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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

School Lunches & Fort Thomas Independent Schools

 As I read a recent issue of Time magazine I came across an article on school lunches and I was reminded of some of the changes that have occurred with school lunches within the Fort Thomas Independent School District.

There has been a lot of attention lately to the potential negative impact on student health as our children become adults. Fort Thomas has been working hard to get out ahead of this wave of change and help support our kids becoming physically healthy adults and not just mentally healthy adults.  In addition to being in a state that has progressive initiatives like the Kentucky Farm to School Program, Highlands has hired a nutritionist and a chef to prepare menus and has taken a very progressive step on this issue.

The school district recently reported a 20% increase in cafeteria sales that they attribute to the program.  As I have talked with students they confirm the increase in cafeteria usage.  In the past only rainy days led to crowded lines and now it is more common than not to encounter lines.  The school has replaced fried foods with grilled and white breads with whole wheat.  In addition to the healthier choices Highlands also added an ala carte line with some higher end choices and corresponding higher prices.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Coffee & Donuts

Fort Thomas got a new retail store front this week - "Coffee & Donuts" and they serve that and only that... well fruits and juices too.  It is located right next to the 915 Bar & Grill in the Renewal Medical Massage location.  They serve Bernhard's Bakery pastries out of Newport which have some delicious specialties.

It is nice to have another spot in town that serves anything but I am a bit concerned by the small space, spartan menu which is sourced from other local establishments (brews Starbucks coffee as well).  The owner plans to open between 6:15 and noon Monday through Saturday but when I swung by at 10:30 this morning they were not open.  That being said it is good to see another business owner making a run at it.  Lets all swing by and support him in the coming weeks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Highlands Football Update

After a win against rival Cov Cath there was not much movement this week in the national polls for the Bluebirds.

Rivals - unchanged at 14
USA Today - unchanged at 9
ESPN - unchanged at 13

Scott and Ryle are left on the schedule.  A win against Scott will not help their rankings without a loss from another power.  Ryle follows with a bit more of a threat.  They have a current district record of 3-1 and overall record of 6-2 with their only loss in the district to Simon Kenton (#2 in the Enquirer poll).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pergola - Other Options?

Pergola is still open for the remainder of this week serving coffee and baked goods (and as reported in Polly Campbell's blog post on offering refunds on gift certificates).  A nice show of good faith.

The conflict between Pergola's owners and the property owner is the reason for the shut down and there is the possibility that the restaurant can be kept in Fort Thomas.  Representatives are searching for another location and there appears to be a slight glimmer of hope that the restaurant can remain open in Fort Thomas but it would have to be at another location.  Stop in for a coffee and cinnamon bun and show your support while you still can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pergola Closed!

Another unfortunate retail closing occurred today as Pergola shut their doors for good after only a few short months.  I had been hearing rumblings for a over a week now but decided against posting anything to avoid contributing to an issue.

I did speak to those with some knowledge of the situation and I want to be clear that although business had been down the past couple of weeks as the weather turned bad their closing had little to do with community support.

The issues included:
  • A 6 month liquour license expiration that required Pergola to be moving toward purchase of their facility.  The current land lord would not sell at a market rate and kept them from renewing the license (a key revenue source).
  • Land lord issues rear their ugly head again.  While business was down some the past two weeks land lord issues forced the closing.  To reinforce their belief in the concept and the community they had an agreement to build a large pergola to provide shelter over the patio but the land lord did not approve.  Legal action was a consideration but to salvage the investment and avoid frustration they closed the store instead.
I hate sounding like a broken record but until we come up with a solution that provides reasonable lease situations for retailers in Fort Thomas we are running up hill in developing a retail presence in this community.  This is at least 4 food service businesses in Fort Thomas that have folded not because of community support but because we have property owners along Fort Thomas Avenue that will not support business.

I want to give a shout out to Debbie Buckly as she did everything she could to keep Pergola open but ultimately it was a business agreement that could not be salvaged.  Debbie works very hard for this community but needs more resources and a stronger vision from the city.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Green Grants Available & Some Possible Uses

This past week the state of Kentucky received another $26 million in energy grants from the Department of Energy, bringing the grand total of funds received from the State Energy Program of the recent stimulus plan to $52 million.  The state has commented that they plan to use these funds to retrofit schools and public buildings.  The article states that "other programs might include conservation training and education, and transportation programs that will increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles."

This is yet another opportunity for the city of Fort Thomas to grab some federal funds to lower ongoing maintenance costs of running the city.   Some suggestions could be to start with the city building.  Despite recent upgrades for the police department the rest of the building is still rather dated and the fire department's facilities are a bit lacking.  Couple upgrades with some of the following green features and I think they could win funds for facilities upgrades.

1. More efficient windows - not only avoid heating and cooling loss but more natural light can go a long way to save energy costs.

2. Solar panels for the roof of the city building or perhaps other facilities such as the armory.

3. Capture water run-off from roof tops of city buildings.  Could be used to water landscaping around the city. 

The transportation component could also be used for upgrades to maintenance vehicles with better gas milage or perhaps even upgrades to key service equipment such as fire engines.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Changes at St Luke

So by now you must have heard about St Elizabeth's reorganization as they integrate the two St Luke hospitals into their health care system. The bottom line is the loss of obstetrics at the St Luke East Hospital. I doubt this has a major impact on the Fort Thomas community per se as no one I know in Fort Thomas gave birth there. The hospital seems to service rural Campbell County, Pendleton County, and Bracken County. When my parents lived in Bracken County some 37 years ago they delivered my oldest sister there and the same appears to hold true today. As long as they do not cut emergency service which is highly unlikely I see no real loss of service for the Fort Thomas community.

With that being said, I see 2 potential impacts:

1. A reshuffling of doctors with office locations in Fort Thomas. There are currently quite a few doctors that have at least a part time presence in the offices on Grand Ave. Many are likely to still have at least a partial presence there but with obstetrics shifting to Edgewood it would make sense to have their offices closer to the hospital and their patients.

2. Every coin has two sides and the flip side of the loss of obstetrics in Fort Thomas is an expansion of oncology, women's services, chemical dependency and mental health at St Luke East. This creates more opportunities for specialized medical care not just at the hospital but at many of the same offices on Grand Ave that could lose an OB/GYN or two.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fort Thomas Retail Update

As I walked by the empty store front that used to be the Mustard Seed on Fort Thomas Avenue I couldn't help but wonder what the future holds for the Central Business District. Again we lose another business because it is difficult to get good signage and a lack of support...not from the community but from the property owners who are unwilling to support the vision of moving our retail business districts forward. Locating the business in neighboring Southgate worked better for Amanda after a short time in Fort Thomas.
CORRECTION - Amanda does not have a store front in Southgate and is still running her catering business out of a friend's catering kitchen in Hebron until she decides her next step.

What if there had been vision by the city and some support for a busy street corner? We could have had an amazing wine shop next door to a great sidewalk cafe. Again, don't blame the citizens of Fort Thomas for not supporting their businesses. We must have property owners who are willing to give a small business owner some help - even if it means the city steps in with some help. This could be a non-profit type organization like 3CDC in Cincinnati that helps bridge the gap between startup and business success.

Without supportive zoning and a city council that continues to only have vision to update sidewalks and awnings where will businesses like the independent drug store, Ft Thomas Drug Center, turn when increased competition arrives from the Kroger and Target pharmacies that will be opening in the Newport Pavilion?

I got a bit of an answer as it relates to how Ft Thomas Drug Center hopes to compete when I opened my mail today. I received a card from the Good Neighbor Pharmacy that was branded with the Ft Thomas Drug Center name. It turns out that the large pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen has created a co-op of sorts for independent pharmacists to help fight the large chain stores. While it makes for some great press when the large pharma company helps out the independent business owner I am sure there is a bit of self-serving in it somewhere. The postcard provides some free offers and is the first piece of marketing I ever remember seeing by the drug store.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kroger Opening Delayed... Again

Kroger now hoping to be opened by the 'end of the year'. The article confirms that there were in fact issues with the storm water pipe and they site the unfinished road - Pavilion Parkway. This has to be very frustrating for Kroger as each day that passes without an opening, especially with the holidays approaching, is lost revenue and a longer payback.

Bear Creek has completely gone silent and will not return any media contacts. Additionally, the Bear Creek website has been down for well over a week with the statement "The site is currently unavailable. Check back soon."

Additionally, a nice article on the history of the Cote Brilliante neighborhood illustrates the history that was lost with this development. History that includes a visit by JFK, amazing structures, one of the first modern shopping centers, and modern roads. If the city of Newport took the investment in the bonds and used a revitalization strategy that has worked so well in other parts of Newport would they have something better to show for it instead of missing out on additional retailers that can't move into a half completed 'big-box showcase'?

Don't get me wrong - I am excited to have more shopping options but this has to be difficult to watch for the city of Newport.