Unlike several regional suburbs, Dublin has not neglected its original downtown. In fact, the Historic Dublin Business Association −made up of retail, professional, and service businesses− actively promotes economic growth in the historic district and works with city officials to ensure its members’ particular needs are met.
We recently talked with HDBA president Eric Leslie, who has been involved with the association for three years, to discuss its inner workings, the issues of greatest importance to its membership, and how it drives traffic to the district, which is located along Bridge and High streets on the west side of the Scioto River.
MM: The HDBA holds general meetings six times per year. Are those meetings bi-monthly?
EL: They aren’t all bi-monthly. We like to heavy up meetings towards the end of the year. With all the holiday activities −Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas− we like to make sure the district is active in promoting the area thematically.
MM: What’s discussed at general meetings?
EL: Most of the hot button topics that are issues for our individual members −parking, programming, policies− are things we’ll discuss. Regular updates on event plans and community initiatives are also discussed.
MM: Who can attend general meetings?
EL: Any good standing member of HDBA can attend. Special guests are also invited to do presentations and/or hold a topical discussion.
MM: How many businesses are members of the HDBA?
EL: We currently have 48 members within our historic district.
MM: Tell me about the Historic Dublin Business District.
EL: It’s a quaint area tabbed as the original starting place of Dublin, Ohio or the “Heart of Dublin”. We’re a developing group of small, mostly independently owned businesses. We have everything, from a variety of dining establishments to boutique shopping to professional service providers. A lot of really smart, humble, and aggressive business owners reside in the district.
MM: How does the HDBA help members deal with the city of Dublin?
EL: We play an active role as a liaison to different offices throughout the city of Dublin. From handling volunteer coordination for events to public relation issues to parking and police concerns, HDBA strives to be the voice of our business members.
MM: What top concerns has the HDBA presented to the city and what, if anything, has the city done to address them?
EL: The biggest issue, since I’ve been around, has been the parking concerns. Making sure we have enough public parking spaces to complement an easily accessible experience. The city has performed numerous studies, helped install new bike racks for alternative transportation options, wayfinding signage, and encouraged valet parking options.
MM: How does the HDBA help members with marketing and advertising?
EL: Above all, we cohesively brand the district as a place to “Stop, Shop and Explore.” With such an eclectic mix of business tenants in the area, we feel like creating experiences through our events and special programming that encourage people to walk or trolley around the district is a great way to help build individualized exposure.
Things like our community-wide acoustics night, where live outdoor music is heard every Thursday, help bring people down and shuffle around the district to see some storefronts they might not have. We also do a lot of cross pollination with other community organizations like the Dublin Area Art League, where we rented a trolley during [The Dublin Arts Fair] and transported people to and from the event.
MM: How is the HDBA marketing the district as a destination?
EL: Another key part of the cross promotional efforts we maintain is providing centralized programming. We place musicians at the Frog Park along South High Street, so that patrons of the Dublin Village Tavern, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, or even the [Dublin] Barber Shop, can spend some extended time enjoying the natural area acoustics. I think that leads to deeper exploration of how to regularly utilize the resources of an area− capture their attention with something unique and unexpected that motivates them to keep coming back.
MM: Do the district’s businesses work together to promote each other?
MM: Can you share an example of how they’ve have done that?
EL: To help reduce cost, a group of about 12 business owners got together for an ad purchase in the Dublin Villager. Instead of putting individual ads in, they purchased an entire page together and were able to pick complementary layout and verbiage, maximizing their spend while helping promote the area as a whole.
MM: What else should we know about the HDBA?
EL: It’s a great area, full of tradition and perseverance. It’s not a lot of new business thinking or young entrepreneurship pumping life into the area. It’s the roots that keep it alive. The pillars of the community that stand up and preserve the character and heritage the area was built on.
For more information about the Historic Dublin Business Association, visit HistoricDublin.org.
All photography by Adam Slane.