New businesses breathing life into existing ones in downtown Warren

Mary Elston, co-owner of Beautiful Whirl’d on downtown Warren’s Courthouse Square, makes smoothies at the store she and two others invested in as revitalization in the downtown area really begins to take shape. The area has a mix of established and new businesses that are ushering in the resurgence. Tribune Chronicle photos / Raymond L. Smith

WARREN — Longtime businesses around Courthouse Square are optimistic that new businesses will help in the long-term revitalization of the downtown.

Tom Crowley, owner of Tom Crowley Jewelry Shop, 168 N. Park Ave., who has operated jewelry stores in the downtown area for more than 30 years, has been through the square’s ups and downs.

“There’s a sense of excitement about what is happening today,” Crowley said. “New businesses and already existing businesses are growing as more people are coming downtown.”

When Crowley moved to the city, he was part of Gene’s Jewelers, 112 N. Park Ave., until it closed about three years ago. He opened his own jewelry and repair shop, eventually moving into the North Park Avenue spot a little more than two years ago.

“I looked at other locations, but I figured that all roads lead to downtown Warren,” Crowley said. “I have older customers who are surprised to learn I’m still downtown and new people who come in to look at jewelry when they attend TAG shows or are going to Nova Coffee.”

Pat Galgozy, executive director of Trumbull Art Gallery, which has been in Warren for more than 62 years, said its location at 158 N. Park Ave. is a place for the arts organization to continue growing. TAG’s building has 4,000 square feet on the the first floor and 4,000 square feet in the building’s basement.

“Downtown has been progressing in so many ways,” Galgozy said. “The positive changes we’re now seeing downtown is because people are working together to make sure changes are being done.”

Sara Daugherty, director of operations and economic impact at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, 125 W. Market St., said the organization has 13 portfolio companies and three non-energy companies.

“We are the only business incubator in the state that focuses on energy companies,” she said. “We have entrepreneurs with bachelor’s and master’s degrees looking to begin businesses.

“They are using the restaurants and other businesses, not only on the square, but outside of it,” she said. “We are hoping to make this more pedestrian friendly, drawing different kinds of people.”

Artistics Silk Screenings, 179 W. Market St., has been open for 10 years, said owner Tim Drummond. The shop provides personalized silk-screened T-shirts and other products.

“This has been the biggest surge of business in the years I’ve been here,” said Drummond, who said he expects the cycle of business growth to take root.

“I believe there is still a lot of physical work to be done,” Drummond said. “We need to get together as a business community to determine what we want. We need to work with the city to see what is being done and what it can do in the future.”

Mark Marvin, who is among those leading the charge of the downtown resurgence, said he wanted to make an investment in the place he was born and raised.

“There is a new group of young adults out here,” Marvin said. “They are moving back into the downtown area and creating a different scene. They don’t want to drive or do yard work.”

“We developed 10 condominiums, immediately sold them,” Marvin said. “Two, unfortunately, did not go through. We are expecting to place them back on the market soon.”

Charlene Butcher, whose CharBenay’s Wine on the River, 220 W. Market St., opened its doors earlier this month, said the winery is a dream come true.

“I’ve been dreaming of opening a winery for about 25 years,” Butcher said. “I wanted to open one in Champion, but when Mark Marvin presented the opportunity to come move into here, I could not pass this up.

“My goal is to make this a place that people from other cities drive to Warren just to enjoy our products and the entertainment,” she said.

West & Main Restaurant, 187 W. Market St., was set to open this month, but has run into a problem because of a disagreement with the city’s building department, and now expects to open sometime before Labor Day.

“We will be a full-service restaurant with a full bar,” Andrew Puharich, its house manager, said.

Donald and Michelle Beauchene opened Blush Spa & Gift Boutique, 169 W. Market St., in August 2017 to offer relaxation and be a part of the revitalization of the downtown area.

“I always wanted a business in downtown Warren,” she said. “All of the stories my adopted mother used to tell me was about her childhood were centered around going to different stores, seeing movies at Robins Theatre, and participating in other activities happening here.”

Already making different essential oils for their children, Michelle convinced Donald it was time to open a business. The couple started with four types of oils, but today they make 40.

“When we started, downtown was already on an upward trajectory,” Michelle said. “Today, we are providing different services, including salt therapy, massages, facials, application of professional makeup, tanning and other services.”

Mary and Clint Elston, along with Mary McNulty, opened Beautiful Whirl’d, 141 W. Market St., a smoothie and juice bar, three years ago in the walk-through between Market Street and David Grohl Alley.

“We started with four smoothies and four wraps,” Mary Elston said. “Today, we have 17 to 18 smoothies and a variety of wraps and other sandwiches. We believe in serving healthy foods and being environmentally friendly.”

Elston said they saw the city was on the cusp of turning around when they decided to invest in the business.

“People have been very supportive of what we’re trying to do,” Elston said. “We eventually want to franchise this idea to other locations.”