Restoring Faith in Wheeling’s Buildings

WHEELING – In what were previously places of worship, business owners have reimagined the purposes of two local churches.

Both the red brick building located at 26 South Broadway Street on Wheeling Island and the property at 136 Edgwood Street in the Woodsdale neighborhood again find visitors entering the doors after surviving years of being in disrepair.

For Paula Lane, the Wheeling Island church, built in 1865, serves as the location for her business, Bellamente Salon and Spa. Purchasing the then-condemned property 14 years ago, Lane began intervals of reconstruction and renovation to transform the space into a salon.

According to Lane, who has 25 years of hairdressing experience, moving and returning to school for nursing contributed to “putting the project on hold.” During the last six months, however, she has committed her energy to the business “full-time.”

“I decided to finish the project here,” Lane said.

Seeing results at every step of the process has given Lane “more motivation.” She believes it is important to focus on one area at a time during renovation. Now the owner and stylist at Bellamente, Lane has plans to increase the business’ number of clients and employees. In addition to advertising, she will contact other hair stylists whom she knows.

“Many of my clients live in Ohio and Wheeling,” Lane said. “It’s a good location.”

Bellamente offers haircuts, coloring, facials, waxing, laser hair removal, spot removal and spray tanning, among other services.

With translation of the business’ Italian name referencing beauty, Lane hopes to create an atmosphere fitting of that description.

She believes Bellamente’s decor is both Victorian and eclectic.

“People like the feel of it,” Lane said. “They think it’s a little bit different.”

She added that any decor has to be a little bit bigger to be in proportion with the scale of the church’s walls and ceiling.

Residing in an apartment at the back of the church, Lane believes the “cozy” salon and spa atmosphere, combined with her lack of a work commute, makes her more accessible to clients.

“It’s like welcoming people into your home,” Lane said.

For Joan L. Berlow Smith, the home atmosphere came built-in to the church located in Woodsdale as it begins its third stage of life. In what was originally a church, then remodeled as a home, Smith recently opened a business selling gifts, jewelry and decor.

The Jeweled Bird opened three weeks ago, but Samuel T. Posin, who works with Smith, said business has been good.

“There has not been one day we have not had a lot of people,” Posin said.

Smith added she enjoys thinking about the people who previously frequented the space for prayer.

“What we have is unique,” Smith said. “It’s not just a store, it’s an experience. We’ve brought life back into the church.”

Describing the atmosphere of the 1932 property as “enchanting, warm and fragrant,” Smith listed the business’ product offerings as including vintage furnishings, candles, local art, stained glass lamps, vases, clocks and crystal, among many others.

The Jeweled Bird creates customizable gift baskets as a nod to Smith’s previous out-of-home craft. Collectibles from countries such as Spain and France are also available for purchase. Customers will find a jewelry department and complementary coffee bar in the space.

Between the property being used as a church and a business, Smith said it served as a home for Charlotte Morris, an “artist and designer” from Pittsburgh. Choosing to reside in the space, Morris renovated the old church to include home essentials such as a kitchen and bedroom. Once Morris chose to move closer to family, the church was again for sale.

Having already started to think about doing something creative, Smith connected to Morris and the latter’s efforts to maintain the integrity of structural elements such as the church’s windows.

“She had a vision,” Smith said. “I took off on that.”

Smith purchased the property one year ago and began fully committing her time to the project six months ago. Although getting things the way she wanted has been difficult, Smith enjoyed decorating the space.

Further, as she lived in Woodsdale during her childhood, the location of her new business venture holds particular value.

For more information about The Jeweled Bird, visit To contact Bellamente Salon and Spa, call 304-232-7066.