WILLIAMSBURG – Efforts to popularize Williamsburg as a walking town seem to be paying off.
Despite losing his two banks and a grocery store in recent years, new small businesses are springing up in the town through which the Lower Trail passes.
“People see a need when people come into town. There were no goals. These companies give them the option to stop in town to ride the trail.” said David Cadle, executive director of The Crossroad, a local youth ministry that is spearheading efforts to promote Williamsburg as a itinerant town.
“Williamsburg is starting to grow again. There is new hope and a vision,” Said Cadle.
Cadle’s vision had a direct impact on the April 14 opening of the Second Street Cafe & Bakery at 304th E. Second St.
Owner Cheryl Bassler spoke to Cadle before opening her shop.
“When I first looked at the building for sale, I walked the sidewalks and decided that Williamsburg just felt right. I called Dave Cadle. We talked about the possible benefit of being so close to the trail and I was convinced.” said Basler.
A former Altoona-Blair County Airport restaurant operator and Woodbury bakery owner, Bassler’s Williamsburg café offers breakfast items, daily lunch specials, homemade soups and a variety of baked goods.
A month earlier, on March 9, the Brickhouse Bistro opened in the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building at 417 W. Second St.
Chris Schemeck and his wife Jessica Lilly, who is from Williamsburg, bought the building in the fall.
Her father, Mike, led the renovation efforts of the building, which was last occupied by an OIP restaurant about two years ago.
“We saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the city’s restaurant and service industry. We wanted to offer local, home-cooked meals to residents of the city and surrounding communities.” said Jessica Lilly, who now resides in Enola. “There aren’t many restaurants in town, so we felt the need to bring our business plan to life.”
The kitchen was remodeled and new walls were put up. The couple painted a lot and cleaned up the upper floor.
Mike Lilly said: “It wasn’t in our vision when she came up with it. I said what?’ She blew us away with this idea.”
At the moment the shop is serving breakfast and lunch and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 7am to 2pm. There are plans to extend dinner hours, with an emphasis on Italian fare.
Bloom Hair Studio recently opened at 413 W. Second St.
Owner Kayla Detwiler is from Williamsburg, as is her husband Joe, an Altoona police officer.
She had worked as a stylist in Altoona for a number of years. When Altoona repealed the rules that officers had to live in the city, they moved back to their hometown.
“We may have seen things come and go here, and losing our grocery store and two banks has been tough, but many of us new business owners have chosen Williamsburg because we believe in it and see such great potential for our community.” said Detwiler. “Since I brought my salon here, my clientele has tripled. I can’t even imagine six months.”
Zach Biddle recently purchased the former Dollar General building on Spring Street to expand his business, Ridgeline Gunsmithing LLC.
“This will be my primary business location as I have outgrown my old facility. I am still in the process of transitioning to this facility.” said Biddle. “The trail hasn’t specifically influenced my decision, but there will be some extra space in my building that I won’t be using that I’d like to see occupied by a deal related to the trail, but I don’t have any specific leads on that front .”
Meanwhile, Zach’s cousin, Mike Biddle, and his wife, Brittany, opened their coffee cart “Biddle’s Brows” last fall at 321 E. Second St.
The Biddles serve hot coffee, iced coffee and specialty coffees including things like iced/hot lattes, macchiatos, mochas and cappuccinos. They also offer baked goods.
They continue to search for a permanent location, Brittany Biddle said.
The opening of the Brickhouse Bistro brought a late 19th century landmark to life.
“The structure has so much interesting history. We are so thrilled to be in this place. We are proud of how well our renovation turned out and the location is great for city dwellers and bikers coming off the trail.” Said Jessica Lilly.
“We are thrilled to be able to serve our family recipes to members of our community. My family has roots in our city for three generations and we all love to get together to enjoy good home cooked meals. Cooking and feeding is a passion in our family,” Said Jessica Lilly.
Jessica’s mother, Charlotte Lilly, and her sister, Jennifer (Lilly) Gorsuch, serve as co-managers of the bistro.
“Our goal is to make good food for the community and hope they enjoy it.” said Charlotte Lilly.
The nearby Lower Trail can help the business.
“We hope to invite members from other cities to see how beautiful the city of Williamsburg is. We’re a city full of great, friendly people. With the Rails to Trails running right through town, it’s a great place to stop and visit. We’ve had a lot of bikers get off the trail and they seem to love the pit stop for a meal.” Said Jessica Lilly.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank can be reached at 814-946-7467.