During the past two weeks here in my hometown Delaware, Ohio the brick and mortar facie has changed. Our beloved independent bookstore “The Beehive” have closed their doors for good. Albeit rather abruptly, the closing leaves more questions than answers. Not even the manager got any notice of the decision until the public was told, but managed to secure a new job in the local area before the week was out.
Tomorrow evening , German Village landmark “Thurmans Cafe” spawns a child in our downtown with the official opening of “Son of Thurmans.” It’s sure to be a hit with all the locals and those familiar with the namesake German Village Burger mecca featured on “Man vs. Food” and other food channel tv shows in recent years.
Other businesses have had their ups and downs here in the past year, “Keiko’s Bead Box” is planning on closing their brick and mortar location on South Sandusky street and taking the business entirely online / trade show circuits.
Other happenings have been the closing of “Brooklyn Heights” restaurant on West William Street with their liquor license being transferred to the iconic “Hamburger Inn” on North Sandusky street. It seems that the owner feels that with “Son of Thurman’s” coming to town he will not make it unless he too serves Beer. Personally, I believe this thinking to be short-sighted considering the patronage of our downtown bars and restaurants.
Two weeks ago, the building occupied by the “West End Grill” on the north side of West William street was sold, and as of this writing the bar business will remain open.
We’re not experiencing any different economic contractions / growth than anywhere else in the nation at this time.
As I was just outside taking the dog for her nightly constitutional, I looked up at the full moon, seeing the upper level clouds moving in the high winds at those elevations, as well as seeing airborne pollution in the form of colored bands of clouds passing in front of the moon. I can’t help wondering if we are to actually stand on this planet and look to the next one if there’s someone or some group that will not let that happen until we learn to fix the problems we’ve created here on Earth beforehand. I remember reading an article last week I bookmarked about the Mars Rover photographing what might have been actual extra-terrestrial space craft or a passing meteor entering Mars atmosphere. Either one (especially the meteor possibility) might explain what happened to Mars atmosphere over the past couple million years.
What does this have to do with downtown businesses and their comings and goings ?? Everything actually, considering that the due diligence necessary to be successful at whatever business venture you decide on must be performed flawlessly, otherwise you at some point will fail at this business. Much like Mars lost atmosphere making it possible for the planet to flourish, much must be done here on Earth to repair the damage we’re doing to our own planet. Take this winters extreme dry weather on the west coast versus the “snow-mageddons” many states have experienced. As you’re reading this a massive snow storm started in Alabama and has stretched along the east coast all the way to Maine with another 4-5 inches of snow possible tonight across the area. Starting and operating a business includes cycles of feast or famine like our winter weather in 2014, preparation and planning are paramount. Otherwise, we invite disaster such as that being felt all along the south with millions shivering in the dark until the lights come back on. Some years back a retired local farmer / teacher Mr. Brent Carson produced some videos about our community that were in my estimation free education for anyone who wanted to know and understand how businesses operated here in Delaware, Ohio. It was called “Downtown Friday Nights” and if while watching you were paying attention to more than just the dialog you would actually receive some free small business training. I still watch it from time to time in order to compare those heyday decades during my youth to the present and learning how change occurred and its effect on our downtown economy.
During my first career (Retired U.S. Navy Submarine Storekeeper) I remember on more than a few occasions remarking to shipmates that “I’m on the wrong side of the counter here” and looked forward to the day when I retired and started my own business. 18 – 1/2 years later I’m still learning as I’ve had three small businesses that were started on a shoestring and flourished for awhile until business grew beyond my ability to serve the customers and I had to close. I’m not done yet though, seven years ago a local aftermarket transit parts company asked me to become a contractor versus a temporary employee as they dreaded the thought of either training someone else to do my job, or change the way they operate and do it right themselves. That last part, “change their way they operate” seems to me to be the the straw that broke the camel’s back in their minds. It absolutely explains why they are now a wholly owned subsidiary of one of their larger international competitors versus owning other smaller rivals. This shift in my relationship from my “co-workers” to my “customers” was a sea change for me as I for one never saw this coming. I can still remember after the company was bought by a globally known hedge fund with a reputation for turning a bad company around or selling it off in pieces and the effect this was having on everyone there. Seeing three management types who were lucky to even find the warehouse walking towards me I thought OK, this is it I too am getting my walking papers, but the offer was the last thought to cross my mind. I’m going on 10 years now with them, and this operational change from employee to business owner is the best one I could’ve hoped for.
Why this digression of the previous paragraph ?? Training of course if you think like a business owner versus a deer in the headlights. During these past six years our economy has suffered a major setback nearly rivaling the Great Depression although the government ensured this never happened. There were casualties of course, as the real estate, stock markets, business markets and employment in every sector all took major hits. Like me, many millions were thrust into either self employment or extended unemployment where some have still not yet found full time work.
Millions of communities over the past decade have become involved in a national program called “Main Street” where training, and sharing of information / ideas have helped some maintain and actually grow their downtown independent small business core. Life long learning was a term I heard many times during my Navy career because every small business owner needs to learn new things / methods of operation just to stay competitive and successful. I participated in our “Main Street Delaware” program as a member of the Business Enhancement Committee serving as chair for about the last 5 – 6 years. Although I learned a lot from it we needed professional leadership which after surviving the first five years of existence we are now receiving from local business and professional leaders in the community.
Just like the changes in our downtown business community during these past two months alone, every community will experience these same “shifting sands” of change and must be able to respond in a way to assure their existence.