Short North a Growing Hub for Small Businesses

Short North is known as one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Columbus. A go-to attraction for visitors and residents alike, the stretch of High Street between OSU’s campus and downtown is packed with a high density of small businesses. From boutiques to bars to art galleries, the Short North has a little bit of everything.

Although already bustling with business, the area is positioned for growth according to Short North Alliance Executive Director, Betsy Pandora. Residential expansion is opening the market for new services, while other businesses envelop the nature of the district by redeveloping creative spaces.

By it’s nature, the Short North is a great spot for small businesses. Its walkability and access to public transportation bring consumers to the area. Built-in events like the monthly Gallery Hop further increase traffic. And finally, the Short North Alliance serves to foster the small business community through a variety of programs.

Below Pandora tells us more about Short North, why it’s a great environment for a small business, and how the Short North Alliance can help small businesses in the neighborhood.

[M]: What are the physical boundaries of Short North?

We define the Short North Arts District’s commercial core as occupying High Street along the following boundaries:

  • • North: King Avenue/7th Avenue
  • • South: Ohio Center Way
  • • East: Courtland Avenue /Mt. Pleasant Avenue/Pearl Alley
  • • West: Wall Street /Park Street

However, many consider the neighborhoods of Harrison West, Italian Village and Victorian Village all to be “Short North” neighborhoods, too. And, many of the small businesses we support and promote are found outside of the commercial core of High Street.

[M]: What is the mission of the Short North Alliance (SNA)?

The mission of the Short North Alliance is to nurture the Short North Arts District as a vibrant and balanced residential, cultural and business community and as a regional and national destination through advocacy, public realm improvements, arts and cultural community engagement, creative marketing and programming, and resource development.

[M]: What programs or services does the SNA provide to foster small business development or support businesses that are already in the area?

The SNA does not engage directly in recruiting businesses into the Short North Arts District, but if contacted, we can help make connections for groups interested in exploring, developing or locating a business in the Short North Arts District.

We work in many ways to create a great operating environment for small businesses in the Short North through the following:

  • • Providing on-going marketing and promotions for all categories of businesses throughout the Short North Arts District via print materials, traditional media, social media and online.
  • • Serving as an advocacy voice for small businesses in the private sector and the public sector across levels of local, regional and state government.
  • • Operating an ambassador program to offer trash removal, beautification, crime prevention and hospitality services directly to businesses and visitors throughout the district’s special improvement boundary and in public right-of-way.
  • • Fostering business to business connections and communications to ensure safety and cohesion among the business community.

[M]: Describe the small business environment in the Short North.

The Short North has an incredibly diverse, exciting and creative mix of small businesses found throughout the area, from locally owned and headquartered flagship businesses that first opened their doors in the Short North, to first expansion businesses that may have opened in another market or neighborhood but have sought to expand in the Short North. We are also home to many arts non-profits and arts-based businesses.

Being situated between our region’s major employment centers, the convention center and The Ohio State University, small businesses benefit from an incredible amount of foot traffic on a daily basis. Small businesses also benefit from the Short North being the most transit-connected area of the region. There are six bus lines that regularly run throughout the Short North, we have CoGo stations, car2go service and various vehicles for hire. We just enjoyed the opening of one large parking garage in the Short North, with two others set to open between Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. There is no limit to the amount of ways in which people can get to and support the small businesses in the Short North Arts District.

Finally, the Short North is an arts district. The arts are woven into our public spaces in the form of public art, historical character and exciting architectural design, and into the very fabric of our business community. Literally hundreds of businesses showcase the work of local, regional and national visual and performing artists in a number of ways, be it on gallery hop nights, or throughout the year. That identity energizes people and sets the small business community in the Short North apart from any other in the nation.

[M]: What types of small businesses are primarily located in the Short North?

All types of small businesses are located in the Short North Arts District. Our main categories include: art galleries and arts groups, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, professional services, personal services, non-profits, fashion and creative gift retailers, and artisanal producers making  beer, wine, spirits, ice cream, clothing, candles and much more.

[M]: What’s the outlook for small businesses in the area?

We continue to predict a positive outlook for small businesses in the Short North. With the incredible work of our partners at Experience Columbus and The City of Columbus, more conventions and major events will continue to draw visitors into the district, creating more and expanded opportunities for businesses to develop and thrive.

As the residential density continues to increase in the Short North, we see a whole new set of opportunities for personal and professional services and more “daily needs” types of businesses to develop.

Additionally, property owners continue to rehab and develop smaller spaces throughout the district that create the perfect, unique environment for small businesses. Recently redeveloped projects in formerly underutilized or vacant spaces are now occupied by businesses like Mission Coffee and Kingmakers, and are great examples of the types of small, off-the-beaten-path places we think will continue to develop.

[M]: Why is the Short North a great place to operate a small business?

The Short North offers the ultimate environment for creative, risk-taking small businesses. There are pre-existing events with a built-in following that continuously draw regulars and visitors into the district. Our unique sense of style, walkable environment and constant energy make the Short North the place to be in Columbus. And, having an entity such as the Short North Alliance providing marketing, promotional and media relations services, as well as advocacy and safety support, builds camaraderie among our business community and further enhances the operating environment in a way that is unlike any other place in the city.

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Photo by Logan Miller for Columbus Underground and The Metropreneur.