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Friday, January 23, 2015

Aspiring Fort Thomas Businesswomen Looking for Opportunity

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."


  1. There are some open spaces at the V.A. Tower Park area, ask the city for some advice on those.

  2. There are some open spaces at the V.A. Tower Park area, ask the city for some advice on those.

  3. I wish them great success and hope their plan comes to fruition. However, the concept seems directed towards infants and toddlers. Maybe we have a steady stream of tikes in Ft. Thomas with stay at home Moms that make this a success but I am dubious. For $85 a year a whole family can get a membership to all three museums at the Museum Center which includes the Children's Museum and is 10 minutes from here. We also have the Y and the library which my kids love. While it seems like another activity option for the winter months, it also seems like an idea that came about from the confinements of our current winter. Perhaps it would be a better business decision to evaluate the need throughout the course of this year before diving in right now. Regardless, best of luck.

  4. I don't have an opinion on whether or not this is a viable business concept or not. But it looks like this owner has a desirable space that multiple businesses are interested in. As the owner of the property, he has the right to pick a tenant that he feels will best coexist with his current tenants (both next door and above) as well as a tenant that he feels has the best long term chances of success.
    Regardless of what he decides or why, this article seems slanted as if he's done something wrong. It actually seems to me like he's taking a great deal of time trying to find what he considers to be a perfect fit.
    That being said, I hope this doesn't deter these nice ladies from continuing to try and find a space here in Fort Thomas that is the perfect fit for them. It's a great town with new, young families moving in constantly so their kids can get into our school system. My kids are older now, but when they were young my wife loved finding things to do with them right here in town so she didn't have to drive and she was able to interact with other Ft. Thomas moms.

  5. I agree with anonymous that the building owner has the right to choose his tenant, but the concept sounds intriguing. I imagine that businesses in Fort Thomas can struggle with finding the right mix of services to draw people in at all hours of the day. The idea of drawing customers to a coffee shop while their children take part in other activities in a great idea. There is a coffee shop franchise in Michigan called Jungle Java that does just that. other activities that would dovetail into a coffee in our community would be a dance studio or an education center with tutoring, SAT prep.