BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
There is an optimistic mood brought on by the economic renaissance in Port Clinton this winter, despite the frigid weather and the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. Business owners are confidently getting ready for the 2021 summer season with a variety of renovated facilities and attractions.
Major improvements will happen on lower Madison Street in Port Clinton, as six Port Clinton natives are teaming up to put a little more sparkle into the historic district this year. They are plotting and planning a renovation of the Hershberger Building, including the space that had been occupied by Slater’s Madison Street Pub.
The six principals in the project are Rich and Diane Kokinda of Rich’s Drive Thru in Port Clinton, his sister Lori Kokinda, Todd and Margie Warnicke, Brian Celek, Rick Milazoo and Joe Brenner of McCarthy’s Restaurant & Pub on the corner of Madison and Perry street.
“We’re getting a lot of things done right now, and will announce soon more about this major rebuild we’re doing on Madison Street,” said Rich Kokinda, who with his wife and family had put new life into Rich’s Drive Thru on the west side of Port Clinton.
“The rehabilitation of the Slater’s space is under way, and we’ll be working to bring back the historical Hershberger Building on Madison to its original beauty, including removing the plywood facing on the upstairs floors in favor of period windows.”
The Kokinda family has shown a lot of business savvy in the rejuvenation of Rich’s Drive Thru on West Fremont Road, near Port Clinton True-Lay Stadium, taking the family store owned by their parents and making it a popular beer and grocery store, as well as a takeout store that specialized in stellar fried chicken, sandwiches and other meals.
Rich and Diane Kokinda, sisters Kim Trent and Lori Kokinda, who is the manager of the kitchen, have made it the go-to operation for hungry, thirsty people who live in the neighborhood and all around Port Clinton.
“Rich manages the retail sales, and Lori manages the kitchen,” said Trent. “Rich’s Drive Thru is a real family operation.”
The Hershberger property in Port Clinton will also be given a boost by city officials, who are adding a new dimension to the popular Meals on Madison (MOM) area that fills the first block block of Madison Street in summer, allowing outdoor meals and entertainment.
“We want to expand and enhance the musical offerings this summer in the MOM area, and add picnic benches and chairs,” said Mayor Mike Snider. “We’re looking for ways to generate funding for some top-notch musical groups.’
Mayor Snider debuted the opening ceremonies of The Art Garage in the former city service garage on Perry Street in the downtown area near the Jet Express facility recently, a building now leased by the Greater Port Clinton Area Arts Council. The well-worn city service garage has good bones, said Snider, and ready for improvements. Snider looks forward to The Art Garage, as it is now known, becoming a Mecca for the arts in downtown Port Clinton.
“We can see major things happening in downtown Port Clinton because of The Art Garage,” said Director Chris Singerling of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation. “It will become a county-wide home to the arts, from sculptures to oil paintings and beyond.
“We have great plans for the facility, and know it will be popular with Ottawa County folks, summer residents and Vacationland visitors.”
The Perry Street area just east side of downtown Port Clinton is also percolating this winter, with Slater’s Food & Spirits taking over the Maz Kitchen space at 1634 E. Perry St. in the Port Clinton Shopping Center. It is next to Visions VR, a new virtual reality entertainment center.
Across the street, the iconic Jolly Rogers Seafood House will celebrate its 41st season in Port Clinton by moving its operation next door to 1737 E. Perry Street, the site of the former Burger King restaurant. The new location will provide more space for customers seeking its heralded yellow perch and walleye sandwiches and dinners, said Owner Ed Hoty, and allow diners a wonderful view of the Lake Erie shoreline.