New businesses are popping up on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street, adding more dining and shopping to its thriving three downtown blocks — Brookey Bakes, Alaskan Gold Connection, Table Twenty Five, and Historic Street Market are a few popular newcomers. No Frills Diner, relocating from 12th Street, is also expected later this month.Historic 25th Street, aka Notorious Two Bit Street or Electric Alley, is the heart of the city, beating on for over a century through decades of being blighted by a bad rap and rife with vacancies when all but locals were too afraid to go anywhere near its three-block length. Today, its vitality echoes what its initial boom must have been like after the Ogden Union Station opened in 1869, the street is once again an alluring destination that attracts new businesses and travelers thanks to revitalization efforts that were started in the mid-nineties by the city and community members.
As a newcomer, Carl Cox had no preconceived notions of the street other than it seemed like a great place to have a business, and so far he is pleased. A professional jewelry maker for more than 45 years, he opened Alaskan Gold Connection on Historic 25th Street at the end of May last year in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. “I win the award for worst timing,” he jests.
When relocating from Fairbanks, Alaska, where he resided for twenty years, Cox landed in Ogden, charmed by the historic district. He said it “felt like home,” reminding him of his old shop location in Alaska. Farmers Market Ogden, and the foot traffic it brings, was also a draw. His unfinished natural gold, quite rare to find in Utah, and custom designs have been attractive to locals and visitors, and Cox says he is happy they ended up on 25th Street.
While the street is a hot spot for new business presently, some of its oldest remaining businesses opened when it wasn’t quite as warm.
When La Ferrovia Italian Ristorante moved to 25th Street in 1988, business was sparse. There were little more than a few restaurants, cafes, and bars — the current Lighthouse Lounge, now under new ownership, was previously a strip club until 2010 when the city shut it down — and none of them were what you’d call “family-friendly.” People just didn’t take their kids there. The city offered owner Jeff Ashbridge an affordable deal to bring his restaurant to the Ogden Union Station where his eatery flourished until he moved two blocks east to his current location at 234 25th Street, which he purchased.
The only neighboring businesses at the time La Ferrovia moved in, said Ashbridge, were a few clubs, some salons, and Star Noodle Parlor across the street, a Japanese-American establishment that had been there since the 1940s and whose revered neon dragon sign still stands outside the building that now houses Stella’s On 25th, an Italian restaurant.
Ashbridge said they loved the street although it had a reputation to overcome. But loyal patrons followed from the Union Station who left any qualms they might have had behind them in favor of the authentic Italian comfort food they’d grown to love. Babies have grown up eating there who now bring their kids and grandchildren. “Generations have been coming,” Ashbridge said. They’ve seen four generations at a table.
The street has improved over the years, and grown busier with more people from new apartments and condos nearby, according to Ashbridge. They’ll be okay, he says, “as long as the street stays semi-clean and nice.”
The family has run the business themselves for 33 years, with Ashbridge and his wife Giuseppina still doing the cooking every day. Their kids grew up busing tables and serving food. Their daughter Barbara said she’s been working there since she could “reach the table.”
“You don’t get rich owning restaurants,” he said. “Thankfully, we make good food and people like it.”
“A great business, great staff, and great products,” is what Amy Jones attributes to the longevity of their family-run business, Needlepoint Joint, a needlework supply shop that her mom founded in 1973. The spacious interior is lined with custom made cabinetry showcasing a vast selection of natural fiber yarns and other fiber arts supplies for most types of needlework.
They moved into the 25th Street location in 1996, around the same time as Roosters Brewing Co., when it was “more of a dive bar” place, Jones recalled. “A lot of businesses have come and gone since then.” But now, she says, it has become a destination with more nightlife and it’s common to have out-of-state visitors in her store, especially as interest in the fiber arts has grown.
In the beginning, some customers were afraid to come to the street to shop there. Jones says they’d reassure them, “we work here, we’re okay.” But they’ve always enjoyed the building and being downtown. “Mom wanted to be a part of Ogden, in the heart of it on 25th Street,” she said.
A customer who was doing needlework at one of the back tables overheard the conversation and chimed in. ”I moved to Ogden because of this shop.” She could have relocated anywhere from Seattle, but after finding Needlepoint Joint during an afternoon visit to 25th Street while passing through town, she decided to make Ogden her new home.
While it’s not as old, Grounds for Coffee 25th Street owner Sadie Smith has been around long enough to see dramatic changes over the last decade. Although it was at the beginning of the revitalization, she said “I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough that it happened to be on 25th Street” when she took over the business that “fell into her lap” in 2009.
“It has been nonstop growth and positive change since I stepped into that shop,” Smith said.
Still in the middle of the recession at the time, Smith says there were a lot of vacant spaces but also a “huge love of 25th Street from the ones who were there and dedication to help our street thrive,” she said.
Still, there were people who weren’t comfortable going downtown. “Those of us that were a part of it knew that it was safe, but the word hadn’t seemed to be really out yet, and ‘outsiders’ didn’t seem to trust it yet,” said Smith.
Today, the word, as well as the diversity, has spread. Smith says that now you now see every age group “from families with young children to high school kids going downtown just to hang out, 30-somethings enjoying the nightlife, and seniors who can recall the earlier eras of the street — all spending time here together.”
Grounds For Coffee 25th also serves travelers from all over the world every day, she said. “The last 12 years have been such a beautifully pivotal time for this street.”
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