Didn’t that all go away when the Ohio Valley Mall opened? Like, back in the 1980s?
It is true economic decline took place in the Friendly City and throughout the Upper Ohio Valley when businesses moved away from downtown districts at a time when the population was dwindling and the remaining consumers preferred flashy and fresh retail developments.
That seems to be changing, ironically, in one of Wheeling’s oldest neighborhoods, and the more dollars expended tomorrow during Small Business Saturday in Centre Market, the more capital improvements can be made to impact positively the overall quality of life within the municipality.
“The trickle-down theory is usually villainized and most of the time for good reason, but that’s exactly what happened when people shop locally because it keeps those dollars right here in the city of Wheeling and in the Upper Ohio Valley,” explained Kurt Zende, an economic development specialist for the city of Wheeling and the Centre Market manager. “The more that is spent here in Wheeling means more money is going to be spent throughout the city, and that also means more tax revenue for our municipal government. and that means we can take care of what government is supposed to take care of.
“The more we spend in the city, the better the city is going to be for economic development in the future. That’s how it all works, and people will realize it if they really think about it,” he continued. “I have always been a big advocate of improving the aesthetics of a city because improving the appearance and the overall atmosphere always leads to more and more. The aesthetics is truly an economic development component because it is tied to the quality of life in a community. The way business is done now is benefitting the city of Wheeling because it’s now tied to the incentives and with the quality of schools, safety, infrastructure, and having shopping districts like Centre Market. It all plays into attracting another Orrick or Williams Lea or a Health Plan. It makes a big difference, and when people shop locally, they help make things improve overall for everyone.”
And it doesn’t hurt that, on top of the art, antique, clothing, wine, and bookshops that have operated in the area the past few years, Centre Market is now home to a pair of new stores with which Zende has been impressed.
“We now have a great mix of shops that are somewhat the same but also a little bit different,” he said. “And we have two new businesses that have opened including Enchanted Gifts and Accents. Both of those new shops have a lot to offer local shoppers as well our visitors, and what they offer is really quality merchandise.
“And then when you add all of the other businesses that have been there for a number of years, it really makes for a pretty awesome selection for those interested to shop this Saturday and any other day of the week except for Sunday,” Zende said. “And another great thing about the business owners we have in Centre Market is that they all are so knowledgeable about the products they sell,” he explained. “But the best part, at least for me, is that we have the old-time atmosphere. I don’t know how else to describe it other than it’s just like it used to be.”
Dining locally, he added, produces exactly the same benefits, and the Center Wheeling historic district just so happens to be the home to a variety of eateries. The Lebanon Bakery, the Hall of Fame Café, Later Alligator, Vocelli’s, Centre Cup Coffee, the Wheeling Brewing Company, and The Market Vines all are located near the market houses, and The Soup Shack, Oliver’s Pies, Coleman’s Fish Market, Osaka, Valley Cheese, and Michael’s Beef House rest inside the structures.
“Where else can you go that has mom-and-pop-style restaurants with such great food? And that goes for the places inside the two market houses and our eateries that are outside along the streets,” Zende said. “There are so many different kinds of foods that are served in the Centre Market area, and that’s because the restaurants really do complement each other.
“It’s all different, and now there are enough restaurants so the crowds aren’t too huge,” he said. “Everyone does great, but just a few years ago, when people used to come down, the few restaurants we had were so crowded that a lot of people could never get in because they couldn’t wait to get that sandwich for lunch because they only had an hour. That’s why I tell people that I think we could use a few more eateries in Centre Market.”
Zende reported that by the beginning of December the entire Centre Market area will be decorated more than it’s ever been before for the holiday season, and additional décor is in the works, too. Already the city has placed white lights in the trees lining Market Street and Lane B, and on Dec. 2, weather permitting, horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered, and the legendary “Talking Christmas Tree” will welcome visitors in the courtyard between the market houses.
But are there great sales?
Like on Black Friday?
Like the big-box retailers offer?
“All of the businesses are doing their own thing to draw people to the area, and they have Facebook pages and websites,” explained Zende. “As far as specials, that’s up to them, but from what I have seen, there are so many neat things to buy at those shops that I expect the day to be pretty busy for all of them.
“And one of the reasons why it’s a popular place to visit is a really unique environment that you really can’t get anywhere else in this valley area because it’s an old-fashioned shopping district,” he continued. “And when they come down on Saturday or on any day of the month of December, they will see that we have placed lights in all of the trees, and we’ll be adding more and more decorations to make it as festive as we can.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)