Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal4/3/2021
Lori Julien decided it was time to end her long career as a nurse.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Lori Julien the owner of the new store Marigold Sol talks with Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the shop on Kenmore Boulevard on Thursday April 1, 2021 in Akron. The shop is the sixth new business on Kenmore Blvd. since the pandemic began.
She now devotes time to another passion: Marigold Sol, a retail gift store with a vintage vibe featuring an eclectic collection of crafts, gifts, furniture and specialized solvent-free paints and more.
Julien on Thursday opened Marigold Sol in the heart of Akron's Kenmore Boulevard Historic District. It's in the neighborhood's tallest building, at three stories, that dates back to the early 1900s. The space at 962 Kenmore Blvd. previously was occupied by The Dragon's Mantle gift shop, which moved to another nearby site on Manchester Road.
Marigold Sol is the sixth small business, and the third owned by a woman, to open on the boulevard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenmore merchants and others say that's a good sign for the working class neighborhood that has been struggling to fill empty storefronts even during good times. The city has made the boulevard a top economic revitalization priorities as part of its Great Streets Akron program; the opening of Marigold Sol merited a ribbon cutting visit by Mayor Dan Horrigan.
Julien isn't new to running a retail operation; she had side gigs, including furniture refinishing, while still working as a nurse.
"This isn't my first shop," she said of Marigold Sol. "I had a shop [Salvage Style] for four years in Wadsworth and the property got sold and the owners had new plans."
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Marigold Sol owner Lori Julien talks about the shop Thursday at its opening event. It is the sixth new business on Kenmore Boulevard since the pandemic began.
Between closing in Wadsworth and opening in Kenmore, Julien sold at shows and rented booth space at other storefronts. She knew she wanted to open another shop of her own and was looking for the right opportunity.
"My husband and I were walking down the boulevard one day and I realized that Dragon's Mantle moved out," Julien said. "I reached out to Tina Boyes at Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance and she connected me to the owner and here we are."
They turned the space around in 30 days, with the lease signing taking place in March, Julien said.
"I said, let's just do it," she recalled. "I love what the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance is doing here on the boulevard."
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Tina Boyes, executive director of Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, talks about the new store Marigold Sol on Thursday in Akron.
New shops are transforming thoroughfare into a trendy destination
Marigold Sol and the other nearby retailers are largely destination businesses, said Boyes, executive director of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance community development corporation. The stores include long-standing hobby shops, new and established food operations, and others, she said.
"We're lucky to have businesses that have weathered storms in the past," she said. "Kenmore has seen its share of tough times."
It's nice to have Marigold Sol, which should appeal to many female shoppers, as the boulevard's next destination site, Boyes said.
The boulevard also should see a coffee shop/cafe open in upcoming months, and an entrepreneur is looking at opening a craft brewpub in the relatively near future, she said.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Pressed metal and leather wrist cuffs are displayed at the new Marigold Sol shop.
"Food and beverage is a high priority for us right now," Boyes said.
Seth Vaill, co-owner with his brother, Nate, of The Rialto Theatre at 1000 Kenmore Blvd. and parent company Just A Dream Entertainment, said he expects the addition of Marigold Sol and the other new businesses will help the neighborhood.
"The new businesses, that's been fantastic," he said. "There are some amazing new additions to what we've got going on here."
The Rialto closed during the pandemic and will reopen in the near future with the new addition of a kitchen and bar at the front of the building, Vaill said. A related recording studio business has remained open, which is "helping pay the bills and keep the lights operating," he said.
"We are still here. We will get the place rocking again," he said.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal John Buntin, Jr., president of the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce and owner of Kenmore Komics & Games, talks Thursday about businesses on Kenmore Boulevard at the strip's newest store, Marigold Sol.
Merchants ride out tough times dealt by pandemic
John Buntin Jr., owner of Kenmore Komics & Games on the boulevard and president of the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce, thinks the opening of Marigold Sol and the other new businesses is a good sign. He said he thinks the new shop will do well.
"As for the boulevard, it amazes me with American ingenuity," Buntin said. "Tina Boyes has been doing a lot to promote Kenmore. The city has done a lot recently to fix up."
Buntin said his business has been supported by his regular customers and has been "doing all right" during the pandemic. "Some of the businesses on the boulevard are doing OK, some are a little slow," he said.
Howard Evans, owner of E&S Hobbies & Trains at 980 Kenmore Blvd., said his shop – he calls it the largest of its kind in Ohio – is doing OK being open just two days a week, Fridays and Saturdays, during the pandemic. He expects to be open more days when the pandemic ends.
"We're not doing bad," said. "I don't know how the rest of them are doing."
Ron Mohlmaster, pastor of The Church on the Boulevard, said in the couple of years prior to the pandemic he was seeing new life come back to the neighborhood. The church moved to Kenmore from Green in 2008 and has about 150 members in its congregation.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal A display wall in the new store Marigold Sol on Kenmore Boulevard.
"The past year suppressed what was coming up," Mohlmaster said. But it looks like most of the businesses have not been closing down, he said.
"There's still a lot of life on the boulevard," he said.
Dan Shinn, co-owner of Lay's Guitar Shop, a service and retail store at 974 Kenmore Blvd., praised the efforts to help the business district. His specialty service business that involves repairing and restoring guitars draws in customers from outside Ohio.
He thinks other nearby businesses should be able to attract his customers as they wait to pick up an item or have a repair made. Shinn also hopes to sponsor live music events behind his shop and said he is looking forward to the reinstatement of the First Friday entertainment programs on the boulevard that bring people to the neighborhood.
"I know the neighborhood alliance has been working real hard to get the storefronts open," Shinn said. "I always thought the boulevard would be a great place to have an eclectic assortment of businesses. ... I'm happy. They've been working real hard to get the storefronts full."
With those kind of efforts going on, Shinn said he expects many currently empty Kenmore Boulevard storefronts will be filled in the next two years.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Akron Maypr Dan Horrigan checks out the offerings Thursday at Marigold Sol on Kenmore Boulevard.
Neighborhood seeing dividends from Great Streets program
Back at Marigold Sol, Mayor Horrigan said at the ribbon cutting that "this is what Great Streets is all about."
The Great Streets Akron program, created in 2018 and modeled after a similar Los Angeles initiative, aims to help out 12 neighborhood business districts, including the one in Kenmore.
Afterward, Horrigan noted that the city in recent years has been making changes in Kenmore in response to needs, including helping out the people taking on risk by opening businesses.
One of the most noticeable streetscape changes in recent years involved in part putting in bike lanes along the boulevard. Lines were painted to narrow the road and create new parking patterns as a response to ongoing speeding issues, he said.
A top goal for the changes was to create an urban, walkable district, Horrigan said.
© Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal Marigold Sol owner Lori Julien shows an antique salt shaker that an artist turned into a pendant at her shop on Kenmore Boulevard.
Julien said she plans to hold furniture painting and refinishing classes in the back portion of Marigold Sol. She is the county-exclusive dealer of Wise Owl Paint, solvent-free and zero VOC coating and paint products.
"I'm not here alone. I have some amazing, talented vendors that are sharing space with me," Julien said.
"I love the old, walkable retail storefront area," she said. "I love what the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance is doing here on the boulevard. I want to be a part of that."
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Vintage vibe: Marigold Sol is latest business to bloom on Akron's Kenmore Boulevard