A new shop in downtown Massillon is bringing new life to the former train depot. The shop, owned by Justin Lepley, is called Lepley & Co. and is an exotic plant shop that will soon feature a coffee bar, as well as art from local artists. The shop acts as a safe space for everyone, regardless of sexuality, beliefs, or background. It also features a conference room that will be used as a resource space for local members of the LGBTQ+ community.
We at Tiger Eye News were excited to hear about this new and unique space, and asked Justin Lepley a few questions about his new store.
Q: Why did you decide to expand into Massillon?
A: Actually, it was the building that we found that we fell in love with. We needed a bigger space. We have a spot up at Northside Marketplace in Akron. It’s a really cool storefront, but everything that was happening as far as planting and potting and all that fun stuff was really happening in like our garage and driveway, so we needed a bigger building where we could do all that backend stuff. And we also would have liked to have a second storefront kind of worked in with that. And so we were looking more up around the Akron area and kind of the outskirts. But we really weren’t finding any buildings with a lot of character. And then on Craigslist of all places, I stumbled upon this building and just fell in love with it. And then really the community too. It’s just such a cool tight knit community with an awesome historic downtown. And we can just tell people really care.
Q: What visions do you have for the future of the business?
A: We’re really hoping to grow and expand, both overall and specifically within this space. So in the next couple months, we’re going to be partnering with NOMZ, another awesome local small business that started up in Akron to bring the coffee shop here. We’re going to have a full service florist shop, landscaping, and then we really want to hone in on the local artists and local vendors and kind of share our space with them. What I’d ideally like is just that this to be an overall safe space and the thought for people to come and think and feel creative, kind of like an old salon.
Q: What problems did you have with the renovations?
A: I knew it was a big project when we started out, but it was a significant project. Luckily my dad and grandfather are both craftsman and donated a ton of time and help. My grandpa put about 200 hours in and restored the windows. He actually built these storm windows from scratch, replaced all the glass in the windows underneath. But the biggest setback was actually the HVAC system. That was the one condition we had on buying the building. We had it checked out, and when it was checked out, they said, “You know, who knows how long it’ll last, it’s been here for 30 years”. Well, it didn’t last once we turned it on, unfortunately. And so that was kind of our biggest setback. But we were luckily able to work out a solution and get a different unit in right before the grand opening.
Q: Is there anything that you’d like to say to the community?
A: I would just kind of echo that again, everyone’s welcome here regardless of beliefs and backgrounds. As long as you come in with an attitude that everyone else is going to be welcome and you’re respectful. We hope everyone stops by and can check out some things. And beyond just us in our plants, I’m really proud to work with so many local Stark and Summit county vendors in here, from the Bath and Body Works products, which are made up in Cuyahoga Falls, to artists from Louisville and Akron. I think that’s one of the coolest parts, even though I’m partial to the plants. I think it’s super neat how many different people can be in one state. Like that is really cool.