"Lake Erie Living" Magazine Showcases Vermilion!

The July/August 2011 issue of "Lake Erie Living" Magazine has a three-page spread showcasing Vermilion as "Lake Erie's Cape Cod." Chez Francois/Touche business owner Matt Mars compliments Main Street Vermilion in the article:

"Main Street Vermilion is a great group of people that have come together without any self-interest," says Mars. "They really want to continue to make Vermilion a cool place."

Chez Francois and Touche are proud business members of Main Street Vermilion.
Thank you, Matt!

A copy of the magazine is available at the Main Street Office for you to view.

VERMILION: Lake Erie's Cape Cod

Vermilion, Ohio, has all the elements you'd expect in an East Coast harbor town: the sounds of halyards clanging against sailboat masts, a charming bed-and-breakfast, an old-fashioned soda fountain, fine dining, boutiques, flower-lined streets and historic buildings, including former captain's homes overlooking their watery domain.

"It's charming," says Matthew Mars, co-owner of the award-winning French restaurant Chez Francois, which perches beside the Vermilion River. "It feels like a getaway. When you're sitting there, it doesn't feel like Ohio."

The similarities between Vermilion and the quaint villages of New England is no coincidence. In 1792, the Connecticut Legislature granted 500,000 acres of government-owned land along the Lake Erie shore to landowners whose property had been burned by the British during the Revolutionary War. The acreage, which became known as the Firelands, attracted pioneers from the east, who brought their New England sensibilities, plus skills in shipbuilding, fishing, ice cutting and lumbering, which contributed to the region's prosperity.

While the community isn't reliant on these industries today, Vermilion is indelibly linked to Lake Erie. Its lakeside location makes it an attractive tourist destination, especially for the many thousands of recreational boaters who visit regularly. The area's marinas and boat liveries serve 8,500 pleasure crafts, which make the town the largest small-boat harbor on the Great Lakes.

"The town comes alive toward the end of the April, through the summer season and into fall with all the boats in town," says Les Friedman, who runs Buyers Fair department store and Cargo Jewelers & Gallery with four other siblings. "They either like to take the boat out on the lake or site around and socialize. But they want places to go to eat and to shop."

Just moments after tying up a boat slip at McGarvey's Landing - or parking the car, in the case of landlubbers - visitors can be in the heart of the action.

"The town really knows how to accommodate boaters," says Debbie Schabel of Rocky River, Ohio. "We just revel in the fact that it is so welcoming and laid back, and you can walk everywhere. My kids would absolutely clamor to go there when they were little. There is something for every age."

Quaint boutiques line Main Street, and those in the know head to Buyers Fair, a small-town department store with Nordstrom-like aspirations. The Friedman family has operated the store for more than 50 years, offering everything from boating supplies to fashionable clothes and accessories.

When it comes to waterfront dining, the options include the casual Quaker Steak & Lube and upscale French cuisine at Chez Francois, the top-rated restaurant in Ohio by Zagat. Housed in a converted sail loft that dates back to 1940, the restaurant exudes a timeless quality while serving in-season, locally-sourced food.

Newer restaurant have hit the scene, too. The Lake Erie Taphouse offers a wide range of craft beers, and Woodstock is a great place to hear the town gossip while eating a sandwich or salad.

Vermilion is second to none when it comes to festivals and events for the whole family. "We have a lot going on," says Linda Tallitsch, program director for Main Street Vermilion, a historic preservation and economic development group.

July and August are hopping. There are free movies at dusk on Fridays in Exchange Park and free chamber concerts at 7 p.m. on Sundays in Victory Park. Every third Thursday, downtown Vermilion features live music and crafts.

The celebrations continue well into the fall.

The wacky Wooly Bear Festival - the largest one-day festival in Ohio - draws nearly 150,000 people to Vermilion to pay homage to the larvae of the Isabella tiger moth. According to folklore, the severity of an impending winter can be predicted by the amount of black on the bodies of these furry caterpillars. Now in its' 39th year, the affair includes a two-hour-long parade through town.

During quieter times, visitors can sit and watch the trains go by at the newly-inaugurated railroad observation platform on Main Street, south of the tracks. Another option is to head a couple blocks north to Main Street Beach for swimming. Next to the beach is the Great Lakes Historical Society's Inland Seas Maritime Museum, which has one of the largest collections of ship models and nautical artwork, plus interactive exhibits on shipwrecks, shipbuilding and lake navigation. While the museum has been a fixture in the community since 1953, it will close and move to Toledo in 2013, making this the time to stop by.

Naturally, Vermilion will feel the loss of the museum, but Main Street Vermilion is looking forward to the future. The organization plans to acquire the property for public use.

"Main Street Vermilion is a great group of people that have come together without any self-interest," said Mars. "They really want to continue to make Vermilion a cool place."

Things may be changing, but Vermilion holds on to the timeless qualities that make it a great destination.

"The flowers, the lake and boating: that's what attracts people," says Tallitsch.

If You Go
Vermilion is about 40 miles west of Cleveland and 25 miles east of Sandusky. For travel information, contact Lake Erie Shores & Islands. 4424 Milan Road, Suite A, Sandusky; 800-255-3743, shoresandislands.com.

Lodging in downtown Vermilion is limited. Try the Captain Gilchrist House B&B (5562 Huron St., Vermilion; 440-967-1237, gilchristguesthouse.com), which was built in 1885 by a local captain who owned the largest fleet of ships on the Great Lakes at the time. Converted to an inn, the large Victorian home has a wraparound porch and four guest homes with private baths. Room No. 2 includes a full kitchen. Prices range from $95 to $135. Alternatively, try the Holiday Inn Express Hotel Vermilion (2417 state Route 60, Vermilion, 440-967-8770, hiexpress.com), two miles south of town near state Route 2. Prices start at $108.99.

Dining options range from casual to upscale. Step back in time at the Main Street (Big Ed's) Soda Grill (5502 Liberty Ave., Vermilion; 440-967-4002) for burgers, hot dogs, fried bologna and milkshakes.

For a special night out, Chez Francois (555 Main Street, Vermilion; 440-967-0630; chezfrancois.com) doesn't disappoint. Its French specialties are prepared with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. In addition to the formal dining room, the restaurant includes the Riverfront Cafe for alfresco dining and the wine bar Touche.

Main Street Vermilion and Harbour Town