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Group hopes to bring up lights at Uptown

Published: Sun, June 3, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



An investment group is hoping to bring back the bright lights that once came from the Uptown Theater on Market Street — and the crowds those lights brought to the Uptown District.

The Uptown Theater has sat vacant for nearly two decades with plywood covering all windows and doors. Leaves and debris have blown up against the entryway, and the adjacent building is missing windows from where vandals have thrown rocks.

Shasta Shabazz, owner of Real Estate Investment Connection, is in the process of purchasing both buildings for the formation of a movie-theater/restaurant combination. She said the new name of the theater will be “Showtown Theater” with an attached restaurant called “Rudez.”

“We are really just trying to revamp up Youngstown,” she said. “We are trying to bring history back. We are going to upgrade some of the stuff inside the place, but we are trying to bring it back to the way it was.”

The theater does have a long history in the Uptown District.

The Uptown Theater Company was incorporated in 1926 for $500, with the actual theater built that same year at a cost of $125,000. The theater switched hands several times between 1926 and 1965 when it underwent extensive remodeling.

The theater changed hands several more times before closing to movie- goers in the late 1980s.

Easy Street Productions did make the theater home in the early 1990s, but eventually left the theater for its current home at the DeYor Performing Arts Center. There was a final attempt to breathe new life into the theater with a gospel music show, but the theater has since sat unused.

Shabazz said she and her husband, Ondrea Shabazz, have acquired the theater and the attached building next door that will ultimately become a restaurant. She plans to have the theater and restaurant up and running within the next year.

Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th Ward, said she is hoping to see the theater open and flourish. She said revitalizing the Uptown District is a goal, and there has been much interest in business in that area.

“The Uptown area is a goal of mine to revitalize and bring business back. I believe the only way to do it is with people who believe in the community. We need private and government funds to make these things happen,” she said. “I am hoping this is just the beginning.”

Shabazz plans to turn the theater into a movie theater and live performance combination. The theater, she said, will be made to accommodate tables so patrons can have dinner while enjoying a show.

The dinner served inside the theater will be provided by the planned restaurant in the attached building. She said those who do not want to eat inside the theater would be able to enjoy a meal in the restaurant, which will have a light-hearted theme where employees interact with patrons.

Shabazz said she got the idea from similar businesses in the Atlanta area where she and her husband had lived for the past year. She said they wanted to start a similar business in Georgia, but decided to come back home to Youngstown and do it here.

“We wanted to bring some life back to that area, bring some entertainment back to the city, and that is what we are trying to do. We are confident that we can do this,” she said.


1georgejeanie(1402 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

More government money wasted. That is a war zone, and the inhabitants do not have any idea how a society should act. Sounds like another scam to me. Get rich quick then leave for greener pastures.

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2fcb(449 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Some people don't have the brains they were born with.GEEZ!!! Money for Uptown Theater on Market St (SOUTH SIDE) people.Killings ,stealing,muggings!Hello!!Money for a new football field on the (NORTH SIDE).Oh yea crowds will be there on the weekends!!! Let's put that money to feeding hungry children.Or some place for the homeless to sleep where it's warm and dry.

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3magstr(8 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

What about security? It is not even safe to worship at St. Dom's a few blocks away. How safe is it going to be coming out of the Uptown at night? Are armed guards going to escort movie goers in and out/ Can you guarantee cars will not be vandalized? I think the Uptown area is a lost cause.....sorry.

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4peggygurney(408 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

OMG here are the naysayers again.

Is NO business supposed to open on Market or South Avenue, or anywhere on the south side because you're afraid? Just how do you think you go about cleaning up a town? You bring in NEW BUSINESS! New businesses on these major corridors spreads out into the neighborhoods.

Instead of being so down on people who are trying to revamp Ytown, try wishing them well. They just MIGHT succeed, then you'll have to eat your words.

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5franc004(71 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Am I missing something? I don't see anywhere in the article where the owner is asking for public money And magstr, what business 'guarantees that cars will not be vandalized'? If it's their money it's their business and personally, I think the Uptown area needs to be some of the focus of all this revitalization. Doesn't do much to have a groovy downtown when the main gateway to the city is pretty much falling apart.

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6VindyPost(436 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations to Shasta and Ondrea Shabazz! (and thank you for choosing Y-town over the much "saturated" Atlanta, GA.) Entrepreneurs know how to give back to a community...and it works. An improvement project, a makeover...Restore. Revive. Business and Development is key to revitalization. Location: they have establishd the busy crossroad, Branding: they have re-named the theater to "Showtown", included a restaurant named "Rudez". The food & entertainment industry is a HUGE market everywhere. When something is new, vibrant, refreshing, most people begin to appreciate. Starting a business always comes with risk-no matter where it happens to be. Let's give this a Thumbs Up approach and perhaps credit the folks to best wishes and success on their primary goal.

"....there's no business ....like show business..."

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7jeepers(127 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I actually thought a group was hoping to have several of the TRAFFIC LIGHTS de-activated in the Uptown when I read the title of the article. Wrong. I too remember going to breakfast at Mr. Wheeler's with my Dad on Sat. mornings on our way to work. Shopping at Stambaugh-Thompson;s for all kinds of hardware,etc. The post office on Hylda. Nice dinners at the Colonial House-etc, etc,But that was 45 yrs. ago.It truly was a very busy area back then. A lot has changed and it is a different climate now.. BUT-GOOD LUCK-maybe it is time to make new memories for a new generation to reflect on yrs. from now. I hope your dream gets a little something positive going in that area. It has to start somewhere.

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8mav541(6 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

When the Newport theater was torn down, another piece of Youngstown history was gone, so I commend Shasta and Ondrea for trying to save another landmark and revive a neighborhood at the same time. As far as security, when the theater was last opened the city provided foot patrols and the uptown was very safe, Im sure this would be the case again. For vandalism, my car has been vandalized twice in the last ten years, both times in the burbs. Bottom line is, I would be a supporter and patron of such an endeavor, If your afraid of the Uptown, stay in the burbs!

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9BrothaLove(81 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago


I don't see how owning vacant lots makes one an illegitimate business owner. Also, you mention multiple addresses, did not they say they just recently moved to the area and they do own multiple properties. Lastly, not registering with the state may not be appropriate, but it certainly does not make them criminals on the level of past Youngstown mobsters.

I realllllly think you are grasping at straws and making yourself look like an idiot in the process.

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10DreShabazz(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Hello Group, Im Ondre Shabazz and first of all I would like to thank the people on here for the positive support of the Uptown Project. I would also like to thank the naysayers who will only make us more determine to succeed! So let me start by telling you a little about who we are. We have been doing real estate for over 10 years with some ups and some downs we have learned by trial and error as most people have with there own business. We are from Youngstown and remember when Youngstown had thriving businesses. For the one's who stated they checked Fresh Start Homes of Youngstown we do own several vacant lots and commercial as well as residential properties which we purchased that way, and this company is now our sister company and have developed world wide to Real Estate Investment Connections LLC. which is registered with the State of Ohio as Fresh Start Homes of Youngstown was as well. Also there was a comment that stated that we were ran out of Atlanta but was also untrue, we were brought back to revive Youngstown, Ohio. If there are any further questions or concerns we will check periodically as we are new to vindy.com Thank You

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11DreShabazz(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Hello Everyone,

I am Shasta Shabazz and honestly I can't believe all of the negative comments but I appreciate the concerns of some of the people and I also appreciate the support as well. We are here to try and give insight as much as possible to the unbelievers and naysayers and give even more hope to the supporters. You can also visit us on Facebook within the next 24 to 48 hours to post any comments or concerns on there as well so they can surely be addressed.

First of all I would like to say to the naysayers in past history there were many naysayers. Before McDonalds opened they told the owner that no one would want to eat all those hamburgers but yet some of you eat McDonald's everyday and it has over 36,000 locations so I guess they were wrong. Before Disney was created the owner was fired at his previous job for lack of creativity, but now it's known as one of the greatest places on earth known as Disney World and it's one of the most imaginative places in the world so I guess they were also wrong! So to the one's who call us dumb, tell us that it's a waste of money, or that we are stupid for buying because of the location let me first address a few of those concerns.

1. As well as those naysayers told those business owners the same thing. It turned out they were wrong. We have to have faith in the place that we live in . We are trying to rebuild and bring back positivity. If we complain and just keep complaining and never do anything about it, yes you are right it will remain the same, but how about supporting those who are trying to do something positive instead of going against them with negativity. If we as a community would do just that maybe some things might change. We are more powerful sticking together vs. apart.

2. As far as our money and the government. No where in the article did it state that we were asking the government for a dime! The only thing we asked for was community support and although that is limited we thank the one's who are supportive and we hope the other's jump on board.

Those comments were to the naysayers who I hope turn into supporters but to the supporters

3. Let's first address the safety that is one of our top priorities! Understanding I was born and raised in Youngstown and lived here for over 27 years so I know the dangers and concerns especially in that area. We are working on a police substation within the district to help keep the area safe. We also want the police to walk that area so the patrons can feel safe as well. We are hoping to change the atmosphere with the community and law enforcements help. As I told the papers we need the community's support and whatever suggestions you have we are willing to address them as well. Please check us out on facebook in the upcoming days and months we will have plenty of information and progress reports as well as questions and answers. Thank You Everyone! and I too will check back periodically to answer questions on here.

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12USMC0331(152 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Downtown was terrible for many years, now its beautiful and full of life!! Let's try the same thing in the uptown and just maybe, just maybe this will be the start of the people taking back the city of Youngstown!!!!

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13thinkthentalk(302 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Good luck in your venture and i wish you well. Easy Street had a nice run for years there, we enjoyed it then going next door to eat and drink. Pay no mind to these naysayers that have no life but to listen to rushbo, fox for entertainment, and getting on here to disparage Youngstown. They cant help their mental disorder. Thanks for actually doing something to improve the community.

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14USMC0331(152 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

That's the problem!! People give up way to easy! Take a stand! My mother lives in Boardman and has a drug house across the street from her, should i move she asked? "NO!!!" I said! Running away is not the answer. People who commit crime need to be afraid to come into Boardman like they used to be! Like they're afraid to go to Poland or Canfield. Keep ignoring the problem and moving south and east, pretty soon you'll live in Columbus and Akron! There is crime everywhere obviously more in some areas, but i promise running is not going to cut it. Strength in numbers, take back the neighborhood with the neighborhood. Easier laws for police would help too!

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