New stores ready to open doors in Acorn Alley

Kristyn Soltis

Phoenix Project brings local shops, restaurants to Main St.

Michelle Sahr, Kent resident and owner of My Little Red Wagon toy store, will be opening her newest shop, Off the Wagon, in downtown Kent’s Acorn Alley.

“I’m a firm believer Kent is nice for specialty, locally owned shops,” Sahr said. “It’s not so strong right now, but it has potential.”

That potential to create specialty and locally owned shops has become a reality with the construction of Ron Burbick’s Acorn Alley. Joining Sahr’s new store will be boutiques, food and snack shops, a barbershop, a quilt shop and a dry cleaning service.

Figleaf is a clothing and accessories specialty boutique targeted toward college girls, keeping their smaller budget in mind.

Owner of Figleaf, Lynne Francisco, said she became involved in the Phoenix Project about a year and a half ago after Mary Gilbert, of the Main Street Kent program, connected her to Ron Burbick.

“Since the boutique caters primarily to the needs of college girls, high school girls and young working professional women, the shop is a perfect fit for the Kent and Kent State communities,” Francisco said.

Merchandise arrives weekly and sometimes daily, reflecting the current trends and keeping in mind the needs of college girls.

“For example, many of the items found at Figleaf can be worn to class or out for the night at the bars, special events, and/or parties. Figleaf also offers a few key pieces for a more professional look; perfect for work, business classes or job interviews,” Francisco said.

Figleaf Kent, which opened in April 2009, located at 138 E. Main St., is Francisco’s fourth store location.

Another clothing boutique that will be found in Acorn Alley is Rehab Vintage, a boutique collaborating with Kent’s School of Fashion Design, offering exclusive collections of vintage clothing mixed with progressive style. Merchandise will be updated weekly in the store located at 154A E. Main St.

The Main St. Snack Shoppe will be opening its first location at 154C E. Main St., sometime mid to late August.

Heather Weber, store manager for Main St. Snack Shoppe, said she has been involved with every process of the store creation from picking out each flavor the store will carry to deciding which color tile to use.

“I actually applied to be the store manager online and the Center for Entrepreneurship hired me to be the store manager. When I started this, all I had was the idea and the location and I had to come up with the rest of it,” Weber said.

Main St. Snack Shoppe will carry high-quality, Ohio-made products such as Shearer’s Potato Chips, Waggoner’s Chocolates, Metropolis Popcorn and Robert Rothschild Farm products. The snack shop will be open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.

Michelle Sahr’s novelty store, Off the Wagon, will carry quirky novelty and gag gifts, as well as puzzles and games geared toward college kids and an adult audience.

Off the Wagon, located at 152 E. Main St., is Sahr’s third store location. She has two My Little Red Wagon children’s toy store locations in Stow and Hudson.

Sahr hopes to open the store Aug. 26th and will be open Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 1 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Despite the name, Katie Brooke Quilt Shop is not just a quilt shop.

“It’s not just quilting, but there’s a lot that you can do with textile art using the fabrics, as well as accessorizing using the fabrics, purses, scarves, things like that,” said Marcy Moisio, owner of Katie Brooke Quilt Shop.

Moisio’s quilt shop was the first retail store to take up residence in Acorn Alley in January 2009.

The quilt shop location at 144 E. Main St. will be open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed Sunday.

Among other stores, there will also be some new restaurants downtown, such as Dancing Beta, a sushi and tempura restaurant, Earl’s Nest restaurant, Pita Pit and the Arctic Squirrel ice cream shop.

“I’m very excited and can’t wait for the rest of the stores to come in because it will just be a very good, upscale area for Kent,” Moisio said.

Contact principal reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].

A look back: Ron Burbick’s proactive approach, donations help revitalize city

Ron Burbick was initially looking for a small project when he used $6.5 million of his own money to revitalize downtown Kent. The Phoenix Project started out with a three-year timeline and quickly turned into 14 short months.

Burbick said the project goes back about 35 years – the amount of time he’s lived in Kent.

“I’ve seen so many different commissions, groups put together to study downtown,” he said. “Basically, they end up doing a lot of talking and not doing anything.

“What you ended up seeing down here were nothing but bars, tattoo parlors and non-profits on the ground floor. People said ‘Well, why don’t people go downtown?’ Because there’s nothing to go for.”

The whole Main Street concept is to get retail back on the ground floor so there is a reason for people to go downtown, Burbick said. The new alleyway is designed after a shopping area in London that Burbick used to travel to for work.

Since the beginning of the project, Burbick said, local businesses already downtown have noticed an increase in business. He said it’s very gratifying that other businesses are doing well.

“I don’t measure what’s happened so far as the success of this,” Burbick said. “To me, success is if other people start doing more things downtown. My whole objective here was to kind of act as a catalyst to get people started thinking about what they could do downtown.”

-Allison Smith