Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.

The new downtown Market, located across the street from the Holiday Inn, is the creation of downtown development firm Capital Venture Corporation who have already successfully repurposed several other historic buildings downtown.

Image courtesy Capital Venture Corporation.

The new $7 million Market project is actually comprised of three separate structures. The first to be developed was the old Huntington Theatre on the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Eighth Street. The three-story building, which was originally constructed in 1885, fell out of use as a performance venue when motion pictures replaced vaudeville in the late 1920s. It sat vacant for several years before being acquired by Capital Venture in August of 2015.

On the east side of the old vaudeville house is the Market itself, a two-story open concept retail center located in what was most recently a nightclub called Whiskey Rocks. The Market features small restaurant and retail spaces similar to urban markets seen in other major cities throughout the country.

Finally, there is “The Crossing,” a pedestrian pass-through on the east side of the Market. Work on the Crossing began in the summer of 2016. It was created by demolishing the dilapidated building that used to stand between the Market and Taste of Asia in order to create more convenient access between Third Avenue and the parking lot on Fourth Avenue. The Crossing will ultimately feature overhead lights and sails for illumination at night and shade during the day, a fire pit, games such as giant Jenga and cornhole, as well as space for outdoor dinning.

Photo: Aaron-Michael Fox.

Restaurants and shops that are already open in the old Huntington Theatre building include Peace Love and Little Donuts, HWY 55 Burgers and Shakes, Charlie Grainger’s specialty hot dogs, and the Lost Escape Room, as well as several offices on the upper floors including Linchpin Integrated Media and the accounting firm of Hayflich, PLLC.

Businesses already open in the Market include Wildflower Gift Gallery, an artisan and specialty gift shop, and Austin’s Homemade Ice Cream. Austin’s has been a Huntington staple since 1947, but has traditionally only been open during the summer months. The new location in the Market is open year-round.

Next up to open in the Market is Butter It Up, a gluten-free/butter-based health restaurant and coffee shop, which has been located in Heritage Station since 2014.

Butter It Up comes from the minds of Jeremy Mullins and Andrew Hines who were looking to expand the healthy food options in downtown Huntington. Mullins, a nutritionist, and Hines, a veteran of the Huntington restaurant scene, have proven to have a winning partnership. What started out as a few gluten-free pastries and some “bulletproof” coffee has now expanded into a full menu of food offerings, a menu that will be radically overhauled with the new, larger kitchen at the Market.

Photo: Aaron-Michael Fox.

“We’ll still have some of the favorites,” Hines said. “But (the move to the Market) is going to open up farm-to-table dinner service and some other cool stuff. Farm-to-table is where it’s at. You can’t beat farm fresh eggs. We have six or seven local egg producers, some are really small. We don’t use any big farm eggs.”

The local fare doesn’t stop with eggs, either. All of Butter It Up’s pork is locally sourced, certified non-GMO as well as hormone and antibiotic-free, from a farm in southern Ohio about an hour from downtown Huntington.

“These are free-range, really pastured pigs,” Hines continued. “They’re never in cages, they can eat all the acorns they want, and you can taste the difference. All of our bacon is nitrate-free and uncured. The best of the best.”

Butter It Up is expected to open at its new Market location on Wednesday, February 21. Catering options will be available once the new menu is established.

Photo: Aaron-Michael Fox.

Other shops and restaurants slated to open in the coming months include Navarino Bay, a modern Greek restaurant on the second floor, a design-your-own pizza restaurant, a craft beer and wine store, a Native American taco restaurant, and a grocery store.

“A grocery store has been the most recommended business that we get here,” Phil Nelson, co-owner of Capital Venture told the Herald-Dispatch.

Jim Weiler, Nelson’s business partner, elaborated. “What we’re looking at is something that is tried and tested in other parts of the country. If you go to Louisville, Kentucky, you’ll see this. It’s one of the first things I noticed there.”

Lake Polan, the previous owner of the properties, said he opted to sell to Capital Venture because they had a clear vision and the means to make it happen.

“You might think of this as some kind of radical redefinition,” Polan said in 2015. “It’s really the way downtown Huntington was designed and the most viable way to go forward. I have watched the downtown come back for my entire adult life. I believe that seeing the realization of the downtown I want to see is best served by turning it over to someone better suited to do it.”

A grand opening for the Market will be set for March or April, according to Nelson, once all the businesses have opened.

MORE: read Downtown Huntington’s interview with Navarino Bay owner Yiorgie Alexandropoulos HERE.

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