The charm of Canal Winchester's historic district is attracting a growing number of vintage-inspired shops offering locally crafted, artisan merchandise.
Since the beginning of the year, the downtown historic district has seen the addition of three new businesses, and the reshuffling of a few others, in part due to the closing of two longtime staples of the area: Bolenbaugh Hardware and Hannahgrace's Doll House.
"When an established business like a Bolenbaugh Hardware closes its doors, it's natural to feel disappointment, but Canal Winchester has a good track record for rebounding better than ever," said Bruce Jarvis, executive director of Destination: Canal Winchester.
"In a fairly short period, we have become known as a trendy destination for handmade local, vintage and repurposed merchandise that mixes perfectly with the independent restaurants and specialty shops already here."
Jarvis said this trend of paying tribute to prior generations of people who grew up harvesting their own food and handcrafting many of the items they used, is a great fit for the city, which has also continued to find ways to repurpose its historic buildings.
"What started out with CornerSmiths has taken root and blossomed into a number of new and established businesses creating a critical mass of unique yet complementary retailers downtown," Jarvis said.
* CornerSmiths, 1 S. High St., is owned by Carm and Kendra Smith, a mother-and-daughter duo who said they are thankful for all the energy and passion for the historic downtown, exhibited by both other business owners and visitors.
"It's nice to hear people say we helped start this trend, but sometimes it's just the right time and I think it was just Canal Winchester's right time," Carm Smith said.
She said one other component that makes downtown Canal Winchester such a great place to do business is how all the owners come together to boost each other up.
"We're all rooting for one another," Smith said.
* Christy Jocek, who runs 27 West & Co. at 13 E. Waterloo St. with her sister, Misty Bookman, and their parents, John and Vicky Hewer, said the feeling of camaraderie was one of the things that attracted her to opening a new location in Canal Winchester. The original store is in Pickerington.
"We knew and loved the other stores and owners here, like Carm and Kendra at CornerSmiths, so when we learned that a space would be available, we jumped on it," Jocek said. "We love the vibe and how many people are flocking to Canal Winchester to walk around the downtown and be a part of it."
She said 27 West & Co. focuses on using vintage and antique industrial pieces to create furnishings with a rustic feel.
"We repurpose a lot of old industrial items to make them feel more rustic-modern, and we do most of this by hand, ourselves," Jocek said.
* Georgie Emerson Vintage moved to 4B E. Waterloo St. -- one side of the former Bolenbaugh Hardware building -- from 13 E. Waterloo, where 27 West & Co. now operates.
Owner Polly McCormick said she, too, was attracted to Canal Winchester because of the aesthetics and energy of the historic downtown area.
"I'd been running Georgie Emerson out of a booth in an antique mall, kind of as therapy while I took care of my aging parents," McCormick said. "After they both passed away, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, and then my husband (Mickey) and I were downtown and we saw the space and called on it."
McCormick said her parents had always told her to "be true to yourself," which is how she ended up crafting merchandise around what she considers a "girly, shabby-chic, French-inspired set of products."
After Bolenbaugh Hardware closed, McCormick said she was offered one of the spaces in that building and felt like she couldn't pass it up.
"When my husband and I first moved to Canal Winchester back in 2003, there wasn't a lot going on downtown, but now it's so busy, and I think ... there will be a lot of new faces coming through," she said.
* Marla Baker and Kay Dunson, owners of Sticks & Stones Studio, are two of those new faces. Sticks & Stones, 4A E. Waterloo St., is next to Georgie Emerson Vintage, on the other side of the former Bolenbaugh building.
"We had a little shop in Lithopolis, and then another in Lancaster, before hearing from friends about the opportunity here, which would mean more foot traffic and growth for us," Baker said. "We've had a really positive response so far, especially in regard to restoring the Bolenbaugh building to its original wood floors and brick walls, and the beautiful old tin ceiling."
Baker and Dunson said the history and character of the building are natural fits for their business, given how it started: refurbishing and repurposing vintage and antique furniture in a distressed and shabby-chic style. It now has expanded to include an eclectic mix of industrial equipment, such as old shop fans, scales and typewriters.
"Our tagline is 'Restyle, Repurpose, Relove.' We have a really creative and eclectic style," Dunson said. "Not only do we have inventory for sale, but one of our focuses is still taking on commission work for people with furniture they want refurbished or repurposed."
* Simply Local, which bills itself as an artisan marketplace, opened in the former Hannahgrace's Doll House space at 15 E. Waterloo St. It grew out of the locally sourced, handmade, arts-and-crafts movement, according to owner Sarah West.
She said that part of her motivation for opening Simply Local was the success of her Trendy Tots Textiles etsy.com craft business, along with her desire to have a shop that can also highlight work by some of her favorite Ohio artisans.
All of the shop owners said they are grateful for how the city has welcomed them and how residents and visitors have supported them. They all see Canal Winchester's historic downtown continuing to flourish.
"My dream is that we have that beautiful Interurban building repurposed like the North Market, where we finally have even the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker -- Mayberry, sort of, downtown," Carm Smith said. "We're just missing a few small elements for this to be paradise; we're very lucky."