Downtown Tiffin has got it going on
Over the past year, Tiffin has seen many new businesses sprout up downtown.
Several young business owners have brought forth a new and exciting atmosphere to the downtown area, Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Rich Focht said during his quarterly report to Tiffin City Council March 18.
“In the downtown area, I think I’ve seen more new stores open up in the past year than I can remember in a long, long time,” Focht said. “Two of them that really stick out, that are significant, are Bailiwicks Coffee Co. and Phat Cakes. The reason I mention them is because they’re owned by young entrepreneurs, they’re very well run and they present a great atmosphere for shoppers. (These are) the kind of stores you like to see involved in your community.”
Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said it is good to have young business owners in the area, because they will have a longer investment in the community.
“It’s great seeing both people who have lived here for a while, and also people coming to the community like Zach (Harder) and Jessica (Williams) who started at Bailiwicks,” he said. “They’re not Tiffinites; they moved here from another community to bring their business here.”
Montz said more businesses are sprouting up around town because the economy is turning around and people are noticing the positive atmosphere that is going on at City Hall, SIEDC and Seneca Regional C hamber of Commerce and Visitor Services.
“It goes a long way to have that positive mentality and encouraging of businesses,” he said. “Every time we hear rumor or any information of a business considering Tiffin, we go
out and lay out the red carpet for them.”
He said he’s met with someone who is hoping to bring a fast-food chain to Tiffin at the end of this year or early 2014.
Montz said he has a meeting Monday with a business that is interested in the warehouse building on the Stalsworth property, located behind the former hotel.
“Tiffin has been wanting this restaurant for a long time,” he said.
One issue new business owners such as Williams from Bailiwicks and Wendy Welly from the soon-to-open Phoebe’s faced was working with Richland County to get their building up to code.
Richland County is under contract with Seneca County to do building inspections and enforce the state building code, City Engineer Curtis Eagle said.
He said businesses in Tiffin used to have to go through the state in order to get their building inspected, but now the city and county have contracted Richland to do the work.
Eagle said Richland has been easier and more convenient to work with than the state.
Montz said it would cost too much for the city to have its own plans examiner and building inspector.
“As much as it may be a hassle to go through Richland County, it’s a necessary evil,” he said.
Bailiwicks Coffee Co.
Last March, a family that came to Tiffin seven years ago finally achieved its dream of opening a coffee shop.
Bailiwicks Coffee Shop, at 62 S. Washington St., was years in the making for owners Jess and Travis Williams and Jess’ brother, Zach Harder.
“Our dream had always been to be downtown,” Williams said. “When we thought of a coffee shop and art gallery, I think of older architecture, older buildings. We didn’t want anything commercial, anything kind of cookie cutter.”
When the company was first getting approval for the building plans, Richland County rejected their initial plan, Jess Williams said.
“After you’ve been in a couple years of research and planning, and being told flat-out, ‘No, it’s not going to happen,’ I’d say that was a pretty large challenge,” Williams said. “We were able to go back and figure out what they needed for us to change. We were able to work with them to kind of create a compromise.”
After a year in business, Jess Williams said the shop continues to exceed expectations, and first-year sales exceeded its goal by 50 percent.
Bailiwicks offers several locally produced items such as photography and baked goods. It also hosts a variety of events and activies such as a poetry slam, jazz night, live music, and Jess Williams said they are looking to start an open mic and karaoke night.
“We want this to be a meeting group for people of all demographics, age groups and interests,” she said. “Our goal is to make this a place for the people of Tiffin to be proud of. We’d like to be as involved with the community as we possibly can.”
Phat Cakes and Cafe
After selling cakes from her house since 2009, Natalie Wertz brought her sweets to the downtown area in March 2012.
Phat Cakes and Cafe is at 45 S. Washington St. and shares a building with Bunky’s Bicycle Service.
“This was perfect because it was across the street from The Ritz and it was so neglected that it kind of needed some love, so we took it on,” Wertz said.
While Bunky’s opened in July 2011, Phat Cakes took a little longer to open because of the remodeling she had to do to the inside of the building, Wertz said.
She said it took about a year to put the building together, and dealing with the red tape was a challenge, as well.
In addition to cakes, Phat Cakes offers sandwiches, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies, homemade soups, hot-pressed paninis, salads, wraps, wine, craft beers and other items.
“We wanted to offer a lot more to downtown Tiffin if we were going to be here,” Wertz said. “Tiffin needs more than just cupcakes.”
Phat Cakes offers a German soup night and has a person come into the shop to make homemade breads. It also has beer and wine tastings and
has birthdays, live music and such events.
“Obviously, it’s just grown more than what I ever could’ve imagined,” she said. “People of Tiffin are really supporting us a lot more than I thought they would. It’s really nice to see they’re as excited as I am, and it keeps us excited.”
The biggest cake Phat Cakes has made was a 200-pound, 7 1/2-foot dragon cake for Tiffin University that served about 550 people, she said.
“It was a team of people back there, it was kind of like ‘Cake Wars’ or something,” Wertz said. “It was three days of non-stop work. It was definitely a little adventure.”
Bunky’s Bicycle Service
After more than a decade since his retail store closed in Tiffin, Mark Bunky brought back his bicycle service in July 2011.
The business is owned by Keith Comer and Tony Conolo and Bunky acts as the business’ operator and head mechanic.
“They’re friends of mine, and basically it provided me with a place and a business to do what I do,” he said. “What’s different about this one obviously it’s smaller and it’s more focused on repair and service work on the bicycles.”
Bunky said business has gone well at the new location, and he said he does repairs on all types of bicycles.
“There’s plenty of demand for the service work as long as department stores continue to sell a lower-quality bicycle that maybe doesn’t function as well,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to keep those things running.”
In addition to bike repairs, Bunky sells a newly designed adult comfort bike.
“It’s taken a hundred years for the bicycle industry to discover this position it’s kind of the sweet spot,” he said. “I encourage people to try them because it’s a different sensation. And most of the time when they try it, they realize it’s more comfortable than anything they’ve ever ridden.”
“A couple of times I’ve had opportunities to leave the area and do the same thing this is what I like to do in other places, but I didn’t want to leave Tiffin,” Bunky said. “This is where I want to stay. I hated driving back and forth to either Fremont of Findlay. I’m not much for riding in a car for any period of time, I’d rather be on the bicycle.”
Bunky’s offers community bike rides where people can join Bunky on a roughly 8-mile route around Tiffin, including on two bike trails. The ride is to take place Thursday nights at 7 and some Tuesdays at the same time, when the weather improves.
Line Drive Cards
After 22 years of business in the mini mall formerly known as Laird Arcade, Line Drive Sports Cards relocated its operation in December.
Owner Dan Fox said the transition from his old location to 112 S. Washinton St. has gone smoothly.
“I needed more room. I do a lot of gaming now – Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! – so I needed a place to set my people,” he said
He said the new location is bringing Line Drive more foot traffic.
“They’ve been playing this game for two years, and I finally found them about a month ago,” he said. “It’s helped quite a bit having a streetfront.”
He said business has improved since opening the new store, but the costs have risen also.
“I’ve always been down here (in downtown area),” he said. “I like it, it’s central. The Westgate out there, that’s nice but I don’t see a lot of kid traffic out there.”
Every Saturday, Line Drive hosts a Yu-Gi-Oh! event at 11:30 a.m. and a Magic tournament at 3:30 p.m.
Don’t Panic Tattoo
After two years of working for other tattoo shops, co-owner Tony Urbanik decided to start his own studio in downtown Tiffin.
Don’t Panic Tattoo Studio opened Jan. 17 at 257 S. Washington St., next to the Hunan King Chinese restaurant.
“I felt like doing my own thing,” Urbanik said. “I wanted my own business.”
Co-owner Kershuana Young said they looked around town and said downtown was the best location for a tattoo shop.
She said she and Urbanik took about a month redesigning the interior of the shop before opening.
In addition to tattoos, Don’t Panic offers body jewelry, after-care products and will be selling T-shirts in the future.
Best Break sister store ConnXtions offers downtown Tiffin a source of nutrition, said part-owner Maggie Powell.
ConnXtions, which shares a building with Red Raven tattoo shop, had its official grand opening Feb. 28. The business sells Herbal Life products, and customers can buy a “membership” for $5 which includes a shot of aloe, a tea and a shake.
“Herbal Life products are great because they can help people get nutrition,” she said. “We offer a healthy meal replacement. To get all the nutrition that’s in one of our shakes, you have to consume about 3,000 calories in different foods to equal all the nutrition we have in one shake.”
She said the shakes are about 180 calories and are full-balanced meals and are great for people who are looking to lose weight, gain weight, athletes and for people who are looking to be healthier.
“We wanted to open up downtown because there are a lot of businesses downtown, and this is a nice place for them to leave their offices, walk here and actually have a healthy meal alternative,” Powell said.
ConnXtions also offers activities such as 24 Fit Camp, which is a boot camp that helps people lose weight and get more active, she said. It also offers a zumba class, which is a workout similar to a Latin dance, and it plans to offer running and cycling clubs when the weather gets warmer.
ConnXtions also will offer a “clothes swap” for people to exchange clothes that no longer fit due weight loss.
Despite some setbacks, Phoebe’s hopes to open its doors April 8 and be the latest addition to downtown Tiffin, owner Wendy Welly said.
Phoebe’s, at 138 S. Washington St., will offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and other healthy food options.
It will be part storefront, which will offer many healthy food options, and part vegan deli, Welly said.
She said she experienced a recent setback in ordering a part for the business and the manufacturer did not ship the part as early as expected, but she still thinks she can open the store and deli by April 8.
She said there were many unforeseen issues and costs that went into starting the business, but she is excited to get started.
Welly said Phoebe’s will offer food for people with gluten intolerances and vegans, but will also have food for people who do not have such diet preferences and restrictions.
“I think the palates of both types of people will be satisfied,” she said.
Phoebe’s will expand its food options as it gets more established, she said.
“I looked around several areas in Tiffin, and I was drawn to the building itself,” Welly said. “The look of it and the feel of it. It had that historic look.”