ITHACA, N.Y. –– As businesses, both local and national have struggled to recoup post-pandemic, local developer Lincoln Morse has coordinated a new endeavor to give a few local business owners a boost. As part of his long-term goal to develop a mixed-use project on the Ithaca waterfront known as “WaterWorks,” Morse has put together a 4 business pop-up out of the old bus station on West Seneca Road on the West End of Ithaca. The pop-up features recreation, retail, and food by Paddledocks, Coal Yard Cafe, Darling Cake and Driphouse.

Each of these businesses, three of which are solely woman-owned, not only survived the pandemic but are coming out on the other side new and improved.

“This is (the collaboration) just to say hey, here are these small businesses that are either expanding or creating [something] new in Ithaca. We just want you to know we’re coming,” Morse said. 

The pop-up has been up and running as of Memorial Day Weekend, and each of the businesses sets its own hours. Each of the four businesses owners is a very busy, community-oriented individual, but the Ithaca Voice was able to track them down for a short conversation. Here’s what they had to say: 

Paddledockers

Jodi Lee Denman, the owner of Paddledocker, bought the business last year from its original owners and changed the business’s name from “Puddledockers”. For Denman, Paddledockers is just a side project for her considering her full-time job as the Controller and Director of Human Resources of Incodema LLC and Newcut LLC. 

Paddledockers offers services from rental kayaks and canoes to paddleboards and guided tours throughout the spring and summer months.  Denman has now also partnered with Liz Zaharis of Z. C. O. R. E. Pilates to offer exercise classes on the waterfront alongside her regularly scheduled services. 

“This past year has been really tough on businesses as a whole, but this (Paddledockers and Z. C. O. R. E. collaboration) is a great way to bring the community together and build those connections… I’m inside teaching clients privately 6 days a week so to get outside and offer group classes is a nice perk,” Zaharis said. 

Denman also hopes to bring people together with her services and partnership with Zaharis. 

“I think for me the business is about giving community and giving visitors access to our beautiful waterway. That’s what inspired me to do this,” Denman said. 

Paddledockers is open 7 days a week, and you can view their hours and all other services offered on their website.

Darling Cake 

Amy Gaines is a specialist in custom cakes and baking in the Ithaca area and the owner/founder of Darling Cake. Gaines first started Darling Cake as a passion project in and side hustle as means to support her son in 2009, but now makes cakes and other baked goods full-time for all sorts of events and individuals. She relocated from Buffalo to the Ithaca area in 2013 and has been based here since.

One of Gaines’ cakes (via Darling Cake on Facebook)

In her conversation with the Ithaca Voice, Gaines stated that she was already booked for July and has a busy summer ahead of her with a new events space she recently bought, Louella’s Space. Gaines has 74 weddings in 2021 alone but found the time to participate in the pop-up despite the chaos. 

“I had no idea how I was going to fit anything else on my plate, but I was so excited and I loved this kind of opportunity. I loved the idea of working with all the woman-owned businesses,” Gaines said. 

When asked how she manages it all, Gaines joked that “coffee” was the answer, but stated that organization is key when juggling various projects at once. Her latest project, Louella’s Space, is set to have its ribbon-cutting celebration on August 1st

Coal Yard Cafe

The local Ithaca and Collegetown favorite, Coal Yard Cafe, is only at the pop-up on weekends but brings a big flavor to the partnership. Michael Wszolek, the current chef-manager, and owner-to-be of Coal Yard worked closely with Morse to become part of the pop-up to boost his goal of building the reputation of the cafe. 

Wszolek hopes to take ownership of Coal Yard toward the end of 2021 and thinks taking part in community partnerships like the pop-up will help him in his goal.   

“Lincoln (Morse) and Jodi (Denman) have been customers for a couple of years now and liked the kind of aesthetic I bring… They kind of wanted to bring that to the Westend,” Wszolek said. 

Coal Yard will be having a tent at the bus station Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. and are bringing some of the featured menu items, like lobster rolls, to the area. Wszolek is hoping as summer kicks into full gear, the cafe will start a fourth or fifth day at the pop-up. 

“I’m hoping to capture a higher demand and some from the kayak business… My goal for Coal Yard is to just keep growing and expanding,” Wszolek said. 

Driphouse

Driphouse, co-owned by Malisa Lougher and Tami Wilmot, is an infrared sauna and ‘wellness center’ with several locations across New York State. They are currently bringing a retail edge to the pop-up, but they have more services to offer Ithaca as they move into a more permanent local location. 

The Driphouse boutique is selling major retail like Lululemon from the pop-up location but has much more to offer. Lougher described Driphouse as a place to relax and recharge and with services not seen elsewhere in the Ithaca community. At their permanent locations, Driphouse offers a “personal infrared experience.” 

“Our signature service is called our ‘signature drip.’ It’s infrared heat…We bring you into a room by yourself and you lay in a zero-gravity Tempurpedic bed. We put Netflix on or music or you can meditate. And you’re breathing fresh air the whole time so you don’t feel like you’re in a sauna which is really beautiful,” Lougher said. 

For now, Lougher and Wilmot are just looking to put their name into Ithaca before they open a more permanent location on W Buffalo later in the year and test out a full retail location. Wilmot is from the Ithaca area, and the team wants to expand their company past their current 3 locations. 

“Our foundational belief is that you can’t rise if your community isn’t rising… This is just starting to get to know people, building relationships… and supporting the community,” Lougher said. 

Driphouse’s Ithaca location is open Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The pop-up is running with all businesses involved every weekend this summer.

Desiree Holz

Desiree Holz is an intern at the Ithaca Voice and a rising-junior journalism student at Ithaca College. Feel free to email her with tips!