Frost announced this week that he purchased the Main Street Diner building at 215 W. Main St. And earlier this year, he bought the Getzel’s Department Store building at 125 and 127 Main St. Planning for both is currently underway.
LEESBURG — A local developer has purchased two vacant downtown Leesburg buildings.
Tom Frost announced this week that he purchased the Main Street Diner building at 215 W. Main St. And earlier this year, he bought the Getzel’s Department Store building at 125 and 127 Main St. The longtime downtown store closed earlier this year.
Planning for both is currently underway.
Frost is working to find operators for the Getzel’s building. He’s in talks with someone to run a cigar bar there. He was also working to bring in an ax throwing venue, but that fell through. He’s still pushing for a General Store, which was a feature in his original downtown plan.
Meanwhile, Frost estimates that the Main Street Diner building will cost $1 million to renovate, and construction won’t start until after Bikefest 2020. When it’s done later that year he envisions another two storefronts below and seven apartments up top.
As for what kinds of businesses will go in there and who will run them — Frost doesn’t know yet. He said his challenge now is finding operators because Leesburg has somewhat of a talent drought.
“It’s where you’ve got these great people who are really active and involved and there’s so much opportunity for them to do good things,” Frost said. “But they’re all super busy.”
He pointed to the guys behind the Pint Sized Pub, Brick & Barrel Public House and Main Street Cantina. They’re already running three restaurants and have a fourth on the way, Mammoth Oak Brewing Company.
“That’s the right mix,” Frost said. “But we’ve had our fair share of people that didn’t work.”
Frost owns quite a bit of real estate in downtown Leesburg, including the Opera House and the buildings that house Brick & Barrel Public House, The Main Street Cantina, and the Coffee Snob. He also owns a strip of buildings across from that — where Renew Day Spa and the newly opened Garland Guy and Red Roads Southern Boutique are located. He also owns other properties up and down Main.
Frost came into town in 2017 and outlined a vision for his properties. It included a general store, a dive bar, a speakeasy and a sushi joint, among other things. But few opened. Some closed fairly quickly.
What did survive was 209 West Main, an upscale bar, and The Scoop, a coffee and ice cream shop. However, those closed in July, leaving Leesburgians worried about the state of downtown.
But within two weeks, AC Cisneros had a lease signed for what would become Brick & Barrel and the cantina. Since Brick & Barrel opened, it was like a light switched on downtown. Other restaurants and businesses followed.
Some of Frost’s other spaces are still vacant, but he’s been working with Morris Realty to fill them. As for his target demographic: Not the Villager, who already has three downtowns within the massive retirement community 10 miles north of Leesburg.
And not just for business, but for art too.
Frost said he’s hoping to get murals on his buildings, including the Getzel’s building, which on the side has a historic ad. He said he wants to keep the name and the style of the lettering, honoring the historic store, but probably won’t keep the whole ad. He wants something different.
And Frost doesn’t want “safe” artwork, he said. He wants something that will appeal to a 25-to-50 crowd.
“We don’t want to steal the Villager, we want the person who works in The Villages, those entrepreneurs and those people who work in the schools and in businesses there,” Frost said. “We want a place where they can get away from The Villages.”
He said Leesburg is already becoming that.
Frost, who recently moved his family to the area full time, said he has already seen a change. On a recent night out in downtown Leesburg, he noticed a wide variety of people.
“We have a lot of people who never came to downtown,” he said. “Cowboys, dayworkers, families that live up by me near Marion County Road, our closest town in Leesburg. Tons of people I know that are like ‘Oh yeah, it’s cool now, I used to go there 30 years ago.’ And new people are coming.”