Ashland Comes Alive Downtown blocks see growing number of small businesses

Amanda Gilmore

If something seems different in downtown Ashland these days, that’s because it is. There are more events, more businesses and a whole bunch more people wandering around, carrying a cup of coffee or a smoothie purchased from one of those aforementioned businesses.


“It’s really great,” said Jessica Caudill, owner of the Coffee Doc which opened in March in the 300 block of 15th Street. “We all kind of feed off each other. Each place offers something unique and we all recommend the other places to our customers.”


If you have a couple of hours, it’s easy to take a walking tour of many of these new downtown Ashland shops. But make sure you go hungry and/or thirsty, and be prepared to drop a few bucks on some cool find you just can’t live without.


Let’s start back at The Coffee Doc. The business, which has a sister location in the Ashland Town Center, is open for breakfast and lunch. As you might suspect, it offers a variety of caffeinated beverages, including the classics, sugar-free options and Red Bull flavored drinks. There are kid-friendly smoothies, the favorite of which is Cotton Candy Blast, and what Caudill calls one of the world’s best hot chocolates. The most popular coffee: the Chief of Staff, which features a special (secret) blend cream made in-house each morning and which typically sells out every day. The menu also includes a selection of breakfast and lunch items – the Grazing Box (think adult Lunchable) being a crowd favorite.


With coffee in hand, you should be energized for a bit of shopping. Head around the corner on Carter Avenue to Christian Alexander Home Décor, which Russell High School graduate Johnathan Jordan opened in 2020. The completely remodeled City National Bank space is shared with Merle Norman, owned by Sherry Wolf. Jordan and Wolf met while working at the former Star’s Department Store in Ashland in the early 1990s and both first started their businesses in the Ashland Town Center. “I really like being downtown,” Jordan said. “I have more time here to sit with clients and help them personalize their space.”


Christian Alexander features unique home décor, gifts, home fragrance, furnishings, custom floral arrangements, children’s clothing and accessories, artwork, body care products, and Christmas products year-round. Jordan personally curates the shop’s merchandise on frequent trips to Atlanta. The business also took over the collection from the Hallmark store when it closed in the mall.


In his former life in Los Angeles, Jordan worked for Disney and studied interior design. Opening this store brings his many interests and passions together. “Where luxury and every day come together,” is the business’s tagline.

Continue on Carter to 16th Street, take a left and go one block to the corner of  Winchester where you can shop a bit more at Pretty & Poised, a boutique offering women’s clothing and accessories. Rachael Woford studied fashion merchandising in college and always dreamt of owning a boutique. When her dad got sick in 2018, she moved back to Ashland and noticed a “for lease” sign in the corner building that is now home to the first of her two boutiques (the other is in Huntington). “I am excited for downtown Ashland and for all the growth. It’s great to have so many family-friendly options,” Woford said. “I love talking to customers who say they can’t believe how far Ashland has come.”


Pretty & Poised sells women’s clothing, accessories, shoes and gift items – both classic and trendy pieces, from casual to dressy. Sweaters are the big sellers in the fall and winter, with dresses taking center stage the rest of the year. Woford said opening the store during a difficult family time showed her how God had a plan for her – and she tries to share that feeling of belonging and purpose with her customers.


By now, you’re probably a bit hungry from all the shopping. So, venture half a block up Winchester to The Green Bar where you can get a delicious protein boost. Behind the counter you’ll likely find owner Mallorie Williams, an energetic 24-year-old from Adams County, Ohio, who is loving her new business’s location. “The response has been wonderful. I’ve connected with other business owners and received great support from loyal customers and new ones.” One of those regular customers, Hannah Thompson, sells her “groovy” custom vinyl products in the shop. The January One Company line includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, cups and more.


The Green Bar specializes in smoothies (sweetened with Stevia and using primarily fresh fruits). A favorite is Kentucky Sunshine, a blend of pineapple, mango, coconut and orange. Energy coolers include a whole bunch of vitamins and a smidge of caffeine. The store also sells smoothie bowls featuring fruit, oat or cashew milk, and a variety of healthy and tasty toppings. Salads and wraps are coming soon, Williams said.


Newly fortified, continue shopping at the adjacent Broadway Books, located in the restored G.C. Murphy space that also houses The Mill Bakery & Restaurant. Retired teacher Jill Donta and her longtime friend Nancy Miller own the bookstore; Nancy’s daughters own The Mill (which might explain why fresh pastries and coffee make their way to the bookstore each morning). Broadway Books is the newest addition to this downtown business bonanza, having just opened in August. The space includes books (obviously) as well as locally made art, cards, jewelry, pottery, soaps and candles.


Local third grade teacher Jamie Anderson sells the Matilda Jane line of girls and womens clothing inside the bookstore. She has been a “trunk keeper” for the brand since 2016, selling the brightly colored clothing and accessories online. When Broadway Books offered her some space, Anderson jumped at the chance. “It allows me to offer in-person shopping all week long. I am thrilled to get Matilda Jane into the hands of little girls (and their moms) who have never worn it before.”


While perusing all that Broadway Books offers, you can plop down with a book in one of the comfy chairs, or challenge a friend to a game of scrabble or oversized checkers. The children’s area has a Lego wall and a train table.


“Downtown is a great home for us. We get a lot of foot traffic,” Donta said. “I remember coming downtown as a child and it was always packed. It’s nice to see that coming back.”


After exercising your mind, you likely need a pick-me-up. So, pop into Whit’s, just next door, for a delicious frozen yogurt or coffee drink – or both. The coffee bar is what differentiates this franchise location from the others. Owners Richard and Shelly Ritchie and their son Austin also recently opened a location at Camp Landing and will soon have a coffee-only drive-through at the Summit Plaza. Both of those will be called the 606 Coffee Company. (The idea to open a coffee bar in Whit’s actually came from their family friend Rachael Woford, owner of the previously discussed Pretty & Poised.)


When asked which sells more, coffee or frozen yogurt, Austin Ritchie said it really depends on the season. Of course, there’s never a bad time for either one, he added. Like all Whit’s franchises, the frozen yogurt is made fresh each day, with only four flavors. It’s sold by the scoop or frozen. The latter stays delicious up to a year in your freezer. Most popular varieties: Buckeye Madness and Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.


Finally, after your excursion of shopping, eating and drinking, why not do something good for your body at L.E.O Health & Wellness – located just across Winchester from Whit’s. Owner Jodelle Yount, a local ER doctor, opened this location six years ago after spending one year on Greenup Avenue. The business offers an assortment of health products and services, from IV fluid therapy and laser treatments to sexual health. Yount also produces a regular podcast called “Feed Your Lion.”


The L.E.O part of the name comes from the business’s initial focus of laser treatments – Laser Errors Off – and Yount has worked “live majestically” (like a lion) into her recent rebranding. Inside, you will also find a fun collection of comic books, t-shirts and coffee mugs. “I’m a nerd and this is my creative outlet,” Yount explained.