@ The Bank: Lots of local treasures to explore

Students looking for an evening activity or weekend adventure downtown should stop and consider @ The Bank, a local indoor shopping complex.
Shop owners have their wares arranged throughout the building’s first floor.

JAMES SCHWENDENER/The Campus - The bank vault of the former First National Bank serves as an innovative bookshop, The Book Vault, and just one of the many local shops and boutiques available for exploration at indoor marketplace @ The Bank (940 Park Ave.)

One of these shops, Emperor’s Place, owned by Bonnie Hull, will host a Design Your Own Prom Gown event  on Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Hull revitalizes old wedding and other formal gowns into modern fashion statements, and anyone looking for a custom altered dress for a formal or prom is invited to attend the event.  Emperor’s Place also offers men’s formal fashion, including tuxedos.

In addition to the gown shop, @ The Bank is home to a one–of–a–kind coffee bar and many other local artisans with a variety of products and services.
Ed Fine, the current owner, revealed all the details of the building’s rich history in Meadville. The building was originally the Park Avenue Theatre, built in 1922 with a full stage, meaning it could host traveling Broadway shows and big band performances. The theatre was closed in the mid 1950s when TV began to overshadow live performances. 

After being completely gutted, the building became a First National Bank in 1958.  Although it was originally staffed by over 30 employees, computers soon eliminated the need for such a large bank and in the late 1990s, the building was abandoned. 

The space remained vacant for over a decade until 2004 when Fine bought the building.

Now, customers are welcome to use its free wi–fi while enjoying Italian sodas, coffee, espresso, tea, pastries and Panini sandwiches at the Teller’s Row Coffee Bar. The Bar’s logo, an elongated sideways S, reflects the two curves that are part of the building’s unique architecture.

“Without the curves, the building would just be a big box,” Fine said.

Nancy’s Under the Stairs specializes in fabric art, hand-stitched portraits of local buildings, including some on the Allegheny campus, which are then transformed into giclée prints available for purchase.  Nancy also sells custom–made dorm pajamas and offers free “mom hugs” to any Allegheny student in need of a little cheer.

Ma’s Cubbyhole, owned by Mary Alice Monda and Angel Vilkie, specializes in antiques and vintage clothing. On top of Ma’s jewelry showcase is a small notebook where you can write down what you’re looking for if Ma’s hasn’t found it yet.

Art supplies including colored pencils, sketchpads, paints, and all varieties of brushes can be purchased from Tom Collard at Tom’s Train Terminal where model trains and rail–road scenery are also sold.  And if you ever have a question about Meadville history? Tom probably knows the answer.
The building is also home to a jewelry store called Chateau Christine, a portrait artist named Diann Framptom, and Farrel’s Hook Line and Stitch, owned by Joyce and Terry Farrel, where you can find hand–crafted cards for any occasion or sturdy fly fishing hooks. Walk through the ten–ton doors behind the coffee bar and you’ll find The Book Vault, a used book store where books are shelved amongst the bank’s original safety deposit boxes.

In a unique merging of past and present, @ The Bank epitomizes historic character, but has remained modern. Local musicians perform live music Saturday evenings and the building’s third floor is home to the YMCA’s gymnastics program.  Youngsters practice their balance beam technique under what remains of the theatre’s original stage design.

Selina Gao, ’12, visited @ The Bank on Feb. 5 as part of the First Friday campaign.  She commented on the friendly atmosphere of the shop owners and the quality of the merchandise.

“They had very unique jewelry and nice purses,” she said. “I will definitely be going back again.”

Located one mile from campus at 940 Park Ave, @ The Bank is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 5, Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 8, and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4.  Call 814–337–7002 to RSVP to the gown event or 814–724–3199 for information about the rest of the shops.