CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After almost 10 years, the work of East End Main Street program is starting to pay off.
You can see the results as you drive along Washington Street East. A couple of new shops opened recently near the Capitol -- Magic Makers and Hush, an organic health-food store.
Not far away, exterior renovations to the former New China Restaurant are ending, where The Empty Glass owner Chris Chaber hopes to open his new live-music venue.
Down the street, check out the new brickwork on the building beside the Main Kwong restaurant. There, the family of Main Kwong owner Carina Kwok plan to open a Japanese hibachi-style sit-down restaurant this summer.
And on a vacant lot at the corner of Ruffner Avenue, the Main Street group hopes to open its long-awaited outdoor market -- the East End Bazaar -- also this summer.
"It's almost too much to comprehend at this time," said Ric Cavender, director of the East End Main Street program.
"It takes a while," he said. "We're approaching our 10th anniversary in September. When you hit 10 years, big things should be happening. Big things are happening.
"There's real excitement. Young people are moving into the East End. The reason why there's so much activity, I think, is the domino effect: One person sees something happening on a building and decides to do something with their building."
Cavender and his predecessors can take some of the credit. They've been working behind the scenes, trying to make the East End attractive to business owners.
Main Street offers matching grants for façade improvements and new signs, along with free business counseling and design services.
Salon Indigo owner Stephanie Reese got a sign grant when she opened her shop in 2010, Cavender said. "It was done by a local artist. As soon as she signed her lease, she gave me a call."
Although not a Charleston native, Reese decided to move here. "I asked her, 'Why here?' She said it's close to the Capitol, close to General Hospital. When she drove by, she could feel something happening.
"I use her as an example, but there have been many projects. All new businesses, we go over their business plan, try to make sure they're a success. I think we are known now as the business hub.
"We also try to recruit. Magic Makers is a great example."
The Huntington-based costume shop traditionally rented space at the Charleston Town Center every fall for Halloween. "They were a major sponsor of Hallow East last year. We talked to them, tried to find them a location. We're working with them now to get their signage completed."