ITHACA, N.Y. — A new hub of familiar businesses is a one-stop-shop for those looking for a haircut, a cup of coffee, home goods and vintage clothing.
Home Green Home, a sustainable home furnishings shop, and Nothing Nowhere, a cafe and art space, made the move across the Ithaca Commons from 215 East State St. to 126 East State St. last month. The two businesses are in the former space that Petrune, a vintage clothing store and staple on the Commons, occupied. Following the closure of Sheldon Hill, a vintage jewelry shop, at 128 East State St., Petrune has now moved next door into the former Sheldon Hill space and has created a go-between door to make business free flowing between the two spaces. Hare and Bristle, a beauty salon, is still located at the upper level of 126 East State St.
“It’s a bizarre mix,” Caleb Harrington, a local artist and Nothing Nowhere barista, said.
After the Finger Lakes Running Company moved its storefront from the Commons to Cascadilla Street in 2019, Megan Vidler, owner of Home Green Home, said that she had more space to expand her storefront when it was located in the Rothschild Building. With this extra space, she invited Harrrington to open Nothing Nowhere in Home Green Home.
“When I first started talking about wanting to bring Caleb on board, people were asking me, ‘Aren’t you worried about the competition with coffee shops?’” she said. “And my answer was that there can’t really be too many small, niche coffee shops and hang-out spots. Different people want different things and want a different crowd to hang out with. Having a small, niche spot on a lot of different corners isn’t really getting into each other’s way.”
Nothing Nowhere was only open for three months before the pandemic forced Ithaca’s businesses to shut down in March.
“I thought my life was ending,” Harrington said. “The entirety of my customer base is all about human interaction. Being in the hospitality business and just starting out during the pandemic is a little wild. Scary times.”
Once the pandemic hit, Vidler said it felt like the right time to reboot their businesses. Although the new space is smaller than the previous location, she said it has streamlined Home Green Home and Nothing Nowhere.
“Over that time, we got to know each other so much better and sort of rebuild our collaboration and rebuild our trust of each other,” she said. “In a lot of ways, it feels like we’ve beamed five years into the future. We were going to work together more over time and merge our brands. It’s just happened so much faster than we expected.”
Across the country, at least 163,735 businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a September 2020 Yelp Economic Impact Report. Of these closed businesses, 60% are permanently closed.
In the new space, Harrington’s barista bar is located in the front of the shop, compared to being in the back corner of Home Green Home’s previous space. Harrington said he hopes to serve as an incubator and bring in other local businesses, like bakers and chocolatiers.
“I’m having a joyous time being up here in the front, as opposed to being secret and in the back,” he said. “I love seeing people when they walk by. Making eye contact, an experience that I haven’t felt for months. … It’s so wonderful to start rebuilding relationships with folks I haven’t seen for a long time, a solid base of regulars that come through.”
Once it is safe to do so, they said they hope to integrate the space into a hang-out spot with more seating.
“We’re exactly the same as every coffee shop in town,” Harrington said. “Every coffee shop in this town is wonderful. Ithaca is the holy land for coffee. We mix it up a little bit by offering weird things … flavors that maybe the regular folks wouldn’t be interested in, but those who are seeking a little bit more adventure can go to. We just want to show off weird ideas.”
Domenica Brockman, owner of Petrune, said she was happy to have Home Green Home and Nothing Nowhere move into the space after Sheldon Hill closed. She said she was worried about filling the space because of the lack of new businesses wanting to start amid the pandemic.
“I always wanted a cafe in our store, and it’s a completely different business running the cafe,” she said. “It required some expertise that Caleb obviously has, and with Megan being a well-established anchor store on the Commons for a long time … I was just totally thrilled, and it’s like we’re all doing different things, but I think they complement each other well.”
Brockman said that she decided to move Petrune into the former Sheldon Hill space because she knew that Home Green Home had a large inventory, and also because she was looking to downsize Petrune a bit.
Brockman said that once Vidler and Harrington moved in, they decided to put doorways between the businesses so they all share the same space.
“The energy is there, and that’s exciting,” Brockman said. “The minute Caleb started serving coffee, there was a steady stream of people walking in our store, and they could look through and see our store from the back entrance, and that’s positive. I think it’s going to be great for everybody. You give people two doors to go in and four businesses to visit.”
Vidler said that in the three months Nothing Nowhere was open, Harrington brought in increased foot traffic to Home Green Home. She said she expects the four businesses being in one space to help with business as well.
Home Green Home and Nothing Nowhere are temporarily closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to finish projects and fully moving into the space. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Vidler says she expects they will be back open seven days a week closer to the holidays.
Home Green Home’s previous space will not be getting new business anytime soon as construction plans forThe Ithacan building and Green Street Garage are expected to begin sometime next year. The new building will be built atop the rebuilt eastern third of the garage, but portions of the existing two-story Rothschild Building next door will be renovated to house amenity spaces for tenants, as well as Ithaca College’s Physician’s Assistant program in the former Finger Lakes School of Massage space. The college will host a ground-level “Program Activity Room” on the Commons to showcase and market the program, with retail to remain on the ends of the building.
“I like this [new] space a lot,” Vidler said. “I think it has a ton of character. I don’t want there to be vacancies downtown. I think it’s really great that somebody new is going to move in and breathe life to that spot.”
Vidler said that they have not done much advertising that they have reopened since they are still settling into the space, but business has been good.
“People are just so happy we’re back, and just so chill and understanding and so it’s been going really well,” Vidler said.