Teeny, tiny little sweet downtown Hartville has its admirers in Megan Wise and Christa Kozy.
Historic downtown Hartville is undergoing a revival, but it’s not neglecting its past. Nestled among more-than-a-century-old buildings along Prospect, Mill and Maple streets, downtown is packed with creativity, from artists who restore vintage furniture to chocolatiers.
About 75 artists are currently represented in downtown Hartville, said Christa Kozy, president of the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce.
Four or five years ago, it was a different story. While longtime core businesses—including the 100-plus-year-old Hartville Elevator, the Hartville Chocolate Factory and the Maple Street Gallery—continued to anchor downtown, others closed up shop and left, said Megan Wise, who runs Best Bib and Tucker with her mom, Barb.
Those empty storefronts once again are filling with local businesses.
“There’s something about (downtown). It’s sweet, it’s friendly. It’s just good stuff,” Wise said.
Wise is also the Chamber’s marketing and tourism chairman. Her family has owned the shop, which specializes in women’s consignment, for about 16 years but made the move to downtown Hartville two years ago.
“We really love being here. It’s such a fun place to be,” Wise said.
Other businesses weren’t far behind. The Wises created an active merchants group, giving business owners a way to communicate and collaborate on new projects and events downtown.
Those collaborations have led to the creation of Second Saturday, a street fest held during the summer months, and new ideas for Hartville’s annual winter Evening in the Village event.
“The addition of new restaurants—a Hartville couple recently opened a Peace, Love & Little Donuts franchise—is making downtown even more of a destination by giving folks a place to meet friends or just sit and relax,” Kozy said.
“Now that we’re getting some food and things like that it’s becoming a complete picture.”
The Chamber and business owners are hoping to boost tourism traffic to downtown.
It’s right between two of Lake Township’s big tourist draws—Maize Valley Farm and shopping meccas Hartville Hardware/the Hartville MarketPlace—but it’s much quieter than your typical urban downtown, with more niche businesses, Wise said.
“We’re not a city downtown. It’s a village … It’s just a teeny, tiny little sweet downtown,” she said.
Bus tours that stop downtown have helped bring in new customers. Kozy and Wise also collaborate on a blog, discoverhartville.com, that promotes tourism and events in all of Lake Township, including happenings downtown.
Hartville also is hoping to bring more residents downtown, promoting the area as a place for young professionals and families to live.
Many people, Kozy included, already live downtown, she said, but there’s potential for much more housing.
Downtown is walkable, it’s close to parks and schools; and it’s great for cyclists—it’s a great place to live, she said.
A group of architecture students from Kent State University completed an eight-month project in which they studied downtown Hartville and came up with possibilities for downtown, Kozy said.
Some of those ideas included preserving the historic feed mill and converting some of that space into apartments.
The goal isn’t to have new developments downtown but to breathe new life into some old ones, bringing together past and future.
“It’s still going to have that old-fashioned, sweet, town feel to it. That’s what’s key,” Wise said.
Best Bib and Tucker
Best Bib And Tucker isn’t your typical consignment shop. Run by a mother-daughter team, the shop features women’s, juniors’ and maternity clothing ranging from casual jeans and tops to formal wear, as well as accessories, shoes and bags. A handmade market showcases the work of more than 20 artists who make a variety of items including cards, soaps, hats, scarves and
jewelry. The store, which moved into downtown about two years ago, also hosts workshops on topics such as scarf tying and matching lipstick colors.
Hartville Chocolate Factory
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you don’t want to pass up the Hartville Chocolate Factory, which has been a downtown spot for nearly 30 years. The shop features gourmet chocolates (including homemade marshmallows and a massive buckeye candy bar), alongside candy-making supplies, gifts, Ohio-made products and, of course, lots of candy. Buy a treat for yourself or a friend, or stop by in the summer for ice cream in a chocolate-dipped cone. The store also offers custom-made chocolate bars and sculptures.
For more than 100 years, Hartville Elevator has been a downtown mainstay. The shop, founded in 1909, has your outdoor needs covered as a combination lawn and garden shop, farm supply store and feed store. The business also carries a variety of seeds, a new line of organic chicken feed and pet supplies. Nearly everything in stock is from the U.S. and as much as possible is sourced in Ohio. Its iconic yellow-painted building, which advertises some of the brands it carries on a mural wall, is updated periodically and soon will sport a design celebrating Lake Township’s centennial next year.
Maple Street Gallery
Nestled in a former train station that dates to 1881, Maple Street Gallery combines its historical past with today’s art. The gallery, which opened in 2002, sells works from hundreds of artists, ranging from paintings and pottery to jewelry and gifts. The gallery retains many historical elements including railroad memorabilia. A 1924 passenger train car serves as owner John Tarzan’s custom framing shop, and customers can take a seat inside. The car is also open during special events.
Peace, Love and Little Donuts
One of downtown’s newest businesses, Peace, Love and Little Donuts, has had a sweet welcome. The shop, which opened in August, is packed most Saturday mornings with customers lining up for donuts and coffee. The shop makes its signature little donuts to order in flavors ranging from traditional, such as powdered sugar, to funky, such as key lime pie and s’more. On a busy day, you can watch the donuts frying on an assembly line on the front counter. The shop also serves a place to sit and rest after a long morning downtown, with plenty of seating inside and out.
Second Saturday brings the Hartville community together downtown for an afternoon of food, live music, art and surprises. The monthly summer festival, held on the second Saturday of the month from June through September, wrapped up its second year in 2015. This past summer included a community sidewalk sale in June, the resurrection of Hartville’s Old Fashioned Day in July, a kid-oriented day in August and “Craft Around the Block,” which featured a handmade market and various make and take crafts, in September. Organizers are already gearing up for another summer of fun in 2016.
Combining the unique visions of several artists, Modern Vintage is packed with handmade and vintage furniture, home decor and other treasures. The collaborative shop, which opened in 2012, has six local in-store artists plus several consignors. Each in-house artist mans the shop one day a week and has his own section of the store, giving each area of the shop a unique feel. The store also hosts hands-on workshops.
A Niche in Time
A Niche in Time has made a piece of Stark County history a central part of its store: The counter and part of its decor is made from the porch of the old Hoover Farm House. The shop, which opened in April, is one of the newest tenants. It features antique, vintage and consigned items from several artists, including handcrafted jewelry, pottery and up-cycled creations.
Two E’s in a Pod
Aiming to give parents a boutique shopping experience without boutique prices, Two E’s in A Pod offers new and gently-used, high-quality kids and maternity clothing, as well as equipment, toys, accessories and books. The shop also features an “Artisan Pod” with handmade items from local artists and designers.
Shoppers can pick up favorite items in the store or buy them online at twoesinapod.com.
Unique, THEMED POP-UP EVENTS devoted to handmade crafts, art, music, food and more—learn more about events and other things to do at discoverhartville.com.