By Mayor Jim Forthofer
Korean fried chicken, facials, ballet shoes and coffee.
You have heard me say it before. I believe that commercial and light industrial enterprises developed in the east end of town are critical to Vermilion’s future. We have had some initial success. With this success comes new jobs and an expanded tax base. I hope it is just the beginning of our east of the river growth.
But, just as importantly…
Downtown Economic Health Says A Lot.
Vermilion’s downtown sector is our front window. Vacancies don’t last long in Vermilion’s historic downtown area. And, we have a constant supply of clever entrepreneurs who are looking for their chance to succeed in beautiful downtown Vermilion.
Near 100% Capacity.
I am dumbfounded when residents ask me about the boarded-up businesses downtown. Here are the facts. The only unoccupied downtown commercial location right now is the old Simple Pleasures building 5542 Liberty. Most commercial vacancies are filled quickly. In season, a constant flow of residents and tourists visit our stores and restaurants. They are attracted by a beautiful streetscape and a full schedule of festivals and other public family activities. Most attractions and our gorgeous flowers are the work of tireless volunteers. The Community Downtown Block Grant, administered by Main Street Vermilion, has helped downtown building owners to improve their commercial buildings. You have the results in freshly renovated building faces.
I am proud to round up a preview of these new businesses committing to downtown Vermilion and send congratulations to their industrious owners.
Brewed Awakenings, 5485 Liberty
Brewed Awakenings will be Vermilion’s newest gourmet coffee shop plus. They are in the location across from Exchange Park and next to the Encore Shop. Owner Sherry Miller-Francis and her husband Chris will offer Vermilionites specialty coffees, teas and other unique hot and cold drinks in addition to genuine New York Bagels. They will also have breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Sherry is a Vermilion resident and VHS graduate. Gift certificates will be available. Sherry and Chris plan to open in late Fall.
Bliss Skin Spa, 5489 Liberty
Dana Lazusky is remodeling the location next to Poppin Around. Ms. Lazusky will present Vermilion with a high-end skin treatment spa. Bliss Skin Spa will use the Dermalogica line and feature facials, lash extensions, spray tans, waxing, body wraps, hand and foot paraffin treatments and scrubs. Bliss will also carry a line of lotions, candles, bath bombs and soaps. Dana is a certified esthetician and lash technician. Gift certificates will be available in time for Christmas. Dana and husband Mike, a city employee, plan to have Bliss Skin Spa ready for a November 1, opening.
It’s not your grandfather’s gas station. Eco Phant is an eco-friendly fuel stop on the site of the old Shell station on Liberty across from the Vermilion Boat Club. Aside from Marathon gas, Eco Phant will have an electric vehicle recharging station for the wave of new electronic vehicles. These electronic vehicle recharging stations are new to our area. The future has arrived. Eco Phant will also carry Rec 90 fuel for the robust recreational boater community in Vermilion. Plus, the facility will have a walk-in beverage cooler, outdoor patio, a deli counter serving Korean style fried chicken (Hooray!) and other deli fare. Eco Phant’s owner, Mr. Sean Yun, is looking at a February 2019 opening.
Harbourtown Dance Studio
Brittany Drost’s Harbourtown Dance Studio is moving from Liberty Avenue to the first floor of the new Harbourtown Fine Arts Center (the Old Town Hall). The studio’s success has created a need for more space. On the first floor of this historic Vermilion building, the studio expands its program of ballet, jazz and contemporary dance. Under Executive and Artistic Director Brittany Drost, it will continue teaching aspiring dancers age 0 to adult. The non-profit Harbourtown Fine Arts Center is an exciting story in itself. More on the Fine Arts Center later.
Downtown is not just a quaint fun place to visit. A healthy and tax-productive downtown is important to the perception of Vermilion’s economic viability. It is a visible message to prospective business and industry saying, “Vermilion is economically healthy. It’s a good place to plant your business.”
I believe the business/residential climate is healthy enough for me to recommend modest growth of downtown’s footprint. We are grateful for the investment of our creative hard-working merchants. And, we should appreciate the supply of customers generated by the equally creative hard-working Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Vermilion, Friends of Harbourtown and an army of volunteers that make doing business here profitable.
A balance of both new industry and healthy visible downtown retail sends a strong message about Vermilion’s economic viability.