Richmond Register: “Richmond’s Main Street ‘has really come alive’

July 4, 2014

By Sandra PlantRegister Correspondent

RICHMOND — History and the present merge on downtown Richmond’s West Main Street. Gone are the days when horse-drawn street cars transported visitors from the old train depot to the now closed Glyndon Hotel on the corner of Third and Main Street.

And welcome to the present where within a few blocks of the old hotel visitors can dine in restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world as well as the All-American hot dog at Dale’s Hot Dog Stand or a grown-up grilled cheese or pasta at Cafe Meeples.

Despite the beautifully restored vintage buildings along Main Street, times have changed and ownership has changed over the years. Presently, the oldest retail business on Main Street is Currier’s Music World. Currier’s has been a thriving business for 47 years. “We are looking forward to celebrating a half century in only three more years,” said Angela Currier.

“In the last year or two, downtown has really come alive,” Currier said. “Businesses like Babylon Gyros and Purdy’s Coffee Co. have really added to Main Street.”

One of the joys of Richmond’s downtown Main Street is the wide sidewalks. Here, a person can begin a leisurely walk at Mike’s Hike and Bike in its new, larger location where the Party Shop used to be and end up several blocks away at the Paddy Wagon Irish Pub or Madison Garden. Both have recently added outdoor patios.

Many other communities that have a vibrant downtown emphasize the importance of walkability. Mike Hale, owner of Mike’s Hike and Bike, agrees. He said there is much more to do now in downtown Richmond, and all in a walkable distance.

Hale gives much credit to Rose Rex, Main Street coordinator, Mayor Jim Barnes and the city commission for their efforts to bring life back to Richmond. But there are still a couple of things on Hale’s wish list. Although his business sponsors four bike rides each week, he’d like to see more bike races and road races that begin in downtown Richmond because “Downtown is still the center of our city.”

The Glyndon Hotel, one of the landmarks on Main Street since the first one was built in 1889, is now on the market for $700,000. The once grand hotel has hosted many famous visitors including U.S. Vice President Alben Barkley, several governors, and movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

Connie Lawson, the listing agent along with her granddaughter Amanda Stepp-Marcum, said, “If only those old walls could talk.”

Lawson said there’s been some interest in the property. “We’ve had a couple of showings,” she said. The property listing states that the hotel “needs someone who loves historical properties and wants to save our past.”

“It is my hope that whoever buys it restores it because every downtown needs a grand old hotel. However, once it’s sold, I can’t do anything about that,” Lawson said.

MexiHollywood is one of the newer ethnic eateries on Main Street. The owner, Sylvia Martinez, comes in early every morning and cooks authentic Mexican food from scratch. She has three employees and a menu to tantalize anyone who loves real Mexican food.

She chose the name MexiHollywood because there is no other Mexican restaurant with that name. If you visit the Downtown Richmond Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, Martinez will be there by 8 a.m. selling her delicious tamales.

Kara Purdy, her brother Robert and sister-in-law Kristen opened the popular Purdy’s Coffee Co. only three years ago. Kara Purdy said she is so happy people are coming downtown and that all businesses are growing. “It’s been so much fun being a part of downtown. Meeting people and giving them a place to come and be comfortable has been the best part of my job.”

Not many people knew that the family had an embroidery shop in the back of the coffee company. With both businesses growing, they decided it was time to move the embroidery shop to a location across Main Street where Madison Bank once had a branch.

Kristen Purdy is overseeing Purdy’s Embroidery. There is a showroom in front and a shop in the back where they custom embroider apparel such as shirts, hats, baby bags, purses and towels. Robert and Kara’s sister Lydia is moving to Richmond to help with the embroidery and the screen printing part of the business.

Next door to Purdy’s Coffee Co. is the Cosmic Oasis and Café Meeples. In the beginning, young people flocked to the Cosmic Oasis in a former shoe store to play computer games and board games in a welcoming setting. The small grill area was simply to feed the gamers, but the bubble tea and the grilled sandwiches really caught on and the grill became a café. Just recently, Café Meeples has begun a delivery service.

Today, the business has expanded into the former Jett and Hall’s men’s store and the customer base has really grown. Sarah Ellifritz, manager of Café Meeples, said their business model is based on providing a space for families and friends to gather and have great food while enjoying various forms of gaming.

Ellifritz is enthusiastic about all that is happening in Richmond’s downtown. “As Richmond grows, so does downtown, and not just the night life. The quality of shopping and eateries continues to improve. That is one reason I decided to stay here after graduating from EKU,” she said.

For anyone curious about the word Meeples, owner Ron Flickinger has posted a definition on the Cafe wall. He explains that Meeple is a blend of the word my and people. A Meeple is a small person-shaped figure used as a player’s token in a board game.

“We have video games, board games, collectible card games, role playing games and more. We have a little bit of something for everyone. We provide an atmosphere for the young and old,” Ellifritz said.

“We have grandfathers who bring their grandchildren to play games. We have a group of retired ladies who enjoy playing bridge in our front window. We want to introduce various types of games to people who might not have encountered them anywhere else.”

Although Main Street is amazing in all that it offers with both new and established businesses, there is far more to downtown Richmond. The next article in this series will cover some of the newer or expanding businesses to be found on Second and Third streets.


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