Most of the nearly 50 businesses in the Downtown Central Business are professional offices tied to the Courthouse in one way or another. There are about 10 retailers and restaurateurs in the area between Inman Street and Central Avenue, and Broad and Ocoee streets.
Almost hidden away in the northwest corner of the business district, Downtown Wig Studio and Razzberry’Z have carved out niches with their unique merchandise, while the owner of Rouge, a beauty lounge and boutique that opened in May at 75 Central Ave. N.W., hopes to continue the tradition of hair styling at that location.
Rouge owner Stephanie McCamish Dozier took over the location from Evelyn Morgan, a family friend who owned a shop in Cleveland for almost 50 years. She moved the shop from Ocoee Street to Central Avenue sometime in the 1990s.
“My grandmother got her hair done here by Ruby Allen for 40 years, at least,” Dozier said. “Ruby had to relocate so I just basically took it over, remodeled and changed the name.”
Dozier grew up in Calhoun and lived here all her life until she graduated from beauty school. After graduation, she moved to Middle Tennessee to learn the hairstyling profession in more upscale salons.
She chose the Central Business District location because she was inspired by the older, historic buildings in downtown Franklin and Murfreesboro being filled with trendy boutiques. They are pleasant places to walk, shop and eat.
“When I moved back, I guess I was just drawn to downtown and my hope is that it will continue to grow and will become a Franklin or Murfreesboro in the future,” she said. “I’d like to see more businesses and nightlife, things for families to do down here.”
Dozier said walking outside and enjoying the weather in downtown is no less convenient than parking a car at a mall and walking from one end to another.
“Here, you can get your hair done, get your nails done and go to Gardner’s Market for lunch,” she said.
She would like to see more downtown apartments, a grocery store, pharmacy, boutiques and maybe a hardware store.
MainStreet Cleveland Director Sharon Marr said economic restructuring is one of the four main points of the national MainStreet revitalization program.
“Under economic restructuring, we are always looking to keep the businesses we have and add new ones,” she said. “Of course Stamper’s has been there 80 years, but in that area, it is so business focused that our growth in retail has been around First Street Square, which is two blocks over. We have 10 retailers around the park, so our retail base is shifting back to the historic Five Points area.”
While there are some loft apartments in the Central Downtown Business District, Nicholas Lillios is building 14 loft apartments near Five Points and there is another development in the early planning stage off First Street Square in the Permnacolor Building across from the Elk’s Lodge.
“There are about 12 existing loft apartments and we’re adding 14 more and probably another eight in the very near future,” Marr said.
A small grocery store in the center city is definitely one of the items on her wish list.
“We would love to see that. Living downtown is always a catalyst for these things. It really takes people living here to get those types of services back downtown,” she said.
Fat Shultz owned Cleveland Beauty and Barber Supply for 37 years before he retired and opened the Downtown Wig Shop at 55 Central Ave.
“I do a tremendous number of cancer patients here and I also do a lot of people who just want to wear wigs,” he said. “I don’t get rich, but my wife calls this my social club.
“I’ve done all right here. I haven’t made a fortune, but I didn’t come down here to make a fortune.”
Unlike most retail businesses that depend upon walk-in foot traffic, the wig shop is a destination point for a specific clientele. Many of his customers are professional women who don’t want to get up in the morning and fix their hair.
“They’ve got a wig they put on and you can’t tell it,” he said. “I can spot a wig from two blocks away, but they make these things so real they are hard to detect.”
He likes being downtown except for the parking.
“We all think we have to park in front of our doors. They’ve got [public] parking lots everywhere if we would just use them, but nobody wants to walk,” he said.
When asked what he would like to see in downtown Cleveland, he said, “You ever been to South Pittsburg? It’s a beautiful little town. They’ve got those buildings fixed nice, painted different colors. It’s clean,” he said. “I would like to see the appearance of the buildings [in Cleveland] improved.”
Jenny Pennell opened Razzberry’Z gift shop in 2007. The business was originally located on Central Avenue, but later moved to a more visible location at 264 Broad St. N.W., next door to Gardner’s Market.
Pennell said she passed on more visible and higher-volume areas, but because there were no other gift shops downtown, she wanted to try something different.
“It’s been very good for us,” she said. “We’re still in business. It has been better than I thought it would be. We’re not millionaires, but we’re doing very well and we’re not going anywhere.”
She said her business draws a lot of support from people who work downtown, though her best days are during MainStreet Cruise In weekends. Pennell would still like to see more locally owned retail businesses and restaurants to complement the professional offices.
During the five years of operation, the store has unexpectedly gained traffic from Lee University students and in response Pennell is now carrying fraternity and sorority items. The focus of Pennell’s business has changed from mainly women and children to young adults and teens. Her best-selling items are personalized items and monogramming.
Her father, Ron Weaver, recently brought a vinyl heat press into the store for making logos and simple designs.
“We pull in a lot of traffic from Gardner’s Market. We’re very lucky to be next to Gardner’s,” she said.