One of the hallmarks of successful downtowns is that they are destinations for great food and have lots of fun places to eat. Think of any downtown that you enjoy visiting and there's a good chance that a restaurant, public market or street-side food vendor plays a prominent role in making it a favorite place.
Several projects in downtown Jamestown, including events, business expansions and recent openings, all signal that downtown Jamestown is moving up in the ranks as a regional food destination.
One is the expansion of the Downtown Jamestown Farmers Market, which is heading into week four at its new location on Cherry Street between Third and Second. Now operating on Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m., the market features local farms with fresh produce along with vendors selling delicious prepared foods. Baked goods, in particular, are abundant at the market with the arrival of The Little French Bakery and the expansion of Gypsy Moon Cake Company.
At Winter Garden Plaza on North Main Street, Jamestown NOW is preparing for its Great Jamestown Sauce Off on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. Now in its third year, the event is a chance to taste sauces prepared by professional and amateur chefs while enjoying live music in a cool public space. If you have a great sauce in your home-cooking repertoire, there's still a chance to enter it for a chance to win the $100 grand prize.
In addition to these outdoor food events, several exciting projects are underway to upgrade or transform restaurant spaces in downtown Jamestown this summer.
The most visible project is the rebuilding of The Pub after a devastating January fire. Due to committed owners and some assistance from the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and the city of Jamestown, a revamped version of this downtown landmark is set to reopen this summer with a fresh but familiar interior and a charmingly restored facade.
Across the street at 212 North Main, Havana's will be opening soon as downtown's first Cuban restaurant. An exterior renovation featuring warm Caribbean colors has already been completed. After dining at Havana's this summer, customers will have a chance to head one block east to cool their taste buds at the Sprinkle Cone, a shop selling locally made ice cream that will open at 209 Pine St.
Another big food project downtown is the renovation of the kitchen at Labyrinth Press Company at 12 E. Fourth St. in the Thurston Terrace block. The improvements are part of an effort to boost the food-serving capacity of the vegetarian coffeehouse and its upstairs neighbor, Brazil, a craft beer and wine bar. Both businesses are owned by Jeff James, who is helping to turn that block of downtown into its own unique food and drink destination.
Although a few restaurants have closed within the past year, others have opened and are making their mark. The Landmark reintroduced fine dining to the old Ironstone building on West Fourth Street, while Shawbucks now has the Press Room serving lunch and dinner next door to the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
While all of these ventures are to some extent competitors, they are also part of an agglomeration economy. This describes the largely unconscious tendency of similar businesses to cluster - such as multiple gas stations at the same intersection - in order to increase their collective visibility and marketability. When a downtown has several excellent restaurants and other food venues to choose from, customers are more likely to go there. They do so reasonably assured that they'll find something they like, have a good experience, and be able to chain together a nice meal, something sweet, and a drink to complete their evening.
In other words: the more the merrier.
Renaissance Reflections is a biweekly feature with news and commentary from the front lines of Jamestown's revitalization.