WILLIAMSBURG — Efforts to make Williamsburg a city of trails seem to be paying off.
Despite the loss of its two banks and a grocery store in recent years, new small businesses are springing up in the town through which the Lower Trail runs.
“People see a need with people coming to town. There was no destination. These companies provide options for them to stop in town to walk the trail,” said David Cadle, executive director of The Crossroad, a local youth ministry, which has led efforts to make Williamsburg a city of trails.
“Williamsburg is starting to grow again. There is renewed hope and vision,” Cadle said.
Cadle’s vision had a direct impact on the opening of Second Street Cafe & Bakery, 304. E. Second St., on April 14.
Owner Cheryl Bassler spoke to Cadle before opening her business.
“Initially, when I looked at the building for sale, I walked the sidewalks and decided Williamsburg felt good. I called Dave Cadle. We discussed the possible benefit of being so close to the trail, and I was sold,” said Bassler.
Bassler, former operator of the Altoona-Blair County Airport Restaurant and operator of a bakery in Woodbury, offers breakfast items, daily lunch specials, homemade soups and many varieties of baked goods at his Williamsburg cafe.
A month earlier, on March 9, The Brickhouse Bistro opened in the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building, 417 W. Second St.
Chris Schemeck and his wife, Jessica Lilly, a native of Williamsburg, purchased the building in the fall.
His father, Mike, spearheaded efforts to renovate the building, which was last occupied by an OIP restaurant about two years ago.
“We saw an opportunity to fill a void in the city’s restaurant and service industry. We wanted to bring home-cooked, locally sourced food to people in the city and surrounding communities,” said Jessica Lilly, who now lives in Enola. “There aren’t many restaurants in town, so we definitely felt the need to bring our business plan to life.”
The kitchen has been redesigned and new walls have been put up. The couple did a lot of painting and cleaning upstairs.
Mike Lily said: “It wasn’t in our vision when she made this up. I said what?’ she knocked us down with this idea.
For now, the business offers breakfast and lunch and is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Plans include possibly extending the hours to serve dinner, with an emphasis on Italian meals.
Bloom Hair Studio recently opened at 413 W. Second St.
Owner Kayla Detwiler, like her husband, Joe, an Altoona police officer, are originally from Williamsburg.
She had worked as a stylist in Altoona for a few years. Once Altoona lifted the rules that officers had to live in the city, they returned to their hometown.
“We may have seen things come and go here, and the loss of our grocery store and two banks has been difficult, but many of us new business owners chose Williamsburg because we believe in it and we see such great potential for our community,” said Detwiler. “Since I set up my salon here, my clientele has tripled. I can’t even imagine six months from now.
Zach Biddle recently purchased the former Dollar General building on Spring Street to expand his business, Ridgeline Gunsmithing LLC.
“This will be my main place of business as I have outgrown my old facility. I’m still transitioning to this setup,” said Biddle. “The trail didn’t specifically affect my decision, however, there will be extra space in my building that I won’t be using, that I would like to see a trail-related business occupy, but I don’t have any trails specific on this front.
Meanwhile, Zach’s cousin, Mike Biddle, and his wife, Brittany, opened their coffee truck “The Biddle Brew” last fall at 321 E. Second St.
Biddles serve hot coffee, iced coffee, and specialty coffees, which include things like iced/hot lattes, macchiatos, mochas, and cappuccinos. They also offer pastries.
They continue to search for a permanent location, Brittany Biddle said.
The opening of Brickhouse Bistro has brought a landmark from the late 1800s back to life.
“The structure has such an interesting history. We are delighted to be at this place. We are proud of the way our renovation has gone and the location is ideal for both city residents on foot and cyclists heading off the trail,” said Jessica Lily.
“We are thrilled to be able to serve our family recipes to members of our community. My family has three generations rooted in our city, and we all like to get together around good homemade meals. Cooking and feeding others is a passion in our family,” said Jessica Lily.
Jessica’s mother, Charlotte Lilly, and her sister, Jennifer (Lilly) Gorsuch, are co-managers of the bistro.
“Our goal is to make great food for the community and hope they enjoy it,” said Charlotte Lily.
The nearby Lower Trail can help the business.
“We hope to bring members from other cities to see how beautiful the city of Williamsburg is. We are a city full of great, friendly people. With rails to trails running through town, it’s a great place to stop and visit. Many bikers have come off the track and they seem to like the pit stop for a meal,” said Jessica Lily.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.