Before Fligner’s Market purchased the vacant building across the street from its store at 1854 Broadway Ave., in Lorain, the property was a target for vandalism and diminishing the commercial district’s potential for growth. But the Fligner family saw opportunity in those run-down walls and purchased the spot in 2019.

“Instead of seeing it deteriorate, we wanted to do something with it — we think it’s a good opportunity for growth in this area,” says Ben Fligner, president and the fourth generation at Fligner’s, which is known for having the longest full-service meat counter in the country and offers a full catering menu. The building had been empty for about eight years and was previously Mercy Hospital’s occupational health practice, and before that a laundromat.

In July 2020, Cleveland Veteran Business Solutions Ltd. (CVBS) moved into the 23,000 square-foot space, which Fligner’s had gutted and cleaned out by hand. The organization is using the building as a headquarters for its operations focused on being the solution to the PPE supply chain challenge. CVBS designed and now produces 3-ply surgical face masks that are FDA cleared and approved and authorized for use in healthcare settings.

Fligner shares that the startup is a brainchild of three retired servicemen who simply wanted to give back. “What they are doing is really nice, and if they get some contracts, they could employ so many people in the area,” he says of the organization’s potential to make a positive impact in the region.

This is exactly how Fligner would like to see the space across the street evolve — as a setting that triggers career and economic development. For now, CVBS continues operating in the space, which is “raw” and not yet built out. But Fligner sees even more potential there. “I’m a big fan of people getting second chances in life, so I wouldn’t mind this being a training/retraining hub,” he says.

With 2020’s ups and downs, the happenings inside Fligner’s new space is certainly a silver lining. And as for the CVBS, “We are hoping they sell even more masks,” Fligner says.