Zoë’s Chocolate and clay pavers – Waynesboro, Pennsylvania has been working for some time on upgrading its downtown. And they’re getting good at it, too. Last year, a project called One Brick At A Time won a statewide award for a project alongside Zoë’s on Main Street, that used Pine Hall Brick Company’s Pathway Full Range square-edge pavers. Then, the community took it further as teams of volunteers donated money, materials and labor to make a safe, well-lit walkway out of a dark and dangerous alley.

All photography courtesy Downtown Waynesboro Inc. 

The path to a statewide award for a paver makeover in an unsightly alley all started with entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis and his show, CNBC’s The Profit. Lemonis saw the potential in Zoë’s Chocolate Company and invested $200,000 in exchange for 40 percent of the business to help them make the family-owned business’ dreams come true.

At first glance, a paver pathway and a hefty investment from The Profit reality TV show doesn’t seem to make sense. But Bill Kohler, director of economic development with Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc., a nonprofit that works to revitalize the downtown’s commercial core, said it does when you consider how it all fits together.

The Profit television show is about how Lemonis, who is a successful entrepreneur, comes into struggling businesses, invests money in exchange for an equity interest in the business,  and famously makes improvements to “people, product and process” to turn the business around and help it be more successful.

Under Lemonis’ leadership,  Zoe’s Chocolate introduced new products, streamlined its online ordering process and targeted new potential markets, including a cruise line and partnering with a company to produce chocolate bars,  for starters.

But Lemonis also oversaw a top-to-bottom makeover of Zoe’s Chocolate’s sales floor and production facility as part of a rebranding of the business.

Pathway Full Range pavers in Waynesboro PA

Pathway Full Range square edge pavers being installed in a herringbone pattern next to Zoë’s Chocolate Company in Waynesboro, PA.

The problem was that was all on the interior. The exterior of the three-story building was left untouched, and it badly needed help.

Enter Kohler, who reasoned that among downtown Waynesboro buildings that needed to be rehabbed, Zoe’s Chocolate would benefit the most.

Working in collaboration with Zoe’s Chocolate co-owner Zoe Tsoukatos, he pursued a modest proposal. He applied for – and won – a grant from the Paint Pennsylvania Beautiful organization, which provided an initial 20 gallons of paint and $100 worth of supplies.

It got bigger.

A small project grows

In all, $14,000 in donations was raised, businesses discounted their services or worked for free and an army of volunteers was recruited. What started out as an exterior paint job to improve the aesthetics of the Zoe’s Chocolate building was expanded to include a complete refurbishment of the alleyway that runs alongside it.

A bucket lift was lent so that the painters could get to the top of the building. A group of retired Navy SeaBees worked to fill window wells the full length of the walkway. The owner of an excavating company volunteered to spread the gravel for the paver installers from Tru-Precision Lawn Care. Café-style string lights were strung up overhead.  Off to the sides, lattice screens were built to hide air conditioners. Urban-style planters were brought in and filled with flowers.

Pavers, lighting and finishing touches merge a once drab alleyway with the main street’s clay pavers.

And underfoot, there were 4,860 Pine Hall Brick clay pavers laid in a walkway 110 feet long and nine feet wide, representing a battle fought and won.

“Some wanted us to lay down asphalt, but the pavers, the aesthetics of them, are so much better, long-term,” said Kohler.

The best part? It all matches up. The Pine Hall Brick clay pavers in the alley are tying into Pine Hall Brick clay pavers that were laid in the past in downtown sidewalks, on both sides of the street. 

Click to show transitions.

An award won

Out of Pennsylvania Downtown Center’s statewide network of nearly 200 organizations, the One Brick At A Time project won a Townie Award for Mainstreet Waynesboro in the Safe, Clean and Green Category for 2020.

“We are very humbled and honored for the recognition,” Kohler was quoted as saying in the Waynesboro Record Herald newspaper. “The Townie Awards are very prestigious and mean a lot to our organization and really help validate the work that we do.”

Kohler said the volunteers turned a dark, dangerous eyesore into a place where people take photos, feel safe walking from back parking lots and hang out with friends while enjoying coffee and chocolate.

“Malls here are dying and families are coming back downtown,” said Kohler. “They are coming back because it is safe here.”

Fortunately for downtown, that comfort level has resulted in additional investment. In addition to Zoe’s Chocolate, locals come to a renovated movie theater, a new park and a brew pub that has opened recently. In the summers, people gather for concerts and a farmers market.

“The community really got behind this project and supported it with donations and grants,” Kohler told the newspaper. “It really was a tremendous community accomplishment.”