Uptown launched a new era last week, as Amish Originals reopened its doors at 38 N. State St., a block and a half away from its old location in the State Theatre building.
Amish Originals had occupied the historical theatre, at 8 N. State St., since it opened its doors 20 years ago.
For years, Amish Originals had operated out of both locations, with a main showroom at the State Theatre and a smaller showroom and warehouse space at 38 N. State St.
Owner Doug Winbigler decided to consolidate operations when it was announced last year that the owner of the State Theatre building planned to sell. Winbigler owns the building at 38 N. State St., which also housed Hey Diddle Diddle children's boutique and Gallery 202 until recently.
"We've heard a lot, 'We were so glad you stayed (in Uptown),' but we never gave much thought to leaving," Winbigler said. "I'm from a small town. I grew up on a farm outside a small town. I've seen what happens to a small town when businesses pull out, and Westerville has been good to us."
Winbigler's team has spent the last year renovating the new location, tearing down walls to open the space, adding lighting, windows, an elevator and a large wooden reception desk, opening up the once narrow stairwell, rehabbing original wooden floors on the second level and reflooring the lower level.
The new Amish Originals boasts 10,200 square feet of space, making it about 1,000 square feet smaller than the previous combined locations, Winbigler said. However, while the space is smaller, the layout works better for furniture sales.
"It's a better customer experience," Winbigler said. "It's more open. It's more accessible. It's easier to shop."
It's still unknown what will happen to the now vacant State Theatre, but city officials are eager to work with a new business to develop a concept that could benefit all of Uptown, said Westerville Economic Development Administrator Jason Bechtold.
"It could be catalytic in terms of opening another anchor, with just the amount of space that's available with the second floor, with renovations," Bechtold said.
Other Uptown changes
The relocation of Amish Originals is one of many changes that are being worked on in Uptown now.
Across the street, at 41 N. State St., the owners of Jimmy V's and the Westerville Grill are preparing to open an upscale deli and microbrewery, to be called the Uptown Deli and Brew Co.
A liquor option to allow beer and wine sales was approved by voters for the site in November 2011, and plans for the deli were OK'd by the Westerville Planning Commission in December 2011.
However, that was before the brewery was added to the deli concept, and owners had to go through a new permitting process for the brewery.
The owners hope to soon submit plans for the restaurant and brewery to the city, said Mario Nedelkoski, a partner on the project. That could make way for renovations and a late summer opening, Nedelkoski said.
"There's been a lot of excitement ... and we're looking forward to getting the project started," he said.
Construction also continues at the building at 9 N. State St., just north of Graeter's.
The building's owners are planning upper level apartments, and renovating the lower level to accommodate a new business.
Originally, the plans called for a frozen yogurt shop on the lower level, but the owners are open to marketing the space for other uses, Bechtold said.
Governor's Smoke Shop relocated from 33 N. State St. to a historical home at 33 E. College Ave. at the beginning of this year, and the Westerville Planning Commission is scheduled to hear from an applicant this month who wants to open a "Shampooch" dog grooming business in the now vacant storefront, said Westerville Senior Planner Bassem Bitar.
The current state of flux in Uptown isn't unusual for the historic business district, Bitar said, and the fact that so many types of businesses can find a home in Uptown show how versatile the area is.
"It's always interesting, and that's what makes a place like Uptown very interesting. ... Obviously these buildings have been here for a long time, and they're adaptable to all these different types of uses," Bitar said.