BRIDGEPORT - When Don Rhodes was looking for a place to hold his daughter Whitney's wedding reception at the end of November, he couldn't find anything suitable to meet his needs in the local area.
So what did the long-time Belmont County businessman do? He went out and bought a place.
Rhodes, owner of Rhodes Florist in Brookside, recently purchased the old Bridgeport Eagles building on Main Street in the village. He has big plans for the two-story structure, which has been vacant since the Eagles had an auction nearly five years ago.
DON?RHODES stands in front of old Bridgeport?Eagles building which he recently purchased.
"I think it's a wonderful building," Rhodes said during an interview and tour of the facility Friday morning while workers power washed the front of the building. "I think it's good for downtown Bridgeport and good for us.
"It's one of the biggest reception halls in the Ohio Valley and there's definitely a need for reception halls ... there's always a shortage," he continued. "This used to be a reception hall when the Eagles had it (the building) and people remember that. It will hold a lot of people."
Bridgeport Mayor John Callarik said he's excited about the opportunities that present themselves.
"It's going to be a great thing for the village and for Mr. Rhodes," the mayor said. "There's a lot of things that he can have in there. He's doing a super job right now and they're cleaning the place up.
"The village will help him out however when can," the mayor added. "We're behind him 100 percent."
While there's a lot of work to be done both inside - upstairs and downstairs - and outside, Rhodes is confident the work can be complete by that special date in late November.
"We're going to work on the upstairs first," he explained. "There's a lot of work to be done, but most of it is cosmetic. The roof has a couple of places that need repaired, but we don't have to replace the entire thing."
Rhodes said workers have already begun painting some walls and such.
"We still need to get the kitchen in," he added. "I plan on running a full kitchen for every event we have here."
He has already purchased some banquet tables and chairs, along with kitchen equipment such as stoves and coolers.
"I would like to have the place up-and-running for Whitney's reception," he admitted. "We plan on having it here."
As for the downstairs, Rhodes said he has some ideas, but nothing is etched into stone.
"I'm not sure if I want to bring the flower shop up here or not. I would like to incorporate some type of businesses that are wedding-related," he mentioned. "There are a lot of different little shops that we could put in here.
"Or, we could make it a second reception hall," he said. "But, to be honest, right now we're not sure about the downstairs, but there will definitely be a banquet hall upstairs."
In addition to wedding receptions, Rhodes said the upstairs could be utilized for high school homecomings, proms, parties and meetings.
"When it's finished, it (the upstairs) can be used for a variety of purposes," he said.
When asked about parking availability, Rhodes didn't hesitate to point out that it won't be an issue.
"Several people have asked me about that, but the Eagles was here for a long time and there used to be a lot more businesses downtown than there is now. People will have to walk a little bit, but they did it before and I'm sure they'll do it again."
He explained that most of the events will be held in the afternoon, and there is plenty of parking behind the building, as well as under Ohio 7 across from Wilson's Furniture.
Rhodes Florist has been at its present location on National Road since 1992. Rhodes' father, Ellsworth, worked for Mehlman Florist in West Wheeling and took over ownership of Rhodes Mehlman Florist when the Mehlman's passed away. It eventually became Rhodes Florist in 1970.
The greenhouses were re-located from West Wheeling to Brookside in 1992.
"We've been around for awhile and we hope to be around for even longer."
Rhodes Florist currently has five full-time employees, but he will be hiring in the near future.
"With everything we've got planned, there is no way five people can do those things, plus all the things we currently do."
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