- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

CAMBRIDGE CITY, Ind. (AP) - A limousine with an Iowa license plate was just one of the vehicles parked along Cambridge City’s Main Street on a recent Thursday afternoon.

It was joined by vehicles with plates from Tennessee, Ohio and various Indiana counties.

New shops and restaurants and marketing efforts have helped draw more area residents and out-of-state visitors to Cambridge City for everything from Cincinnati Reds memorabilia to lamps, dishes, crocks and furniture. They also can find New Orleans-style food and drinks, barbecue and sweet treats.

“If you drive through on a Friday or Saturday, you see a lot of license plates from Ohio, Michigan and Illinois,” said Mark McCarty, who owns several downtown buildings and serves as town council president. “I’ve noticed that for the last year or so.”

Beth Leisure has owned the National Road Antique Mall with her husband, Rick, for 18 years.

“In that time, we’ve seen the whole downtown blossom into a destination for antiques,” Beth Leisure said.

That prompts the question: Why?

There are many reasons, local business owners and shoppers say.

Some are more customer-based. Visitors are finding out about Cambridge City through billboards on Interstate 70, individual stores’ websites and referrals from the Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau to Antique Alley destinations.

Word of mouth and social media such as Facebook also are helping spread the word locally about new food choices.

Recent additions, including Cole’s Dining and Spirits, No. 9 Grill and Main Street Sweets Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor, are attracting Wayne County residents who also browse the shops. Leisure said some of her local customers say they didn’t realize the stores existed until they came to eat.

And shop employees and owners are encouraging tourists to visit the nearby restaurants in a community-building effort.

“I think Wayne County is blessed to have the number of wonderful small towns we do. Each town has its own identity, and Cambridge City is no exception,” said Renee Doty, manager of community affairs for the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County. “When you look at how much has happened there in the last couple of years, it’s been an amazing transformation.”

Cambridge City draws customers from the Indianapolis and Dayton areas who don’t mind a leisurely drive along U.S. 40, or an hour’s jaunt along I-70.

Jim and Karoline Blair of Greenwood, Ind., like taking U.S. 40 to Cambridge City for occasional antique shopping.

“It’s the biggest little town on the road,” Jim said.

Cindy Weir said she and her husband usually make the trip to Cambridge City several times each year from Prairieton, Indiana, south of Terre Haute.

“I like the variety of things in the shops,” Cindy said. “Most of it is antique instead of collectibles.”

The retiree found an antique children’s tea set to buy at High Hats Antique Mall. She also found two doll dresses for the dolls she collects - one at High Hats and one at National Road Antique Mall.

One of the town’s new culinary highlights is Cole’s Dining and Spirits.

The New Orleans-influenced Cole’s is open for dinner seven nights a week and open for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“I think everyone in town is warming up to something new and different and embracing it,” said Shawn Mead of Abington, who brings about a decade of restaurant experience from New Orleans’ French Quarter. He decided to head north to help Ron Cole open the business and serve as front of house and bar manager.

Staff look forward to warm weather so customers can check out the new patio that offers a unique outdoor atmosphere for dining on the town. Netting, trees and lighting are to be added soon as well as live blues music. If it’s successful, the patio might be expanded in the future.

Ron’s wife, Becky, redecorated the inside and outside areas of the former Briar-Pitte to give it a more relaxed feeling, Mead said. The work received a beautification award from Cambridge City’s Chamber of Commerce.

The 1890s building has been home to several bars through the years such as Worl’s and Silver Dollar, as well as a pawn shop and a car dealership. Cole’s kept the antique bar, hoping former customers would enjoy it.

Just down the block from Cole’s, a variety of sweets, beverages and sandwiches also can be enjoyed.

Main Street Sweets Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor has been open since last April. It draws tourists as well as residents from nearby towns.

Peyton Renforth, a server, said he remembers customers from New York and England who came to Cambridge City just to go antiquing.

“There are a lot of things to do and places to eat and shop,” Renforth said.

The store features classic hardwood floors and modern conveniences such as free WiFi.

Renforth and fellow server Sophia Renaud see many former classmates at the eatery.

“It really is a neat little town,” said Renaud. “It’s very homey and very fun. I like that you know everyone that you grew up with.”

High Hats Antique Mall celebrated its grand opening last weekend. The family owned business recently moved from Richmond’s Historic Depot District.

Before moving into the former Hole in the Wall Antique Mall, Doug Price said they researched the market area.

“We found hands down that Cambridge City was the hot spot for the antique market right now,” Price said.

He said they know some Cambridge City business owners are doing quite well, so they decided to take the leap of faith.

McCarty said local organizations started working together about four years ago to partner on projects.

“That’s how we’ve stepped up what we’re doing. We can’t accomplish anything if all the momentum isn’t going in the same direction,” Beth Leisure said.

Leisure is involved with many of those efforts to build momentum. She’s president of the Cambridge City Chamber of Commerce and the county’s convention and tourism board. In addition, she is active with the Cambridge City Main Street and National Road boards.

Wayne County’s tourism bureau has had success connecting with Midwest travel writers who then have featured Antique Alley in various publications.

And some publicity efforts are aided by the state. Leisure said a new Indiana State Scenic Byways Passport Project program announced last week in conjunction with Indiana’s bicentennial could help draw tourists.

That growth has helped inspire town leaders to begin the process of applying for funding for a master plan through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

McCarty said the master plan could help determine if a new housing development should be considered.

Meanwhile, some projects already are being evaluated or carried out.

A riverwalk has been proposed to build a walking trail through Creitz Park to U.S. 40.

Cambridge City recently received a grant to tear down some abandoned houses, and that project will start soon.

The town also received a grant for $350,000 to help improve the appearances of about 15 houses through new siding, painting and other repairs. That work is nearly finished.

McCarty travels all over the state for his grant-writing business, Star Development, and sees the conditions of those areas. He said Cambridge City is doing very well compared to some other Indiana communities.

“We’re realizing that creating quality of life in your town brings growth,” Leisure said. “People try to create growth, but you can’t do that. You have to create quality of life, a reason for them to move here in the future.”


Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, https://pinews.co/25JBh4X


Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com

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