Saturday, January 12, 2008
I know this is old news but I wanted to at least comment on it before it was too distant a memory, but a few months ago we lost a good business along the central business district to Newport and their Monmouth business district - Gallery Zaum.
I spoke with the owner to better understand why they made the move - not to grind an axe but to help us better craft a vision for attracting and retaining the retail that is currently in town. The primary reason Gallery Zaum left was because they wanted to own their own building where they could have control over the facilities and house another business his partner runs in the same facilities.
I wanted to be sure I cleared the air on the potential that the community was not supporting the business or that it couldn't survive in Fort Thomas. I believe this is the general perception the community gets when they see a store front turn over and is one of the biggest challenges to rallying the community around attracting more retail to the area.
We also discussed the city's role in supporting the business while they were here and he seemed indifferent. They clearly didn't go out of their way to make it easier to do business and he indicated the city was somewhat difficult to work with regarding things like sign-age. Lastly, he said it appeared the city just lacked a vision for what they wanted retail to become in Fort Thomas. Newport had a very clear vision for what types of retail they wanted along Monmouth Street and the type of vibrancy they desired. While this was the determinant it was just another notch on the scorecard for moving to that location.
I think the lesson we can take away from this are two of the handful of key ingredients to attracting and retaining retail. 1. The lack of vision that we have in Fort Thomas for what we want our retail districts to have and what complimentary businesses we want to attract to the particular retail districts. 2. Reducing barriers to opening retail and providing an environment for retail to thrive.