GENEROUS WOODEN antique tables are populated with guests who savor delicate pastries and lap up every last bit of Union Town Provisions’ homemade vinaigrette dressings from the cafe’s hearty salads. An eclectic collection of chandeliers hangs as functional eye candy throughout the historic storefront. The original hardwood floors were restored, and owners Shawn Grieves and Timothy Scholl unearthed a piano during the renovation, which turned into a bit of a treasure hunt as they discovered features like a tin ceiling hidden beneath a drop ceiling and 1930s tiles tucked behind walls.
The space was once divided into two retailers: a jeweler and men’s shoe store. Today, 422 Broadway Ave. in Lorain is Union Town Provisions, a cafe and bakery serving breakfast, lunch, drinks and desserts — and now dinner with cocktails.
Initially, Grieves was seeking a space where he could cure meats and cheese. “But downtown Lorain doesn’t have a bakery, so we started playing around with the idea of doing our own baked goods and bringing in local meats and vegetables,” he says.
Grieves is a trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and previously worked for Oberlin Cottage with its farm-to-fork program via Bon Appetit catering. Scholl teaches at the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures.
Grieves had been seeking out a space in Lorain County to start a culinary venture.
“I was in Manhattan for nine years and opened high-profile restaurants there, and after the World Trade Center collapsed, I came back home to my roots and opened up Jefferson 150 in Amherst,” he says.
Initially, Grieves found a space in Vermilion, but the building deal fell through. Grieves’ friends who own Speak of the Devil cocktail bar in Lorain had built a following and created an attractive venue in downtown Lorain. “I had been hanging out with them for years, and I just knew something would come up,” he says.
When Grieves and Scholl found it, the space was all drywall and paneled wood. But they saw potential. Knocking out a wall and discovering original materials confirmed they were on to something much more special than an old storefront. In fact, opening up the space resulted in a grand, airy environment.
They continued to chip away at the renovation for about four months and officially opened Union Town Provisions in February.
“The front has large windows overlooking the Black River Landing,” Grieves says. There are plans to make the second floor a bed-and-breakfast.
The name Union Town Provisions is fitting because, Grieves explains, “it’s about the struggle of a union town with its steel mills and ship building, which crumbled and now it’s rebuilding.”
Grieves and Scholl are part of the renaissance.
“There is a movement,” Grieves says. “Lots of buildings downtown were bought, and there is going to be a nice energy of fresh, Lorain blood and people coming down to see what we have to offer.
“Our open kitchen is anchored by a 12-foot deli case that holds our cheeses and cured meats, and we have a full line of espresso, loose leaf teas and coffees,” Grieves says, relating that he developed a penchant for a perfect cup while traveling in Italy. “We bake all of our croissants, cookies, cakes, brownies and pastries in house.”
Meanwhile, the establishment speaks its history with exposed brick walls and relics Grieves has introduced, such as church pew booths. Details like antique trim are played up, and a line of tables is suitable for one or many guests to take in the scene and enjoy Union Town’s fare.
Grieves has approached the renovation with contagious energy — and the response to this old space being infused with new life is positive. “There’s a community here,” he says. “I’m looking forward to more people joining us downtown.”