Uptown Main Page - Click here for The Original Uptown Website

Gallery 202, Partners in Art, Inc. Website

The original articles can be found with a picture at This Week.... www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/westerville/stories/2009/12/02/1203wvuptown-business_ln.html

Amish Original - 1st part of a 5 part series:http://www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/westerville/stories/2009/12/02/1203wvamish-orig_ln.html

Encircle - 2nd part of a 5 part series:http://www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/westerville/stories/2009/12/09/1210wvencircle_ln.html

Pasquales - 3rd part of a 5 part: http://www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/westerville/stories/2009/12/16/1217wvpaquales_ln.html?type=rss&cat=&sid=104

Gallery 202 - 4th part of a 5 part - http://www.thisweeknews.com/live/content/westerville/stories/2009/12/23/1224wvuptown-gallery_ln.html?type=rss&cat=&sid=104

Businesses bring a new feel to Uptown

Wednesday,December 2, 2009 3:10 PM By JENNIFER NESBITT ThisWeek Staff Writer

The atmosphere has changed in Uptown Westerville over the last few years as more and more independent business owners open shops peddling a variety of goods and wares.

"Uptown continues to try to get out from under the impression that it's just three little blocks of antique shops," said Kriss Rogers, president of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association and owner of Outside Envy, which specializes in home and garden dcor. "There's all kinds of eclectic businesses."

Many of Uptown's cornerstone businesses, such as the Dj Vu consignment store, Amish Originals Furniture Co. and the Uptown Pharmacy, still serve customers. But over the years, new businesses have moved in, offering a variety of novel retail opportunities, such as The Blue Turtle Tea and Spice Co., Encircle and the Uptown Cigar Co.

Coffee shops abound, but Rogers said each offers a different experience.

"There's so much personality up here," she said. "I think of Uptown Westerville as our very own eclectic shopping mall."

Westerville City Council chairwoman Diane Fosselman said there are traditional elements that draw people to Uptown: the historical feel of preserved streets and buildings, as well as building signs, street signs, benches and flowers.

In addition to that atmosphere, Fosselman said the main draw to Uptown is the newfound variety offered by the locally owned businesses.

"As far as shopping goes, you can find things in Uptown that you can't find any place else," Fosselman said. "All of that just helps create this atmosphere of 'community-minded' and just gives people a real positive sense about Westerville."

And Uptown is continuing to draw businesses as well as shoppers. As businesses move out, new ones line up to take their spots, Rogers said.

"Right now, we have the problem of finding open storefronts on State Street," she said.

What makes Uptown in demand in addition to the mix of businesses and the historical feel, Rogers said, is the supportive community, from residents who shop Uptown to business groups and city leaders who band together to support the business district.

"You can't invent this stuff," Rogers said. "It's been here for a long while."

Jeff Hartnell, executive director of the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau, said those partnerships among businesses, community groups and city leaders have led to the shift in Uptown's atmosphere over the last few years.

"It's unbelievable the effort has gone to (revitalize) the energy behind this Uptown area," Hartnell said. "I'm so overwhelmed with what's happened the last three years that I've been here."

In addition to attracting new businesses headed by passionate entrepreneurs, Hartnell said the shift has drawn more people to Uptown in his three-year tenure at the visitors and convention bureau.

When he first took over his post, he said Uptown events put on by the bureau had an average attendance of fewer than 1,000 people. Now, he said the bureau's summertime Fourth Friday events host around 100 vendors and attract an average of around 6,000 patrons. "All of this has brought a brand new energy to the community," Hartnell said.

"This is a great community. This Uptown district is full of energy. It's full of new things." That energy gives Uptown Westerville the edge over the many historical suburban shopping districts around central Ohio, he said.

"I wouldn't trade our Uptown area for any of them," Hartnell said. "It's really an amazing area." jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com

Amish Originals finds home in city's Uptown

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:12 PM By JENNIFER NESBITT

This story is the first in a five-part series examining what makes Uptown Westerville unique and highlighting selected businesses there.

Amish Originals Furniture Co. has been peddling heavy, handmade, wooden furniture in Uptown for 17 years.

The store has expanded three times, first adding wings to each side of its original location at 8 N. State. St., then adding an additional location at 38 N. State St.

"We just ran out of room, I guess," owner Doug Winbigler said of the expansions. "I think we're done now."

Winbigler said he opened his furniture store in 1992 with encouragement from his father, who owns a lumber yard in Ashland County. At the time, Amish men in the area were beginning to make and sell furniture.

"It was my dad's idea to open here," said Winbigler, who was working for The Limited at the time and was looking for a new career opportunity.

Uptown Westerville was chosen because Winbigler said he liked the hometown feel of the area. "We were raised near a small town," he said.

"We were drawn to the charm, the look of (Westerville)." The location was secured when Winbigler spotted a "for rent" sign in a storefront window.

"It was serendipitous, I guess," he said. "It all just fell into place as we worked on it."

Since then, the furniture store has thrived, selling office furniture and tables at the original location and bedroom furniture at the store farther north up State Street.

Amish Originals attracts shoppers from surrounding communities to Uptown, Winbigler said, and customers visiting the store have shipped purchases to many points across the state and country. International businessmen working in central Ohio also have shipped items to Europe and Asia.

Winbigler said he believes the shop has been a good fit for Uptown Westerville because its sturdy, Ohio-made products sold in an independently owned business speaks to people's values.

"The values of our products are consistent with the values of the community," he said.

The store also does well, he said, because in 17 years, the business has become part of the community, supporting local schools and community groups.

The employees, who are trained to not pressure customers into buying items, also attract return customers.

"We're successful because we've been blessed with the people who work here," Winbigler said. "Nobody's ever going to push. No one's on commission. We still run this like a small-town store. I think that's why we fit in."

With the success that he and other business owners and Uptown have seen, he said he still knows his business depends on local customers. "If the community enjoys Uptown, they need to support Uptown," Winbigler said.

Even if residents don't buy anything, he encourages them to head to the Uptown area to browse the many stores.

So far, he said, he has found widespread support in the community, seeing local customers return when they're ready to make new furniture purchases.

"We still see our very first customers from the first year we were here," Winbigler said. "We have the same people in here every year, every two years."

Community support leads to success for Encircle

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 12:48 PM By JENNIFER NESBITT ThisWeek Staff Writer

This story is the second in a five-part series examining what makes Uptown Westerville unique and highlighting selected businesses there.

When Amy Heath purchased The Bibelot Shop, an American craft gallery in Uptown Westerville, she knew she was taking a leap.

"I saw The Bibelot Shop for sale, and I just did it -- a leap of faith," said Heath, who was then employed as a case worker.

In the seven years since, Heath has turned The Bibelot Shop into Encircle, 30 N. State St., which she expanded into two Uptown storefronts two years ago.

She said she credits the Westerville community with making her business, along with the many others in Uptown, successful.

"It's definitely the people in Westerville," Heath said. "They want to support downtown. They're always up here."

The two stores in one at Encircle sell only American-made craft goods. One

Some of the artists presented in the store are holdovers from its days as The Bibelot Shop, Heath said. But she said she's modernized and brought in works by many new artists. Some artists whose work Encircle sells work on a larger scale, she said, but some are local artists whose work she sells on consignment.

Which items are the biggest sellers for the stores changes with the seasons, Heath said. As the holiday approaches and the winter chill begins to set in, she said candles and sweaters become the hot items.

"It's cyclical. It's always changing," she said. "Sometimes it's jewelry and sometimes it's pottery and sometimes it's glass."

One thing that doesn't change is the type of items available in her store, Heath said. She said all are meant to be works of art that are high-quality, useful and affordable.

"I really focus on quality and cost," Heath said. "I focus on functional art pieces of good quality that are affordable."

Heath said Uptown Westerville has been the right place for her shop because of the small-town feel and the support she sees from the customers.

"Uptown Westerville is very nice, and I love, love Westerville," she said. "The people in Westerville are wonderful, and they support their downtown. It's like a small town, but we're in the city."

The support of customers is growing, Heath said, as is evident from people determined to shop locally during the recession, even if they're spending less and purchasing smaller items.

"We're getting a lot of people this year saying, 'We don't want to shop in the mall any more,'" Heath said. "(The recession's) not hitting us that hard. There's certainly a difference, but it's not that hard."


Pasquale's keeps family tradition in Uptown Westerville

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:51 PM By JENNIFER NESBITT ThisWeek Staff Writer

Editor's note: This story is the third in a five-part series examining what makes Uptown Westerville unique and highlighting selected businesses there.

When Sylvia Francisco wanted to retire from her job as a baker and cake decorator with Kroger, her husband decided to help her open her own restaurant in Uptown Westerville.

Twenty-two years into their venture, Pasquale's Pizza & Pasta, 14 N. State St., is still going strong and prides itself on being the oldest independent restaurant in Uptown.

"We're the old goats of Uptown," Jim Francisco said. "We've been here the longest."

The restaurant got its start in 1988, opening in a small storefront on Main Street, formerly called Alley Pizza. Sylvia Francisco filled the menu with family recipes and recipes she took from her time working at her aunt's pizza shop on Morse Road.

The popularity of the homemade pasta, pizzas and desserts took off, leading the restaurant to gradually increase its size.

"Little by little, we started expanding the little hole in the wall that Alley was," Jim Francisco said.

The Franciscos began by adding 50 seats, then a 25-seat party room. Last year, they expanded to 115 seats and created a prominent entrance on State Street.

In its 22 years in Uptown, Pasquale's also has seen Westerville make the transition from being a traditionally "dry" town to one where alcohol can legally be sold and served.

The restaurant began serving beer and wine in 2006, though Francisco said he was hesitant to seek a liquor option for his business.

"I thought we'd lose our family business by putting beer and wine in," he said.

The result, however, was that Pasquale's began seeing its typical family crowd around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. with a later crowd of people looking to enjoy drinks with their dinners around 8 p.m.

"It's still kept that family atmosphere but gave us another influx of later customers," he said.

Francisco said he believes Pasquale's family atmosphere has kept the restaurant a success in Uptown.

His own family plays a big part in creating that atmosphere. Though the restaurant began as an outlet for his wife, Francisco began working there after he retired, and their two children, Lisa and Anthony, have become active in restaurant operations.

"The family's been with it the whole way," he said. "Now I have grandkids busing tables, so I guess it's going to stay a family restaurant."

The resurgence of foot traffic to Uptown, for which Francisco gives credit to the city, the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association, also has helped the restaurant.

"You could see Uptown Westerville was turning into a nonentity. There just wasn't a lot of Uptown traffic," he said. "All of a sudden, it just became a diverse Uptown market, which creates traffic."

And of course, he said, his wife, Sylvia, gets much of the credit for the restaurant's success, since it's her cooking that keeps customers coming back.

"She still makes, to this day: The pasta's homemade, the sauce is made every day, the meatballs are homemade, the bread is homemade," Francisco said. "And people know, they can taste the difference."

Uptown gallery is not defined by its space
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 2:39 PM
ThisWeek Staff Writer

Editor's note : This story is the fourth in a five-part series examining what makes Uptown Westerville unique and highlighting selected businesses there.

Gallery 202, found on the second floor of 38 N. State St., isn't bound by its four walls, said Renee Kropat, owner of the nonprofit gallery and art center.

"I enjoy doing community art. I enjoy being out in the community," Kropat said. "For art, it isn't the space you're in; it's the whole community."

Because of Kropat's mission to be a community art initiative, Gallery 202 has worked to be part of Westerville in many ways.

Gallery 202 artists have painted banners to line poles on State Street. Kropat has led the painting of several murals around the city, which involve her outlining an image and allowing any interested community members to join in to paint and finish the final work.

One of the gallery's projects, Wild Women Wander Westerville, partners with Uptown businesses to take a group of women on a tour of those stores. The women then socialize in the gallery during a silent auction to benefit the gallery.

Kropat also founded the Saturday Uptown Market, featuring arts, crafts and fresh farm products, in 2009 and plans to continue it next summer.

She opened Gallery 202 in 2005, about a year after she founded the nonprofit Partners in Art Inc.

Previously, she operated a for-profit gallery in Uptown, which she closed in 2001 after a seven-year run.

Kropat said she opened another gallery on the urging of people she knew, but she refused to return to a for-profit operation.

"A for-profit gallery is a lot of hard work. I had kind of given up the gallery thing," Kropat said.

In addition to going out into the community, she aims to pull the community into her gallery, offering art camps for children, classes for adults, team-building workshops for businesses, classes for Girl Scouts, special contests and rental space for events, among other things.

Throughout the year, Gallery 202 also offers special events and contests

Works by local artists of all types, including those in classes in Westerville schools, are displayed in the space. A gift shop also offers items made by local artists.

"It's important that we're not just a lone gallery, that we work with the schools, that we work with the community," Kropat said. "It's much more fun that way."

And all of the programs Kropat offers are aimed at making sure participants have fun and to teach people the importance of all levels of art.

"I think too often, art is considered elitist," Kropat said. "I think there's a continuum. I think it's important that people realize that refrigerator art is just as important as the high-end, million-dollar art."

Above all, she said, her goal with the gallery is to get people to appreciate and participate in art, regardless of their levels of experience.

"We all think we have a standard we need to reach," Kropat said. "We need to tell our own stories. If we don't tell them, who will?"






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