The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Growth on verge, owners say, as Main Street hosts Mix & Mingle on Broadway Avenue
Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, small business owners and local government staff said downtown Lorain is poised for a new stage of growth.
On Oct. 5, Main Street Lorain hosted its first in-person Mix & Mingle Event of 2021. The gatherings went online during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, said Max Schaefer, executive director of the organization.
“The purpose of it really is to not only connect interested parties, business owners, property owners, organizations to connect them together, but it’s also to connect them with city government, with county government and to be able to understand really what’s available for them to invest in their business, to invest in their property,” she said.
“I’m really excited about what’s going on in Lorain.”
— Frederick J. Kerestory, a Lorain-based financial adviser for WestPoint Wealth Management
“To make downtown Lorain a little more attractive,” Schaefer said.
The Mix & Mingle is a program of the organization’s Economic Vitality Committee. It is one of four subgroups, with others handling organization, design and promotions.
Main Street Lorain hopes to present more gatherings in 2022, Schaefer said. There is more to talk about with topics such as the Lorain Port and Financing Authority’s financing ability and the city’s effort to create a National Register Historic District.
Schaefer added there was a side benefit: boosting Tuesday night business for Union Town Provisions, a locally owned restaurant at 422 Broadway that hosted the event.
Frederick J. Kerestory, a Lorain-based financial adviser for WestPoint Wealth Management, is chairman of the Economic Vitality Committee. He said he wanted to get involved to watch Lorain mature, evolve and grow.
A Pittsburgh native who lived in Chicago and Mentor as a youth, Kerestory said he fully understands what happens when a steel town declines.
Over time, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself. “I know that kind of stuff can happen here too,” he said.
Much of what exists now in downtown Lorain was not there in 2014, Kerestory said. And the city’s geography along Lake Erie helps, he said, citing available waterfront access, or lack of it, in other communities on Ohio’s shoreline.
“I’m really excited about what’s going on in Lorain,” he said. “Lorain is so well positioned for a waterfront place to go. This is cool and if all the stuff happens the right way, holy cow. Like, holy cow.”
The night included a formal presentation from city and Lorain County staff who talked about business development programs available.
Lorain’s Building, Housing and Planning Department has an open application period now for a small business development program that offers up to $15,000 in forgivable loans for storefront businesses and up to $10,000 for homebased businesses, said Hannah Kiraly, city program manager for economic development, public service and community projects.
Next year the city will launch a storefront renovation program with loans up to $50,000 for facade improvements. The sign-up period could start in late November or early December, Kiraly said.
Lorain County wants to be a partner in the growth of downtown Lorain, said Nathasha Cresap, economic development specialist with the county’s Community Development Department.
She encouraged the members to use the city and county departments as resources to solve problems. Other resources include Main Street Lorain, the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center at Lorain County Community College.
“Please make sure you’re spreading the word, please do not hesitate to reach out to us because the whole point of us being here is to serve you,” Cresap said. She and county Economic Development Specialist Joshua Bender had folders with informational brochures about the programs available.
The attendees included fashion designer Jevon Terance. His studio at 615 Broadway grew from his downtown Lorain pop-up shop in November 2012.
Then, Terance said he predicted it would take about 10 years for everything to come together for downtown Lorain. It’s happening now.
“People came and went, but I think everything is starting to have a foundation now,” Terance said. “It’s pretty cool. And I’m glad I stuck it out.”
There have been temptations to move to a larger fashion capital, he said.
“At the end of the day I love my family and being a designer here, and with our internship program, showing kids you can still be here and be successful,” Terance said. “All of that’s coming together and it’s really great to see.”