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MONDAY UPDATE: Fed & Phelps & a special place

Published: Sun, December 9, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

READ LETTER HERE from a concerned client/citizen

Downtowns are special places in the histories of cities.

And within those special places, there are usually special corners or intersections.

Hollywood and Vine. Haight and Ashbury. Harvard Square. Broadway and 42nd Street.

Post-1970 downtown Youngstown is hardly in the league of those places.

But we have a special place, and it is special these days to even more people every day.

While Federal Plaza is the heart of downtown, I would venture to say that the key intersection to our downtown resurgence is Fed & Phelps.

The Federal Building, V2 and Roberto’s restaurants, Downtown Circle, Lemon Grove and more are tied to that intersection.

And for the last four years, one business owner who has had a fondness for downtown and a front row seat at Fed & Phelps is Lisa Reali, she of William Leonard’s Extraordinary Gentlemen salon — and my hair cutter.

To measure what downtown has done in her four years, consider what you could see from Lisa’s corner spot when she opened in January 2009:

The Sops were the big kids on the block with their Rosetta Stone restaurant. They had plans for this and plans for that, and just wait what they would do next.

Jacob Harver still was gathering second-hand tables, chairs and wood for something that would be called The Lemon Tree or A Lemon Grove or something like that.

The Federal Building housed Geo’s used/new record store and a something-or-other gift shop/ice cream stand/fresh oranges store.

And Tomasino’s served up some pretty good pizza from a past-its-prime storefront.

Now four years later ...

Harver is a conscience for downtown and has expanded The Lemon Grove into the Sops’ Rosetta Stone that had abruptly closed.

Weathered Tomasino’s has become beautiful Roberto’s, serving a great fried bologna and egg sandwich.

Federal’s transformation is simply stunning, and home to V2 restaurant and apartments.

More is coming when Jackie and Dominic Marchionda open The Wick as a hotel in the next 18 months or so. And when Jim Sutman opens his bakery. And when a new pizza place opens on the next block. And more ...

And, it will all happen without Lisa at her familiar storefront.

Success for some can cause casualties for others, and thus Lisa will be vacating her lease.

I caught her at a bad moment several weeks ago as she was first processing her fate. She’s a feisty Italian single mom, and at that moment, she was drained.

“I failed ...,” she said that day, leaning on Roberto’s sidewalk fence.

No, you did not, I said. Things change, and she was changing with it.

She’s reopening on the other side of downtown soon in 2013.

I caught her in a better place this week as she plugged away at my thinning dome.

“I would not have changed my initial plan,” she said when asked what she’d do differently.

She peaked at seven staffers who cut, massaged, manicured, pedicured and entertained.

“My idea was contingent on growth of downtown. Daytime business growth has not been as strong as nighttime growth,” she said.

Like many recent downtown entrepreneurs, she was Youngstown-proud and persistent when she opened at Fed & Phelps as opposed to a suburban strip plaza.

In that way, Reali, Harver and Sutman are kindred spirits of sorts. The latter have distinct thoughts on the challenges of doing business in downtown.

“We had some great chats, and we’re in the same boat,” Harver said of Reali. “We were in this for the same reasons. I fear to lose some of those quintessential people who are priced out. Where will they be in this new Youngstown?”

Sutman is a self-made business person, too. He said it’s tough when you are on your own and you need city help and neighbor help and property help.

“I spent my first years mad at who wouldn’t help. Then I learned it was better to embrace who would help,” Sutman said.

Lisa’s was not a failed bid, and lots of cool things and people passed through her Fed & Phelps doors.

She first introduced several of us to the Movember male-cancer awareness efforts. I grew a laughable mustache that first year and still see two guys from Turning Technologies who joined the same day as me. (They looked good with face fur. Now, I just donate to Movember).

“I remember when I opened and [was] going through the chamber book and remembering names of businessmen who I wanted to walk through my door. They now are — some did in the first six months; some in the last six months.”

She knows they’ll be with her when she reopens on downtown’s other half.

We’ll be happy, too, truth be told.

Before she got to seven staffers and this treatment and that treatment, William Leonard’s was our little social club, with some special club perks for regulars.

Being bigger bagged that.

Owning a business is not for everyone.

Owning one in a pioneer downtown is for even fewer.

Lisa’s still of the few, and there’s no failure in that.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.


1endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Franko, what is this report about, really, plugging all your pals downtown?
Get your thinning dome cut back in "Bubbalow".

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21970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Why the hostility? It was a good read.

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3toddfranko(101 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Thanks 1970 ... I agree.

You can see the same mindless anti-Vindy jabs from Barzak and Meeks in the circus that is Kidd's FB page posts on Cedars.

We're used to soldiering through such attacks. (It's actually been good theater this weekend watching Phil soldier thru as well in the Cedars debates.)

It is a challenge, as Phil's seeing, to slog through tough issues when folks pile in with unwarranted or mindless jabs.

But it happens. I tend to opt to stay out of it and let the crowd settle the mindlessness, such as with your reply. I am also blessed to have a colleague, Mark, who really enjoys tackling the mindlessness.

It all shakes out in the end. Thanks for the reply. This issue is downtown, and Lisa and Cedars and advancement and ...

It's not Bubbalow or whatever more jabs come.

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4PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

WTH, Franko? Why are you dragging me into this? That being said, I agree and take back some of the reactionary b.s. I've given you via text (etc) without speaking to you in person first over the years. Some. ;-)

P.S. No mention of Youngstown Nation in the downtown article? I'm a unique business and draw a respectable number of people to the downtown area (and I put my own money into the store...no loans or tax dollars). Payback? Touche.

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5Chrisbarzak(2 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I think the only "mindless" thing I said was that I wouldn't believe Phil Kidd's status update that he had nothing to do with Cedars closing until it was confirmed by the Vindicator, because everything in the Vindy is true. Guess what? That joke is so old! It comes from Robert Dennick Joki's play How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas, which the Vindy recently gave a glowing review.

I'm sorry if my attempt to salve Phil Kidd's wounds with a bit of local humor offended.

Otherwise, my mind is pretty much always full, not less.

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6Chrisbarzak(2 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

And speaking of mindlessness, let me re"mind" you that as a Distinguished Professor in Community Service at YSU, I lead a large group of students in the YSU Literary Arts Association, who have taken a typically university-bound activity like a literary reading series to many businesses downtown, rather than hosting them on campus, in order to develop a relationship between the students and their surroundings, and to aid in establishing a patron base for those businesses attempting to make a go at it in hard times. These events I hold typically bring in anywhere from 50 to 150 people each time, and those in attendance spend their money in these businesses, whose owners you champion as being everything and anything.

Lest you forget, businesses need people like me to bring patronage to them. Many of the businesses downtown and surrounding the campus have brought in thousands of dollars in one night because of the events I hold at their venues.

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7mrosem14(4 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Wooo I'm officially Youngstown famous
- Meeks

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8PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree. I'm terrible and short-sided individual truly unable of accepting multiple view points regarding complex issues.

I'm only too glad that my intolerance of civil debate/discussion is being verified through an anonymous, name calling Vindy.com poster. The hypocrisy shall be overlooked. No worries.

Now, please excuse me while I complain about myself on Facebook.

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