Business owners like Marilyn Kuntzman enjoy camaraderie in the friendly Carnation City.
Slowly, surely, downtown Alliance is coming back to life. The 1-mile section of E. Main Street, just steps from the bucolic University of Mount Union campus, is reinventing itself as the go-to place for items that can’t be found in your average mall.
For typical retail, State Street is booming with new chain restaurants, car dealers, banks, grocery stores and shopping centers such as Carnation Mall, Kohl’s, Westwood Square and the Marketplace.
But those in search of something different have to head downtown. From antique shops, to a rare-book store, to a cheesecake bakery, to a museum celebrating cats, the offbeat, the interesting and the downright quirky can be found in shops that occupy both sides of Main Street.
Marilyn Kuntzman and her eldest son opened Main Street Memories Flea Market at 464 E. Main Street five years ago.
“We’ve always sold antiques. It’s kind of in our blood,” said Kuntzman, who runs the store with daughter-in-law Tessa. “We saw this was a good place to build up a business. We’re really into repurposing, giving new life to things.”
“We liked a lot of the structures down here,” Tessa said, noting that their building once was occupied by Diana’s Dress Shop.
Main Street Memories also offers space to 45 other vendors on a consignment basis. The store also has out-of-state customers, courtesy of social media, Kuntzman said.
The Kuntzmans also maintain a tiny convenience store for residents of a senior-housing apartment complex located just across the street.
“This is a friendly, peaceful community,” Marilyn Kuntzman said. “The businesses down here promote one another. If I don’t have something, I’ll recommend another business that does have it.”
One of downtown’s newest occupants is the elegant Paris Marketplace, a community art gallery and vintage/collectibles retailer at 355 E. Main Street. It was opened in June by Dr. Fredlee Votaw, a professional artist and instructor, and Marianne Roesti May, an artist and poet.
“We’re trying to make it (downtown) into an arts district,” May said.
Paris Marketplace, which is housed in a circa-1910 former hardware building, also offers consignment items by 12 contributing artists and art and craft classes. James Wardle is an instructor.
Votaw said items are acquired through flea markets and anywhere potential treasures can be found.
May said they also maintain a “pickers list,” which they use to keep an eye out for items customers have requested.
Troll Hole Art Emporium
It holds the Guiness World Record for the largest collection of troll dolls. No, really. Founder Sherry Groom’s lifelong collection boasts more than 3,500 of the little dolls. The Troll Hole, which has waterfalls and a sculpture garden, offers a self-guided tour with information about trolls’ mythological history.
Cat Fanciers Foundation & Feline Historical Museum
The organization was founded in New Jersey in 1990 and opened its first permanent home in Alliance in 2010. Housed in a former bank building, the museum showcases educational and research material about the history of cats and cat breeds. It also features an extensive collection of cat figurines and artwork from the estate of Wilton E. Wheeldon and her mother, Gladys J. Wheeldon, and a cat house designed in 1954 by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
The art gallery—featuring a live-music venue and gourmet food—draws patrons from across the county. Love music? Hear it here live. Make music? Jupiter has a recording studio ready to lay down your tracks.
Teresa Burkett opened up shop in 1989. In addition to her specialty cheesecakes, the bakery also offers artistic and creative all-occasion cakes, including wedding cakes.
Parks & Rec
Downtown Alliance boasts two small parks. The first, Freedom Square Park, built for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, features life-size bronze statues and etched stones honoring the city’s war dead, going back to the Civil War, a memorial to three Alliance police officers who were killed in the line of duty and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who visited the city in 1861. The second, Arch & Main Park, sits at the intersection of Arch and E. Main streets.
For train enthusiasts, Rob’s is the go-to place for authentic artifacts from trains and railroads, and for model and toy-train supplies and merchandise.
For 56 years, Alliance has held its annual Greater Alliance Carnation Festival, a 10-day affair with more than 30 events, including two parades.
The festival—held annually since 1960—celebrates Alliance’s role as the birthplace of the state flower, the scarlet carnation.
According to Alliance’s Rodman Public Library: In 1866, an Alliance politician Dr. Levi L. Lamborn began growing the flowers from French seedlings. In 1876, Lamborn ran against William McKinley for Congress, and presented the future president with a boutonniere of his carnations before each debate. McKinley adopted the flower as his good-luck charm—wearing one at all times while president. In 1901, just after giving the flower in his lapel to a young admirer, McKinley was assassinated. Ohio named the scarlet carnation the state flower in 1904 and Alliance the “Carnation City” in 1959.
Annual events include a three-day rib fest, kids sporting events, ice cream socials, a used book sale and historic tours. A Carnation Queen is crowned at the beginning of the festival.
Carnation Days in the Park is held at Silver Park. Alliance organizations operate food stands, local artisans sells crafts, and different events are held every night including a balloon lift-off, musical entertainment and fireworks.
Mail with style
Adjacent to the Arch Street park is the city’s main post office, which has been restored to its original 1916 splendor. Walking into its lobby is like stepping back a century. It features inlaid ceilings, glass walls, original ceiling lamps, a glass-and-brass lion’s head writing table and radiator-style heaters.
Dearly Departed Books
Here you can find rare, antique and hard-to-find books, maps and old TV and film posters. But the store doesn’t keep regular hours. In fact, the sign reads: “Open By Appointment. Or Chance.”
Ride the rails
Like a pulse, trains rumble along the northeastern edge of downtown like clockwork. Alliance is the only city in Stark County that has an Amtrak station. In homage to the community’s history as a train hub, bicycle racks shaped like locomotives stand sentry along the sidewalks. Other than Akron, Alliance might have the only area downtown that has an actual caboose on display. Why? Why not?
56 years of community theater at its finest thanks to the CARNATION CITY PLAYERS at Firehouse Theater
Small community, big symphony: pops, holiday and Mozart all from the ALLIANCE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA