Trailblazers: Williamsburg banks on recreation ties to revitalize economy

Bicyclists head west on the Lower Trail near the welcome sign in Williamsburg. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

WILLIAMSBURG — Efforts to make Williamsburg known as a trail town appear to be paying off.

Despite the loss of its two banks and a grocery store in recent years, new small businesses are springing up in the town through which the Lower Trail passes.

“People are seeing a need with people coming into town. There were no destinations. These businesses are giving them options to stop at while in town to ride the trail,” said David Cadle, executive director of The Crossroad, a local youth ministry, who has been spearheading efforts to make Williamsburg known as a trail town.

“Williamsburg is starting to grow again. There is renewed hope and a vision,” Cadle said.

Cadle’s vision directly impacted the opening of Second Street Cafe & Bakery, 304. E. Second St., on April 14.

Charlotte Lilly cuts bread at Brickhouse Bistro in Williamsburg. The eatery opened March 9 in the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building at 417 W. Second St. Mirror photo by Walt Frank

Owner Cheryl Bassler talked to Cadle before opening her business.

“Initially, when I looked at the building for sale, I walked the sidewalks and decided Williamsburg just felt right. I placed a call to Dave Cadle. We discussed the possible advantage of being so near to the trail, and I was sold,” Bassler said.

Bassler, one-time operator of the restaurant at the Altoona-Blair County Airport and operator of a bakery in Woodbury, offers breakfast items, daily lunch specials, homemade soups and many varieties of baked goods at her Williamsburg cafe.

A month earlier, on March 9, the Brickhouse Bistro opened in the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building, 417 W. Second St.

Chris Schemeck and his wife, Jessica Lilly, a Williamsburg native, purchased the building in the fall.

A view looking south on High Street in Williamsburg. Courtesy photo

Her father, Mike, spearheaded renovation efforts at the building, which was last occupied by an OIP Restaurant about two years ago.

“We saw an opportunity to fill a void in the town’s restaurant and service industry. We wanted to bring locally sourced, home-cooked meals to the residents of the town and surrounding communities,” said Jessica Lilly, who now lives in Enola. “There are not many eateries in town, so we certainly felt the need to bring our business plan to life.”

The kitchen was redesigned, and new walls were put up. The couple did a lot of painting and cleaned up the upstairs.

Mike Lilly said, “It was not in our vision when she came up with this. I said, ‘What?’ she knocked us over with that idea.”

For now, the business offers breakfast and lunch and is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Plans call for eventually expanding hours to serve dinner, with a focus on Italian meals.

Owner Cheryl Bassler opened the Second Street Cafe & Bakery, 304. E. Second St., Williamsburg, on April 14. The cafe offers breakfast items, daily lunch specials, homemade soups and many varieties of baked goods. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Bloom Hair Studio recently opened at 413 W. Second St.

Owner Kayla Detwiler, like her husband, Joe, an Altoona police officer, are natives of Williamsburg.

She had worked as a stylist in Altoona for a few years. Once Altoona lifted rules that officers had to live in the city, they moved back to their hometown.

“We may have seen things come and go here, and the loss of our grocery store and two banks has been hard, but many of us new business owners chose Williamsburg because we believe in it and we see such great potential for our community,” Detwiler said. “Since bringing my salon here, my clientele has tripled. I can’t even imagine six months from now.”

Zach Biddle recently purchased the former Dollar General building on Spring Street to expand his business, Ridgeline Gunsmithing LLC.

“This will be my primary business location, as I have outgrown my old facility. I am still in the works of making the switch to that facility,” Biddle said. “The trail did not specifically affect my decision, however, there will be some additional space in my building that I will not be using, that I would love to see a trail-related business occupy, however I do not have any specific leads on that front.”

Meanwhile, Zach’s cousin, Mike Biddle and his wife, Brittany, opened their coffee truck “Biddle’s Brewing” last fall at 321 E. Second St.

The Biddles serve hot coffee, iced coffee and specialty coffees, which include things like iced/hot lattes, macchiatos, mochas and cappuccinos. They also offer baked goods.

They are continuing to look for a permanent location, Brittany Biddle said.

The Brickhouse Bistro’s opening brought new life to a landmark dating back to the late 1800s.

“The structure has so much interesting history. We are so thrilled to be in this location. We are proud of how our renovation has turned out, and the location is great for walking town residents and bikers coming off the trail,” Jessica Lilly said.

“We are thrilled to be able to serve our family recipes to members of our community. My family has three generations rooted in our town, and we all love to gather around for good home-cooked meals. Cooking and feeding others is a passion in our family,” Jessica Lilly said.

Jessica’s mother, Charlotte Lilly, and sister, Jennifer (Lilly) Gorsuch, are serving as co-managers of the bistro.

“Our goal is to make good food for the community and hope they enjoy it,” Charlotte Lilly said.

The nearby Lower Trail may help the business.

“We hope to be able to bring members in from other towns to see how beautiful the town of Williamsburg is. We are a town full of great, friendly people. With the rails to trails running right through the town, it’s a great place to stop in and visit. We have had many bikers come off the trail and they seem to love the pit stop for a meal,” Jessica Lilly said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.


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