|Towne Centre District. FTM file.|
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly implied that Studio G had closed for business. This is not the case. The story has been corrected.
Back in May, FTM ran a story about Blue Marble celebrating its 35th anniversary of serving the Fort Thomas community (here). Blue Marble got its start as a toy store and now primarily sells books; since that store moved, though, several new tenants have come and gone in that same space, none of which specialize in opportunities for children.
Now, a duo of Fort Thomas moms and aspiring businesswomen sought to change that recently when they proposed a new concept: a child’s edu-tainment center for parents and children to have an outlet for play, creativity, learning, and shared fun. However, the owner and landlord of the property agreed to go a different route with the space, instead opting to pursue a different tenant.
These businesswomen, who have asked to remain anonymous until a resolution can be reached, were excited about the potential such a business could have. The particular space being considered adjoins Fort Thomas Coffee, an already frequent hangout for Fort Thomas moms and their kids during the day. The new business would have benefited from the natural traffic generated by FTC and vice versa. Essentially, this business would’ve dovetailed quite nicely with an already successful Fort Thomas-owned business. The business concept would be a play area with chalkboard walls, a reading fort, sensory tables, imagination play areas, and birthday party fun. It would not be a child drop-in center but would require parents to be present to engage in playtime with their kids.
Currently, there are businesses in Fort Thomas offering art classes to children (The Art House among others), music classes, and some recreation classes. However, these occur at scheduled times, on scheduled days, during scheduled weeks and are not always available at the convenience of local families. In fact, there is a gap in the Fort Thomas community of daytime businesses catering to young families, an issue currently top of mind for young families during the cold winter months when the excellent parks are rendered useless.
However, both the landlord and the city agreed that this option would not be the best use for the space. It is the opinion of these women that the landlord did not seek to fully understand the business model, thinking it to be a drop-in center for children, which would create potential double-parking issues, amongst other concerns, an understanding that the landlord incorrectly passed on to the city, per the businesswomen.
The building owner, Eric Lutkenhoff, recounts the story slightly differently, saying at no time did he state this was a zoning issue nor did he convey that message to the city. His decision, quite simply, was a business decision in that he felt the business model of these two women was not a “good fit for the space.”
He has not yet selected an applicant amongst the several businesses that have applied but he did fully understand the business model proposed by these women and decided, in conjunction with the city, that it was not the best fit.
Debbie Buckley, Renaissance Manager and Economic Development Director for the City of Fort Thomas, said she “agreed with his (the landlord’s) preference” amongst the three applicants for the space.
Additionally, she had told the landlord that the city was “trying to transform the Towne Center into a Cultural Arts District (which [they’ve] been working on for several years now).” However, Buckley advised this was not a zoning issue.
Additionally, Buckley committed to help “find a good space for [the businesswomen] and [their] business."