Heritage Station continues to thrive in downtown Huntington
HUNTINGTON — Jill McCormick says when she visits Huntington that Heritage Station at the corner of 11th Street and Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard in downtown is the place she always stops by for food, drink and some shopping.
“They have a lot of very cool shops here,” said McCormick, who lives in the Teays Valley area. “Also, I love the historic theme with the old railroad train and overall look and feel of the place. I recommend visiting Heritage Station to all my friends and family.”
Today, the historic Heritage Station thrives as an artisan center, as well as a downtown food, fun and shopping destination.
The Cabell-Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau anchors the facility from the original depot building and shares that space with River & Rail Bakery and a gift shop called The Red Caboose.
The old train station was converted into individual shop spaces. More than a dozen locally owned businesses that include artisan shops, a craft beer bar, wine and whiskey bar, bakery, yoga studio, eateries, a bed and breakfast and more occupy the retail space. There are 16 total spaces at the site, including the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District administrative office.
Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, works to keep the occupancy rate at Heritage Station at 100 percent.
“We have had some businesses come and go, but we are quickly able to fill the spots with new businesses from a waiting list of folks wanting a spot here,” Brady said. “We want to keep a variety of different types of businesses so that we have lots of foot traffic here.”
Brady said Brand Yourself, the screenprinting business at Heritage Station, is moving into the 4th Avenue space formerly occupied by Latta’s.
“They have moved their production facility, and here in a few weeks, they will be moving their retail facility as well,” he said.
Brady says the two spaces Brand Yourself occupies has already been leased to two new business.
“In the next few weeks ‘Moonlight Cookies’ will open here,” he said. “They deliver homemade, freshly baked cookies from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., so I urge folks to stop by and check them out starting around the beginning of September.”
Brady says when a business leaves, he grabs his list of business owners that have already contacted him about getting a spot at Heritage Station.
“There are at least six or seven people that really want a space here, so when one leaves I contact the next one on the waiting list in a first-come, first-serve kind a
basis,” he said.
Also coming soon to Heritage Station is Tony the Tailor, according to Brady.
“I expect he will be opening around the first week of September or so and they will be downstairs next to Full Circle Ceramics,” Brady said.
“Tony the Tailor has a fine men’s clothing store in Charleston. That location will continue to do business, and this will be their Huntington location.”
Taps at Heritage, located in Suite 9, has expanded its business with a new outdoor space.
“We have been talking about how we could get outdoor seating, so we finally talked to all the right officials, got the design for the new outdoor space approved,” said Allison White, who owns Taps with her husband Ray Frye.
The entire outdoor space, which includes the new deck and built-in bench seating, is approximately 25 feet by 30 feet and can accommodate about 40 people, according to White.
“There is going to be nothing like it in Huntington,” White said. “It’s going to be private and out of the way. It will be like you’re hanging out on your own back porch. It’s going to be awesome,” she said.
White says the new deck also will help attract more visitors to Heritage Station.
“Heritage Station is already a cool place and this is just going to make it better,” she said.
Taps is the “little brother” of SIP Wine and Whiskey bar located just 3 doors down and is also owned by White and Frye.
Events at Heritage Station
Brady says Heritage Station is also a destination for fun on the weekends all summer long.
Brady said events like “Party on the Patio” have been brought back to Heritage Station.
“When I arrived here 10 years ago we wanted to bring it back, so we do it now through the summer,” he said. “It’s done monthly, on Friday nights, May through September.”
Brady said it has progressed to “Party on the Patio — Eat in the Street.”
“We bring food vendors out, block off 11th Street and then had a big block party,” he said. “We have some great entertainment on the stage and it’s a really fun event.”
Brady says there is also an “Artisan Market,” which is the second Friday night each month May through October.
“We try to highlight a lot of the items sold in the Red Caboose and items from local vendors and crafters too,” Brady said. “We have music at this event as well.”
There are also other events, like Cinema Under The Stars, the Diamond Teeth Mary Blues & Art Festival and the Rails & Ales Craft Beer Festival.
History of Heritage Station
In 1977, the city’s Park District began the renovation of what was for 100 years a railroad terminal, according to Brady.
The old B&O Railroad Station became home to a restaurant and several small businesses, Brady explained. He said a variety of businesses came and went at then-named Heritage Village and for many years things were very quiet as the business at the location did not create much foot traffic.
“The front area was more of the visitor’s center area and railroad station itself and the back area is where all the grain, flour and supplies came in,” he said. “The buildings were just open stalls.”
The Greater Hunting Park & Recreation District office was a tally station back in the old railroad days, Brady added.
“We have a picture on the wall here of the original train depot building that was here,” he said.
“That is now the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.”
The old Bank of Huntington building at Heritage Station has a fascinating history of its own, according to Brady.
The bank was established along with the development of the railroad in Huntington, and was originally located on the eastern side of what is now downtown Huntington.
Larger banks were created as the city’s population grew, and the Bank of Huntington closed in the early 1900s. The building was then utilized as a space for local businesses on the first floor, and an apartment on the second.
In the 1970s, the building was in danger of being destroyed; however, the local community decided to relocate it alongside Heritage Station so that it could be preserved for generations to come.
The old Bank of Huntington is now fully utilized by local businesses in Huntington, and still has the original bank teller cages on the first floor.
Brady says local legend states that infamous Jesse James and his gang robbed the bank in 1875. However, Brady says that the bank was not robbed by Jesse James, but rather by two relatively unknown men who may have been assisted by Cole Younger and Frank James.
“The story goes that they tied their horses to the hitching post outside the bank and went in and robbed it,” Brady said. “They asked the bank teller what his monthly wages were and then they left that amount in the bank and took all the rest.”
Future of Heritage Station
Brady says he would like to see the Pullman car in the front of Heritage Station become something.
“That is still being discussed,” he said.
Brady says he isn’t worried about the future.
“I think the future of this place will carve itself out as we go along and we will have shop 14, the bank building, coming available soon and we have plans for it, but nothing definite yet,” he said.
The upstairs of the old bank building is occupied by “The Chessie Room,” a railroad-themed bed and breakfast.
“It has a private patio area on the back side and it’s a very nice place to spend an overnight or a weekend,” Brady said. “It’s got all the historic touches.”
Brady added that in the past few years all new roofs were put on all the buildings.
“We reappointed and retucked all the brick on the west facing walls,” he said. “This place has been one of Huntington’s best kept secrets, but we see that more and more people are discovering Heritage Station and learning to appreciate it. It’s a cool place with plenty to do.”
For additional information about Heritage Station, visit online at http://ghprd.org or find them on Facebook by searching for “Shops at Heritage Station.”
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/Fred-PaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.