Iconic Shoppe And Inn Close Doors In Findley Lake
FINDLEY LAKE — The Findley Lake shop that caused patrons to reminisce while they perused distinctive items from the past will soon itself become a memory. The Nostalgia Shoppe at 10412 Main St. as well as the Blue Heron Inn, the associated eatery and bed and breakfast establishment, have discontinued operations.
The two establishments have been owned and operated by Bruce and Tobi Ahlquist for 20 years. Bruce was the chef and manager of the Blue Heron, while Tobi operated the retail shop, Nostalgia, in the renovated barn behind the restaurant.
Tobi describes the decision to close the two businesses as moving into “the third chapter of our journey.” Particular situations in their lives have made it no longer possible to operate the businesses, she said. “We started in our 20s and now we’re in our 60s. Our stories are not slowing down, they are just changing,” she said.
Tobi said she and her husband lived in Warren, Pa., and operated the Jefferson House Restaurant from 1982-97. They bought a cottage in Findley Lake in 1991 when their daughter, Hillary, was 2 years old, and came every weekend.
Tobi said, after two years, she pointed out the house that was to become the Blue Heron Inn, and said “that would make a great bed and breakfast.” They talked to a realtor and even made an offer, she said, but the house was not for sale. “Two years later, there was a knock on the door, and it was the realtor. He said, ‘that house you were interested in is available.'”
The Ahlquists bought the house in 1995, with the purpose of transferring their business to Findley Lake, Tobi said. They had contractors put bathrooms into all the upstairs rooms in the Blue Heron Inn, and in 1996, began renovating the barn, which had no electricity at the time, into a retail space.
It was a very challenging time, Tobi said. “We were operating one restaurant in Warren, and, at the same time, we were renovating these buildings.” After the barn was renovated into retail space, the Ahlquists rented the three 1st floor units to various shop owners, while Tobi transformed the 2nd floor into The Nostalgia Shoppe.
Tobi designed the shop as “an eclectic mix of gifts for giving and gifts for keeping.” Her wares included everything from nostalgic toys, games and candy to artisan-crafted jewelry, leather and glass objects d’art, and inspirational/new age items. The Nostalgia Shoppe moved downstairs to the 1st floor of the barn in 2006.
The Blue Heron Inn officially closed in December and will reopen in the spring of 2018 as a whole-house vacation rental. Tobi said the vacation home will have a new kitchen on the first floor, as well as accommodations for eight to 12 people.
“It’s a great location for people to come and hang out at their leisure,” she said.
Tobi hopes to rent out the renovated barn, as well. “I would be happy for it to remain a retail establishment for the good of the town,” she said.
Tobi said the biggest challenge through the years was being in a seasonal location. “This is the greatest challenge of everyone in Chautauqua County,” she added.
Bruce, who ran the Blue Heron Inn, was “a self-taught Chef who credits his grandmother Edith with his love of cooking.”
“I was from a retailing family, so I went naturally into running a retail shop,” Tobi said.