For 200 years, downtown Grove City has been home to entrepreneurs and their dreams. Each building has a story of great men and woman who have had ideas and actually had the confidence to make them a reality, with varying success. Even though every business is a gamble, sometimes people come along that seem to have the right combination of passion and a plan. That’s the case with one couple, who are not just starting a new business, but also attempting to save one of Olde Town’s largest and most historic buildings.
Built in 1906, you’ll know 241 South Broad as being the Hallmark store, turned pizza shop, turned hot dog shop. During that same time, you would have also noticed the gradual and very noticeable deterioration. What you may not know, is that the large 22,000 square foot, three story structure has housed everything from the newly formed Grove City High School, to a bowling alley. Dotty McGill’s Dance studio was also once on the building’s third floor. Today, the building is now in the hands of Dave and Jeanie Mills, and will soon be home to “Sweet Jeanie’s, the happiest place in town”.
The focus, especially at first, will be homemade ice cream, but a diner-style menu will soon follow. The couple have spent the last few months shopping around for unique pieces to fill the space, even driving as far as Indiana to purchase what will be the showpiece of the restaurant, a vintage 1948 soda bar. They’ve also purchased vintage booths and chairs, along with classic refrigerators and other period décor (Also note: they’re looking for 1950’s furniture in the area for a living room set up that they have planned near the entry). The goal, to make it seem like the place has been there for generations, with a few modern twists. “We didn’t seek out the vintage look, but when we found the soda bar, we knew that was the direction we had to go,” said owner, temporary construction worker and ice cream maker Jeanie Mills. She has done much of the work herself. From bringing down layers of walls, to sanding down the original hardwood floors, she has put more than just her dream on the line. At this time last year she was a nurse in Pittsburgh. Her husband David is the Olde Town manager, and the two knew that they wanted to start a homemade ice cream business in Olde Town. Now recently “retired,” and living just outside of Grove City, Jeanie spends most of her days putting sweat equity into the future restaurant. It has been a family affair, with David’s 85 year old parents also helping rip up nails and clear out the garbage. The bright colored walls, linoleum tiles and a drop-down ceiling have been removed to expose century old brick walls, original hardwood floors, and an ornate tin ceiling. With work still to be done, the before and after is already jaw-dropping.
“We want this to be a place that college and high school kids want to hang out, but then also be a place that brings back memories for grandparents,” says Jeanie. “It’s going to be the place that parents let their kids ride bikes to with their allowance money, like the old days.” She plans on having a candy bar, with nickel and dime candies, bringing back a nostalgic part of Broad Street that many in town have missed.
The building will someday be much more than just Sweet Jeanie’s. They plan on restoring the entire structure, which they hope to be the center of activity in Olde Town. The plan includes renting out another street level storefront, which thankfully has many of the same historic characteristics, and needs a lot less work. The basement, which was once a bowling alley (the paint job proves it), and more recently the Jam House (youth center), David plans on restoring it back into a performing space. A large bar, built in tables, and a small stage still stand in the basement. Jeanie’s dream is for it to have a “Speak Easy” feel to it, creating a unique concert venue for downtown.
They also have big plans for the second and third floors. The second floor apartments will someday be completely redone. As for the expansive third floor, they look to turn it into a large events venue. It was the third floor that you can tell once housed part of the high school and Dotty McGill’s Dance Studio. A large entry way, along with two massive rooms make it very reminiscent of the Corinthian Banquet Hall in Sharon. An elevator would someday be added.
The exterior will also see improvements with new windows and a restored entry way. While the entire building’s restoration is roughly a five year plan for the Mills, the space Sweet Jeanie’s will occupy will be temporarily open for the Wine Walk this Saturday, February 28th, and the grand opening (construction permitting) is tentatively planned for the first full day of spring, and Jeanie’s birthday, March 21st. Less than a month away, that gives Grove City one more reason to celebrate the end of winter.
*UPDATE: Sweet Jeanie’s Grand Opening has been delayed to April 18,2015
*Tickets for the Winter Wine Walk on Saturday, February 28 from noon to 6pm are sold at b’gifted at 216 S. Broad St. and online at www.oldetowngrovecity.com.
by Alex DeGroff