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The Marketplace at Cooke opens Saturday

By Andy Ouriel • Apr 25, 2019 at 1:00 PM

SANDUSKY — To Rick and Meghan Hogrefe, The Marketplace at Cooke honors Sandusky’s past, celebrates entrepreneurs of today and creates optimism for the city’s future.

“This is all about helping Sandusky and locals succeed,” said Rick, who, along with his wife, invited Tandem Media Network staffers inside their mall for a tour Tuesday just days before a public open house.

The open house is scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, and anyone can come.

In 2017, when they purchased the historic building wrapping around Columbus Avenue and Market Street — once housing the popular five-and-10 store Neisner’s, well known for its soda fountain — both envisioned their development paying homage to Sandusky’s roots.

And, with the help from many — they include Benny and Heather Byington, of Sandusky Salvage and Design and Patina Creek; Tara Salazar; Dick Gallagher; those representing Tusing Builders & Roofing Services; and the late Doug Crawford — they certainly have.

The Marketplace’s walls are decorated with pictures, paintings, images and actual artifacts from periods spanning 1850 through 1950. Some items featured include:

• A larger-than-life mural of the Sandusky State Theatre stretching behind two rows of original theater seats; People, at no cost, can watch black-and-white movies screening on a nearby projector.

• Sandusky’s role in the Underground Railroad, with prominent figures and locations of safe havens where locals assisted runaway slaves achieve freedom

• The actual sail from The Chief; Made in Sandusky, in 1954, the record-setting boat traveled 110 mph over ice.

“Our dream when we first set up the Marketplace was we wanted to have a special tribute to the history of Sandusky,” Rick said. “That was part of our mission. If we were going to build a mall and a place where people come, why not build it as a historical monument and, really, a mini museum.”

Though the Marketplace’s main draw resides with its tenants, occupying space around these historical pieces.

The Hogrefes handpicked local entrepreneurs with varying talents — more specifically, those with experience in the arts, science, retail, food, beverage and more — to deliver an eclectic collection of merchants. They include Fancy Me Boutique, Sandusky Bell and Deli, Bake Erie, Derrick Jr., Doughin’ Crazy, Noble Axes and the Sandusky Children’s Museum.

“From the very beginning, we have been asking people, ‘What types of businesses do you believe would be useful downtown that would help make Sandusky a better place to visit?’” Rick said. “We focused on bringing those types of businesses to the Marketplace that we’re missing right now. We also wanted to offer people different choices. The lineup for the Marketplace is awesome. This is an absolute home run.”

Hailing from San Diego, Rick and Meghan understand people crave year-round entertainment. After all, no matter in January or July, people visit their hometown for fun. They asked themselves: “Why not Sandusky?” their home away from home.

Both understand millions visit the city each year but mostly during the spring, summer and fall. Then The Marketplace, as Rick explained, must expand Sandusky’s “vacationland” into unfamiliar territory.

“This is about winterizing Sandusky,” said Rick, a 1979 Margaretta High School graduate. “There are a lot of great things to do here in the summer or fall. But this, the Marketplace, is about giving locals and tourists something to do downtown during the wintertime.”

The Marketplace is one of two major entities within the Cooke Complex, wrapping around Columbus Avenue and Market Street. The other: the adjacent Cooke Building, a mix of forthcoming entertainment, office space and additional retail components. The building should open in 2020.

Overall the Cooke Complex’s investment totals $10.5 million, an amount primarily fronted by the Hogrefes with some funds coming from Sandusky’s government.

Many welcome and appreciate the Hogrefe’s nonstop efforts — they’ve collectively invested about $20 million into various properties in Bay View and Sandusky since 2016 — to make Sandusky a premier destination 365 days a year for many, many years.

“Meghan and Rick are part of a contagious energy we’re seeing downtown,” said Abbey Bemis, the executive director of the Erie County Economic Development Corp. “Their efforts have been a spark for entrepreneurs in the Marketplace but also for others who have creative ideas about improvements they want to make in the surrounding neighborhood.”

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IF YOU GO…

What: The Marketplace at Cooke’s grand opening, where people can check out each business and amenity offered there

Where: 133 E. Market St, downtown Sandusky

When: 12-4 p.m. Saturday, April 27

Who: Anyone is welcome to attend

Reach reporter Andy Ouriel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @AndyOuriel.

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