Commercial growth was evident across the community in 2017, with new businesses opening, existing businesses trading hands or expanding into new markets, old properties being transformed into new spaces — even some new construction.
A new event venue, which opened for business in the fall, is “bringing to life” a former Coca-Cola bottling plant, Melinda Heyn, its executive director, said in September.
A year after renovations began, The Bottle House, 202 S. Walnut St., Ottawa, is now accepting rentals for the 10,000-square foot space that can host up to 500 people. The building is also the former Ottawa Antique Mall, and in total is 17,000 square feet.
Renovations have included all-new heating and cooling systems, expanded bathrooms, new paint on the exterior and interior, smoothing and sealing of original concrete floors and state of the art audio/visual sound system and projectors.
“If you remember it as the antique mall, it’s now very open,” Heyn said. “We also added all new lighting. It’s open and it’s bright. It’s a completely changed space. It’s a total transformation. When it was an antique mall, there were all the different shelves and units, that’s all gone now. You walk in the front door now, and you see the beautiful copper top bar. We’ve got lots of wood pallet features in the building, which really help to warm the space. Brick walls have also been exposed.”
Painting the exterior red was a no-brainer, Heyn said.
“We wanted to keep it kind of similar to what was there because, you know, Coca-Cola, but we didn’t want to go the bright red of Coca-Cola,” she said. “We wanted more of a subdued color.”
They’ve left original Coca-Cola signs, and some of the original limestone on the building.
... After a vehicle plowed into its 23rd Street location, Dollar Tree reopened in a new location this summer.
The store, 2006 S. Princeton Circle Drive, Ottawa, opened Aug. 10, manager Sandy Collins said. Its floor space is 9,800 square feet, compared to 4,000 at the old 23rd Street location.
Collins said she thinks people are not only excited for the larger space, but now Dollar Tree is carrying refrigerated items — everything from dairy products, like milk and eggs, to frozen goods, such as pizza and breakfast foods.
Dollar Tree’s former site, 211 E. 23rd St., Ottawa, closed briefly in September 2016 when its storefront was damaged by a 2005 GMC pickup that drove through the front windows and halfway through the business, according to Herald archives. With boarded-up front, the store reopened shortly after the incident. In December, Gate City Glass Company installed a new door. That location has since closed, due to the opening of the Prince Circle Drive location.
... Featuring bath bombs, lotions, various soaps and more, The Goat Milk Soap Store made its downtown debut in March at 202 S. Main St., Ottawa.
“Everything we do is grounded in our faith, so that’s first and foremost,” Joe Riggins, store owner, said. “We try to treat people how you want to be treated. We don’t hide the fact that we’re Christians. All of our labels have verses on them.”
His wife of 10 years, Julie, also an owner of the store, said quality customer service should reflect that faith.
Formally trained in computer science and previously employed by Sprint, Joe Riggins said the road to bath products has been a quirky one.
“Computers, engineering and bath products ... that’s a weird transition, but those are the doors God has opened for us,” he said.
On the business’ website, such products as bath salts, traditional bars of soap, lotions, bubble scoops and more top the list, but their most unique product may be the jelly soap, the couple said.
While their products boast goat milk as an ingredient, of course, other skin-soothing ingredients include shea butter, cocoa butter and colloidal oats, the couple said. Their most popular product is bath bombs, they said, referencing the hard-packed product which dissolves or “explodes” when introduced to water.
Walking into the new store, one is greeted with scents of lotions and fruity bath bombs.
Though they had to do only some cosmetic work to the historic building, the couple hopes to eventually move some of their production in-house, they said at the store’s unveiling.
“It’s time to expand and give the business the room it needs,” Joe Riggins said. “There’s other places that probably, in theory, would be better, but you know, we’re hometown. We’re part of the community. We’ve been at the farmers market, so we know people. We have no intention of selling our souls to make a dollar.”
... Despite growth in the commercial sector, a fixture on Ottawa’s Main Street closed and the building was put up for sale.
The Ottawa Senior Center, 130 S. Main St., dug too big of a financial hole to stay afloat, board members said in early January. The center was a meeting place for seniors to eat, talk, be entertained, play cards, dominos and board games for 40 years, according to the board.
Helen Hood, senior center board treasurer, said the board felt bad about having to close the center.
“We tried to have fundraisers to keep [the center] open,” she said. “There was not anyway to bring it out. We wanted to make it work. We wanted to stay there and make it a senior center and community center. We were trying to figure out where we could come up with some money. It did not work out for us.”
Hood said even if the center got out of debt, it still needed to raise $1,000 a month to pay bills.
Florene Hart, who was the Mid-America Nutrition site manager at the senior center for 33 years, remembers when the building was full of people and activities.
“We used to have big crowds,” she said. “We had all kinds of things going on down there. We had a different band coming in every day.”