Bellefontaine-based real estate development firm Small Nation has acquired the Historic Opera & Empire Blocks in Downtown Bellefontaine. The three-story, 10 storefront building encompasses over 40,000 square feet and includes the addresses of 110-118 Court Ave, 125-137 S Main St.  The original structure was built in the late 19th century and is an iconic cornerstone of the downtown landscape situated along Court Avenue, the first concrete street in America. The building was acquired for the purchase price of $310,000.

The Historic Opera Block first opened in 1880 to an event in the building’s Opera House during a performance of the opera, “Chimes of Normandy.” Notable entertainment and music legends like Harry Houdini and John Philip Sousa performed at the Opera House throughout the late 1800s.

“This property is one of the most visible and important properties in the Downtown, not only because of building but the businesses that operate and have grown here.  For several years, the property has been in desperate need of immediate repairs and improvements,” said Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation. In 2019, parts of the building were condemned because of health and safety issues. “We’ve got our work cut out for us but thankful for on-going communications with the previous owner, existing tenants and the City as we work to make the building safe and secure for the future.”

Today Downtown Bellefontaine has become a destination with many new eateries, shops and entertainment options.  Most recently the town has seen the opening of The Syndicate , BUILD Cowork + Space and The Flying Pepper Cantina, and several new retail openings are planned in 2021.

Logan County Chamber President Ben Vollrath said, “The redevelopment in Downtown Bellefontaine has proven to drive economic growth, entrepreneurship, housing, and innovation in our community. The Small Nation team continues to be the catalyst for much of this success as they help our community envision what a vibrant downtown can be. The Chamber looks forward to supporting the revitalization of the Opera Block and seeing this iconic building in downtown reach its full potential.”

Bellefontaine Mayor Stahler commented, “In this, our bicentennial year, we celebrate the news that Small Nation has purchased the Opera Block Building. We are proud that Downtown Bellefontaine is registered with the Ohio Historical Society and National Park Service for its efforts to preserve this area of our community. The Opera Block is one of the most historic buildings in Bellefontaine. This building, encompassing nearly an entire city block, was constructed in the late 1800’s and once featured an opera house. Today, this building is host to several local retail store fronts and businesses. We believe its potential can be so much more.  We’re excited that Small Nation has taken possession and will begin the process of renovating this historic ‘gem’ in the center of our downtown!”

“The Opera Block in Downtown Bellefontaine is the most iconic real estate in the district,” said Will Zell, owner of Sweet Aromas Coffee in downtown Bellefontaine. “For years it has experienced a decline in maintenance, appearance and structural integrity. As adjoining real estate owners, and fans of Downtown, Beth and I are excited that Small Nation is the new owner and look forward to experiencing the innovative direction they take the property.”

Pre-planning and due diligence are being performed on the building in the next several weeks, with repairs and renovations set to commence this summer.  For the latest updates on construction progress, follow Small Nation on Facebook and Instagram (@smallnationstrong), and on their website at Press inquiries can be directed to Shannon Reese (