Mainly ElklandMar 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Kelly Stemcosky
At first glance, Elkland is in the “if you blink, you’ll miss it,” category. Even lifelong locals say visitors don’t often purposely stop there. It’s a drive-by on their way somewhere else.
But then they notice a former dilapidated eyesore is now a renovated restaurant serving flights of local hard cider. They hear laughter as a gaggle of kids leaves their weekly karate class at the new community center. They see brand new banners hanging proudly above the sidewalks, honoring the area’s military veterans. They learn that businesses on Main Street have either survived thirty-plus years, or are newcomers who’ve chosen to open in this diamond-in-the-rough of the Cowanesque Valley.
“We’re having an uptick in new businesses, which means a lot of new faces in the area,” says Renee Shantz, account executive at Wilkinson Dunn Insurance Company, which has operated at 113 West Main for over three decades. “Insurance for the last few years had stayed pretty flat, but we’re seeing an increase as new businesses come in and properties sell.”
As they say, it’s “location, location, location,” and few can deny the perks of Elkland in that regard. Centrally located twenty-five miles north of Wellsboro and south of Corning, it’s just a short jaunt from Route 15 past the picturesque Cowanesque River along Route 49. With a population of less than 2,000, Elkland isn’t known for man-made aesthetics like gas-lit streets or brick sidewalks. But natural beauty reigns, and 360-degree mountain views are breathtaking in any season.
“I think the town is doing pretty well right now. It’s got a lot going for it, and there’s a lot here not in other small towns,” says Matt Baker, who has owned the Rainbow Rose florist with his wife, Lori, for over thirty-five years. Inside the shop at 117 West Main, you’re enveloped by the smell of fresh-cut flowers in an impressive array of colors. The building itself has a storied history—it was formerly a shoe store, a hair salon, the telephone company office, and, around the turn of the twentieth century, Elkland’s post office.
Peggy and Jeff Thompson have also seen countless businesses come and go since they opened P&J’s Restaurant at 114 West Main in 1992. They recalled the Golden Thimble, a sewing and fabric store owned by Elaine Davis, that used to be next door. Across the street was an Exxon gas station where Mike’s Body Shop now repairs vehicles and rents out U-Hauls.
“When we came here, everything closed at noon on Wednesdays. We were the only ones who stayed open later that day,” says Peggy as she welcomes guests on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. The building where they serve up hot food and memories was formerly a five-and-dime. “Right there used to be the door to the other side,” says Peggy, pointing to a spot on the west wall. “They had a huge counter over there with rows and rows of penny candy.”
Just a few doors down is Elkland’s newest eatery, Rack’s Brew House, at 204 West Main. It’s a cozy yet modern atmosphere, where thirsty patrons can sample locally made hard ciders. Rack’s operates in what locals remember as the Penn Elk, a popular watering hole that closed nearly twenty years ago. Resident Tony Daley renovated the building, also transforming the upstairs into short-term Airbnb rentals.
If staying in one of Elkland’s oldest Victorian homes is more your style, Marigold Manor at 231 West Main turns out to be just as charming and romantic as its name suggests. Built by the C.L. Pattison family in 1886, this stately residence started its life as an inn exactly 100 years later, in 1986, and is now a bed and breakfast.
And, if you forget your toothpaste, visit Buchanan Brothers Pharmacy at 206 West Main, a go-to spot since the Buchanans purchased Donley’s Drug Store in 1979. You’ll find the basics here, but also an impressive selection of seasonal gifts and home décor not available in large chain pharmacies.
New to the Main Street retail scene is Naturally, offering CBD, Delta H, and Kratom products targeted at curbing anxiety and depression in people and pets. Edward Kessler started the business in Lawrenceville four years ago, moved it to Mansfield in February of 2022, and in November opened a second location here at 103 West Main.
“When we were based in Lawrenceville, we used to offer delivery to Elkland and Knoxville, so this was closer to our customer base this way,” says employee Danielle Cloos.
On one side of the new store is a longtime staple, Pizza Barn at 101 West Main. Combining traditional dishes with unique flavors, it’s the only eatery in town offering delivery and online ordering. On the other side, at 105 West Main, is perhaps one of Elkland’s most unique and unexpected draws—Willy Nilly art studio. Artist/owner Brynn Pond hosts group painting classes (BYOB), and also arranges private painting events in-house or on the road.
A new old business, Bailey Jewelers, re-opened last July at 207 West Main, the very location where Weldon Bailey first opened the shop of the same name in the 1940s. Weldon operated the jewelry store and repair business at a couple different locations until 2015; it’s now been reincarnated by his son Dennis.
Creating a sense of community just down the street is The Hub, Elkland’s new community center at 210 West Main. The revamped building offers space for private or public events, classes for adults, like yoga and self-defense, and activities for kids, like karate or indoor soccer. Anne Alexander operates The Hub with her husband, Dwayne, who she calls the “driving force” behind its creation. They’re now offering youth leadership meetings focusing on community service. Anne, an artist and welder, also operates Higher Ground Welding as part of The Hub. She offers custom fabrication, repair, art, and a variety of instruction, including the two-hour Make-It/Take-It classes. In her words, “I have plenty to share with those who want to learn,” so fire up those torches and join this creative community.