design Group Architects

Julie Sickel

The opening of Acorn Alley in 2009 fueled downtown development and sparked visions of Kent’s potential.

Now, the newest installment of Acorn Alley has launched, according to developer Ron Burbick, with the exterior work just “a week or so” from being completed.

Alley II

Burbick said Zoupwerks, Popped! and Wild Earth Outfitters will be ready to move into the three-level building located on Erie Street by the middle of September.

Zoupwerks, a “funky soup and chowdah joint,” will occupy a space on the lower level of the building. This eatery, like all the businesses in Acorn Alley, is locally owned. All the soups, chowders and chilies will be prepared in-house daily.

Popped!, a gourmet popcorn shop, is expected to take a space on the second floor, while Wild Earth Outfitters, an outdoor sporting goods store, will go across the stairwell from Zoupwerks on the lower level.

By the middle of October, Burbick said a new coffee shop will have moved into the lower level and two new restaurants will be preparing to open.

Tree City Coffee will serve up fresh coffees and pastries and will also provide drive-thru service.

“We’ll actually have a drive-thru in the middle of downtown, which should be interesting,” Burbick said.

Laziza Mediterranean Restaurant will seat 100 on the lower level and also have a 100-seat banquet facility on the second floor.

The second restaurant, which will seat 140 to 150 people, is yet to be named, but Burbick said he’s been referring to it as “The Oak Room.”

Around November, the Kent State School of Fashion will move into a space on the second floor where they will sell student-made goods.

The third floor of the building is yet to be assigned to a business. Burbick said he’s hoping to bring in a high-tech firm that will employ approximately 300 people.

A third building, disconnected from the Acorn Alley II structure, will face the Acorn Alley plaza and house a new photography studio and retail or office space.

The plaza

Burbick said the plaza between the Acorn Alley buildings is on its way to completion. In the middle of the stamped brick courtyard, Burbick said there will be a six-foot-high black squirrel sculpture made of welded metal.

Burbick said he plans to welcome vendor kiosks into the plaza on weekends. He said he wouldn’t charge the vendors for the space, but he would expect to get 10 percent of gross sales from products sold.

“If they don’t make anything, I don’t make anything. But if they do sell something, I get a little piece of it,” Burbick said. “People seem to really like that idea.”

New stores in the Alley

Burbick said in addition to the new shops coming to Acorn Alley II, he’s looking to get new shops in the original Acorn Alley.

He said one of the new stores would probably be for jewelry. The second store would be an “acorn gifts” shop. The business would sell squirrel- and acorn-themed goods, like smaller versions of the black squirrel in the plaza or acorn-shaped earrings and Christmas ornaments. Burbick said he also hopes to include history books written about Kent and historical maps of the city dating back to the 1800s.

“These aren’t quite signed, sealed and delivered yet,” Burbick said.

Contact Summer Kent Stater editor Julie Sickel at [email protected].