The new face of Southport

Alyssa Clark and Chloe Meredith

Cars of all kinds zoom down Southport Road, passing the many buildings and houses that hold Southport’s history, some dating as far back as 1890. Most of the buildings have been vacated, making the once bustling downtown of the City of Southport become a carcass of its past.

“I didn’t want to see that happen,” SHS Alumni Jim Hildebrand said. “I think we need all the business we can get down here.”

Hildebrand lives off of Southport Road, just down the way from Long’s Bakery in the heart of downtown Southport. Having lived there for more than 35 years, he has seen both the success of Southport and the downfall as well, with many businesses moving out of the buildings in the area.

Building Commissioner and RDC President, Duane Langreck, and the Mayor of Southport, Russell McClure, agree with Hildebrand. Langreck says he has been trying to get businesses to come in Southport’s many vacant lots and buildings for over 20 years.

The wait for Southport’s vacancies to turn into permanent businesses is now over, with major projects coming, some already finished. Current businesses on the road are also getting some updates on their buildings as well.

The building that was once the post office is in the process of becoming Sophia’s Bridal, Tux & Prom. It is currently under construction, but the owner, Jessica Limeberry, is hoping to have it done by mid-October, when she plans to throw a party for the new location.

Sophia’s is current location is in an outlet mall off of US 31. Limeberry says she wanted to move into this new space for more storage and an updated look. After trying to relocate Sophia’s in the past years, Limeberry says she is thankful her previous offers on other buildings did not work out since she is so happy with the one she found now.

“It’s a very big privilege for us to be here,” Limeberry said. “We’re very thankful that Southport has welcomed us with open arms.”

Another building that faced major construction is the building that was previously Gerdt Furniture. According to Langreck, the building was bought by Randy Faulkner & Associates Inc., now known as Southport Station. Faulkner bought part of the old concrete plant from Southport, and is currently trying to build a parking lot for the Southport Station tennant, Renaissance Electronic Services, a business that specializes in connecting dental offices, insurance companies and patients in real time electronically.

Other businesses coming include a senior living apartment complex, planned to go into the area that was once a lumber yard. Dairy Queen will also undergo renovations to make its building more modern, including having the bathrooms accessible inside.

McClure says the whole purpose to these renovations is to bring the Southport Community together as a whole. Langreck and McClure both want Southport to be home to everyone, whether it be older persons looking to find a place to live the rest of their life or persons straight out of college looking for a place to settle.

After speaking with Perry Township Superintendent Dr. Thomas Little, Langreck and McClure both came to the realization that there is a captive audience for new businesses; SHS students. Langreck says they hope to attract students after home games with potential businesses, and they want to consider the younger audience in a lot of their decisions.

“Students (at SHS) are important too,”  Langreck said. “They’re part of the community.”

Langreck and McClure know they have a long way to go, but they are determined to improve the Southport community for all.