BG downtown businesses

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro finds room to grow

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kayla Minniear said she’s had her eye on the storefront at 127 S. Main in downtown Bowling Green for a while. The space wasn’t available when she and her husband, Jon, opened Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro two years ago. So they settled into the former Mills Jewelry store a half block south on the other side of the street.  Now the shop has moved into those more spacious quarters across the street. “We had just outgrown that space,” Jon Minniear said. “We didn’t have enough space to put stuff out. We loved the old space, but this is bigger.” Now, he said, he’s not tripping over everything. Opening the store was something the couple discussed before they were married.  Back when they were dating, Kayla Minniear said, they started collecting Nintendo games, and that expanded to other vintage items. Having a storefront to sell the surplus seemed a natural development. Rock ’Em Sock ’Em sells video games dating to the Atari era, pop culture themed  items, action figures, vintage toys,  and some manga merchandise. They not only sell, but they also buy these items. “We have a little something for everybody,” he said. The storefront has a large vestibule that now has arcade games. That large entryway was one of the storefront’s appeals, Kayla Minniear said. One of the shop’s back rooms will be equipped for arcade game competition. Another, Jon Minniear said, will be used to display art by the Black Sheep Shack. The company run by Caroline Lippert, Kayla Minniear’s mother, also did the signage for the shop. The shop is doing well, John Minniear said. Because of Bowling Green State University, every year brings a new group of customers. Some customers who’d just discovered the shop this fall, even helped the couple move. “We’ve made a lot of great friends, customers who come in regularly,” he said. A year after Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro opened, Cameron’s Comics also opened on Main Street. Then in spring, at the encouragement of the Minniears, Joe Busch opened The Stacked Deck gaming shop across the alley from their original storefront. Reflecting on these developments, Jon Minniear said: “We’re bringing nerd culture back.” 

Firefly Nights fans party on despite gloomy forecast

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News There was more of the lightning bug than lightning about Firefly Nights Friday in downtown Bowling Green. The second street fair in the monthly summer series was staged under the threat of rain – telephone weather reports had ominous lightning bolts for throughout the event. Yet the rain never amounted more than a heavy sprinkle, and people weren’t scared way as they came to enjoy food, vendors, shopping, music, games and visiting. In deference to the predicted storms, the music was moved inside to Howard’s Club H and Doc’s. But when the storms failed to materialize Ryan Roth & The Sideshow did take the outside stage on the north end of the festival to close out the evening. And vocalist Flannery Murnen and guitarist Mike Bryce, who opened the festival with a set indoors, decided to perform a second impromptu show later in the evening outside on the south stage. Though the weather wasn’t as predicted, Firefly Nights came through as promised with more outdoor food options, both food trucks and eateries serving outdoors, more craft vendors, and more activities for the younger set. The third and final Firefly Nights street fair of the season will be held Aug. 17.  

Firefly Night ready to take flight on Friday

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Let the dancing in the streets in downtown Bowling Green begin. After months of planning, the Firefly Nights street festivals are ready to make their debut Friday, June 15, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Main Street. The initiative’s first official event was a 5K run and walk in May to help raise funds for the festivals. Friday Main Street will be closed with stages for music on either ends, a beer garden, vendors and food trucks, kid’s activities, and downtown businesses ready for customers. This will be the first of three one-night festivals planned for the summer. Firefly Nights was the brainchild of a group of downtown women business owners – Stacie Banfield owner of Mode Elle, Kati Thompson of Eden Fashion Boutique, Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads, and Laura Wicks of Grounds for Thought. They’ve been joined by others including Amy Craft-Ahrens, who used her expertise from years with the Black Swamp Arts Festival to help with vendors, and Michelle Elson, who booked the bands. Now the effort is ready to go, abetted by a favorable weather forecast. “I am very excited and a little bit nervous,” said Wicks, “but mostly I am really looking forward to celebrating summer with everyone in downtown BG. I think it is going to be a wonderful party!” Earlier this year when the event was announced Thompson stated the goal: “We want to foster a diverse, neighborly and lively atmosphere in downtown BG. That’s the intent and sole focus.” Main Street will be blocked at the intersection of Court Street to the intersection of Washington. East-west traffic will continue to flow along Wooster Street. Bandstands will be located on either end with altering acts. Performers booked for Friday are, in order of appearance: Boo Lee Crosser, Sam Dell, Chris & Shellby, and Amelia Airharts. Downtown shops are staying open until 10 p.m. Sam B’s, Flatlands, and Qdoba will be serving patrons on the sidewalk and others are encouraging take-out orders. Several food trucks will also be on hand: Eric’s Ice Cream; Poppin George’s Kettle Corn; Roe’s Concessions; and Weenie Dogs Vendors signed up are: All Things Beautiful Bath & Body; Black Sheep Shack; Blanquility; Charming Oak; Exhale and Create; Happy Place Felt Boutique; Gilead Candle Company; Jamber’s House of Color; Krueger Sew Crafty; Michelle Adler; Portrait Art; PreshGoods/WoodStout; Staeble Studio A Photography; The Upstitch; and The Wicked Wire. Firefly Nights will continue July 20 and Aug. 17.  

Food truck discussion continues to cook up controversy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The idea of inviting transient food truck businesses into downtown Bowling Green leaves a bad taste for a stalwart member of the downtown business community. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, Ace Hardware and other downtown buildings, said existing downtown businesses pay taxes into a Special Improvement District that supports items such as street cleaning, flower planting and watering, snow cleanup, and weekend trash pickup. Craft pays the SID anywhere from $200 to $1,049 a year, depending on the property. My main concern is the downtown,” Craft told the three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – charged with coming up with regulations for food trucks. “I’m very much against having outsiders in our downtown” – people who don’t pay property taxes and would only have to pay a relatively small permit fee, he said. “We can barely cover our expenses as it is,” Craft said of the downtown district. But Craft also noted that he was one of the people behind the start of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, which allows food trucks to set up in a city parking lot for a weekend. The fee charged for that is quite high, he added. The discussion at the previous meetings on food trucks has focused on allowing the vendors downtown for special events – not on an ongoing basis. Nadya Shihadeh, owner of Qdoba in the downtown, said parking is already a problem for downtown restaurants. However, if the city sets specific rules for the location and hours of operation, Shihadeh said she could get behind the idea. “I think food trucks are cool, totally,” she said. “I’m not against food trucks,” as long as they are regulated, Shihadeh said. Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s, said the city needs to limit the number and the size of the food trucks. “Some of these vendor trucks are massive,” and would take up too many valuable parking spots, he said. Rather than focusing on the downtown, Jones suggested that the city look at the mall parking lot on the north edge of the city for food trucks, and maybe for the weekly farmers market. “There’s not much going on there at all,” and the site could benefit from some revitalization, he said. Jones also said he has spoken with some downtown Perrysburg restaurant owners who have seen their businesses hurt by food trucks at the weekly farmers market there. Christopher Parratt, who said he worked in the restaurant business for 15 years, said the city needs to create a level playing field for brick and mortar restaurants and for food trucks. From a patron perspective, city resident Ann Beck thanked the committee working to come up with a plan to allow food trucks. “When I think of a progressive town, and a college town, I think of cool restaurants and pubs, and also food trucks,” Beck said. “We have a town full of millennials. I just think it’s a good idea.” Rowland, who had been assigned to collect information from other communities with food trucks,  brought a lot to the table Monday evening for the sixth public meeting on mobile food vendors. The goal, she said is to market the downtown and bring people from outside the city to the downtown. “Food trucks are here and they are here to stay,” Rowland said of the national trend. According to the National League of Cities, food trucks generate $650 million in revenue annually. In the next five years, food trucks are expected to generate $2.7 billion in food revenues. Rowland…

Firefly Nights to light up downtown BG this summer (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A group of businesswomen want to light up downtown Bowling Green this summer. After conversations of what can be done to bring visitors to the downtown during the summer doldrums, Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, Stacie Banfield, of Mode Elle Boutique, Kati Thompson, Eden Fashion Boutique, and Gayle Walterbach, of Coyote Beads, banded together to launch Firefly Nights. The summer time series will get off to a running start with a run/walk through downtown on May 18 at 9 p.m. Firefly Nights will continue with evenings full of music, food, shopping and kids activities on the third Friday of each summer month – June 15, July 20, and Aug. 17 – from 6 to 10 p.m. “We want to foster a diverse, neighborly and lively atmosphere in downtown BG,” Thompson said. “That’s the intent and sole focus.” Main Street will be blocked off from the intersection of Court Street to the intersection of Washington. There’ll be music stages at each end featuring area music acts. Banfield said they plan to feature four to six acts each night. The organizers hope to attract some craft booths, and possibly a farmers market. Downtown stores would remain open and could have sidewalk sales. “We’re hoping to get restaurants to provide some kind of dining experience,” Banfield said. “We’re coming off the success of the Chocolate Crawl,” Thompson said. “So many people said they loved being downtown at night and experiencing so many places they didn’t know were here.” That event held in conjunction with Winterfest to benefit United Way of Wood County sold 400 tickets. People cruised through 18 stops to sample sweet goodies. Walterbach said they hope to attract two to three times that many people. “People who are always looking for fun things to do in the summer, so we’re hoping it attracts people not just from Bowling Green but from surrounding communities,” Thompson said. So far the response from downtown merchants has been good, as had the response from the city and Downtown Bowling Green. The Black Swamp Arts Festival has pioneered the way for such events, Walterbach said. The organizers are still looking for sponsors, with sponsorships ranging from $500 to $5000 for a presenting sponsor. Registration for the Firefly run/walk has begun. Click to register . Firefly Nights also needs volunteers. Email to volunteer. With the event still taking shape, more information will be forthcoming.        

Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid the downtown area. “I’m bothered to think that nothing will work downtown,” she said. “I hear everywhere I go that people want food trucks,” and that those same customers will still continue patronizing downtown restaurants. Herald suggested the food truck committee build on the city’s existing permit process – with the rules covering four main categories for food trucks: On private property for planned events. On public property for planned events. On private property for unplanned events. On public property for unplanned events. “I think this is the place we actually start to construct something,” Herald said. But one of the city’s current criteria – requiring filing of a permit at least 21 days in advance – may pose a problem for food trucks. “We’re supposed to be light on our feet,” said Phil Barone, head of a regional food truck association and owner of Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo. Kathy Pereira de Almeida voiced concerns about the timeline being too strict. “I am in favor of the food trucks, and I would like them to be downtown,” she said. “It won’t be that big of a competition with the brick and mortar. It will be a nice healthy competition.” Aaron Evanoff, owner of High Flying Hotdogs, agreed. “Let the market decide,” he said. “Whatever the market will support is how many will come to town.” Evanoff said too many rules can make it difficult – such as the process he has encountered at BGSU. “I’m jumping through a lot of hoops right now just to do a couple charity events” on campus, he said. “Hoop after hoop, after hoop.”…

BG Council asked to encourage businesses to go ‘green’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A group of environmentally-conscious students would like to see Bowling Green businesses going more green. Members of the Environmental Action Group at Bowling Green State University approached City Council at its last meeting about encouraging local businesses to adopt environmentally-friendly policies. The organization has worked to lessen waste and increase sustainability on campus, and now would like to extend those efforts to more of the community. Julia Botz, a senior biology major, suggested such practices as: Green composting by restaurants. Recycling at Main Street businesses. Restricting the use of disposable plastic foam. Adding more electric car charging stations. Businesses could be encouraged to participate with the awarding of a “Green Bowling Green Business” designation to those that make efforts to help the environment, Botz suggested. Council President Mike Aspacher thanked Botz for making her presentation. “I appreciate your efforts,” he said. Aspacher suggested that members of the BGSU Environmental Action Group meet with Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter to discuss ways the city can assist with the organization’s efforts. Mayor Dick Edwards complimented the student organization for the changes that are being put into place at BGSU. “You’re really accomplishing some amazing things on campus,” Edwards said. “Pretty amazing.” The mayor asked the students to bring a report to City Council of the successful programs on campus, so city officials and the general public can be made aware. On a related matter, the city recently created the new position of “sustainability coordinator” and is in the process of hiring a person to fill that spot. That position was established to help the city develop sustainability programs and work on public outreach on items like refuse/recycling, solid waste diversion and reduction, storm water management and assist with an urban forestry program. “It has become evident that the city needs a position like this to educate, inform and work with residents on the services provided and responsibilities of residents when it comes to refuse and recycling,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said.