Meadville Tribune

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February 16, 2014

Community rallies behind embattled Riverside Inn

CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — The recent court ruling which reverted the historic Riverside Inn back to previous owners Michael and Marie Halliday has elicited a generally positive response as well as some concerns from borough residents and business owners.

Numerous rumors and questions as to the Riverside’s future have circulated around town since the ruling last Tuesday afternoon from Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Spataro, based on the alleged default of a $1.8 million loan by new owner Brenda Evans of Edinboro.

Cambridge Springs Mayor Randy Gorske said most residents are just shocked by the news.

“A lot of people are responding on the borough’s Facebook page wondering if it’ll be opening,” he said. “Local residents are concerned if they’ll have jobs, people have already booked their weddings, that sort of thing.”

Gorske and many others remain hopeful for the Riverside’s reopening, based on its business-boosting success as a major attraction in the borough.

The Hallidays’ uncertainty regarding 2014 events and bookings, addressed with the Tribune last week, has also raised concerns as to whether they will be able to financially support what was paid to the previous owner.

They did, however, announce plans to find a management team to operate the business, seeing as they’d initially sold it to retire.

“I’m praying for them,” said Debbie Shearer, owner of Finney’s Chocolate Shoppe. “The Riverside means a lot to us small-business owners.”

Shearer mentioned a strong out-of-town attraction to the Riverside that reaches down as far as Pittsburgh and out even to other states.

“I don’t want the Riverside to close,” echoed Greg Lieb, owner of Bambino’s Pizza. “I’m sure everybody in the town, business owner or not, enjoys it. And it does help the community.”

In Lieb’s 20-or-so years living in Cambridge Springs, he’s observed what he called a melting-pot effect of the Riverside on the community.

“Thousands of people come out for its music festivals and fireworks; it brings a nice diversity of people from all around,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it. The community might not have seen that if it weren’t for the Riverside. It’s kept this town alive.”

Lieb doesn’t believe a local treasure like the Riverside will be allowed to fade — and he’s certainly not alone.

“I’m excited the Hallidays own it again; this is what we needed to have happen,” said Cambridge Springs resident and former Riverside employee Eric White.

White said he worked for the Hallidays as a Riverside Inn waiter for about eight years, but quit in 2010 as a result of the new management. He hopes the Hallidays will reopen and give him the chance to return.

“That place used to be my home,” he said. “I loved working there. (The Hallidays) always treated me well.”

While many rumors circulated around town, some residents weren’t aware of any issues regarding the Riverside’s finances.

John Hotchkiss, owner of John Hotchkiss Barber Shop, said he just recently received a Riverside brochure, only to hear the business may experience uncertainties regarding its current schedule.

“I thought they were doing well down there,” he said. “That’s too bad. We usually go down there for at least one of their shows, the dinner theaters. I don’t know that’s going to happen to that place.”

Any potential solution or aid on the community’s part comes down to the age-old question of how anyone can help a business do better, according to Gorske.

“The best thing people can do is be a good ambassador to Cambridge Springs and the Riverside Inn by letting people know about it,” he said. “That’s always helpful, the more people know about it. Beyond that, we’re thinking of ways the community could help.”

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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