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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Can't Fort Thomas Create a Strategy?

Two news stories lately that are great for Northern Kentucky but underscores the city's inability to attract and retain good retail.

Exhibit A - Brian Wiefering's WieFit gym and fitness studio will be opening along Monmouth Street in Newport. Brian is a Fort Thomas resident who chose to open his studio along Monmouth Street near Fusion Studio, a former Fort Thomas business. Here is an excerpt from the article on
WieFit joins other health businesses that have opened along Newport's business district. Fusion Studio, a gym specializing in cycling and spinning classes, opened in March 2008 above Reser Bicycle Shop. Newport's business district also features yoga and dance studio Kula Center for the Movement Arts, pilates studio Studio P and Meters and Miles, a running shoe and equipment store.
Amazing, thought - complimentary businesses located in close proximity that feed off of each other and create a district focused on the same customers.

Exhibit B - Today the Enquirer reports that a cupcake shop, Three Tiers Contemporary Cakes & Cupcakes, is opening in Bellevue. This new shop compliments the existing collection of eclectic shops along Fairfield Ave that includes shops like The Cozy Cottage, Knit On, Saponi Soaps, the Bellevue Beadery, and of course Mrs. Teapots.

It would be easy to chalk the success of these communities up to the traffic flow along Monmouth Street and Fairfield Ave which Fort Thomas residents do not want for Fort Thomas Ave. There is some validity to this argument. However, the ultimate success of these communities is the vision they created that served as a true rallying point for executing the strategy through promotion, policy, and support.

Back to Exhibit A, I contacted Brian to ask him why he chose Monmouth St and Newport. I did not get a response as of yet but I would be willing to bet it was the same reasons that Red Hot Promotions or Fusion Studio decided to locate there which includes support of the city and the complimentary businesses. Living in Fort Thomas I am sure he understands the deals he can get on store fronts in the primary retail areas but he chose not to locate there despite people traveling from Lexington and Indianapolis to Fort Thomas to his home in the past.

What ideas do you have for a good retail theme for the Midway district? Right now the theme is "hodge podge".


  1. Ft Thomas has a strategy. A closeknit community of beautiful homes with outstanding education opportunities and sports teams that everyone can rally around. Small town America at its best. Just because this strategy doesn't include your vision of retail doesn't mean there is no strategy. The key (and biggest selling point) of Ft Thomas is that it is a lovely, suburban, bedroom community that has ACCESS to all the conveniences and businesses. I think you nailed it when you mentioned traffic. Another example is Reading Rd and Benson St in Reading, OH. There the theme is wedding stores: dresses, caterers, planners, etc. Traffic is the key to building a successful business district. Ft Thomas doesn't have it (and many of us don't want it). It could have happened on Alexandria Pike, but not since I-471 was built - even a McDonalds and a Wendy's whithered and died in Highland Hts. due to lack of traffic after I-471 was built. The only chance Ft Thomas has of having retail success is a specialty shop that is a destination spot, like Vito's (and even that is very accessible from the highway).

  2. I agree with your vision for the community, but I am speaking specifically of retail. If what you say is true then why are we spending millions of dollars on street scape improvements for empty storefronts and HUD housing? That doesn't exactly sound like America at its best.

  3. From Debbie Buckley:

    We do have a strategy for business--a marketing plan that was done several years ago in which local people were asked to rate the types of businesses they hoped to see in Fort Thomas. The list included a bakery, coffee shop, bookstore, restaurants, etc. We have landed a bakery and coffee shop, but few are using the business. We have a great bookstore that is willing to bring in any types of books you might like to read.

    We have been working from that list for some time. We are hoping the streetscape will improve the Midway from looking like a run-down ghost town to an up-and-coming quirky business area with great access to Route 8, U.S. 27, and I-471. It takes a village not only to raise a family, but to build a business area. The Towne Center has only two available spaces at this time. Inverness has one opening. The Midway has several and our hope for retail must fall to that area.

    Fort Thomas has the distinction of being not only a beautiful bedroom community with excellence in education, but it also has a distinctive reputation of "not taking care of its own retailers." Nothing hurts us more than the use of that line over and over again. Our banks and insurance agencies seem to do well. The retailers who do best seem to draw a large number of their clients from surrounding communities. They do this with the use of the internet, good business practices, as well as word of mouth. We certainly want to fill our storefronts with good businesses that will thrive in our small town atmosphere. Numerous businesses have looked at available spaces and when doing their research, were told that "Fort Thomas doesn't support their own." I look at the Clifton area as an example of a great retail space in a small town atmosphere. The people walk everywhere,know one another, and enjoy variety. It's also a community of educated people. Few open spaces are available there.

    We need the help of everyone in Fort Thomas to encourage our current retailers, but most of all to quit using that four-letter word of a phrase repeated twice above. We need to SHOW retailers that we DO support our own and change the wave of thinking that causes perspective business owners to look elsewhere.

    Debbie Buckley