There’s been a lot of talk over the meaning of the recently announced closing of the doors at Funky Ladles and the downtown hotdog shop. To be honest, we’ve talked a lot about it too.
Don’t forget we started down this revitalization path in order to re-energize the downtown and help businesses succeed, not fail, so whenever we lose one we ask ourselves was there something more we could have done?
The loss of a local shop is like losing a member of our family and we want to understand what went wrong so that we can look out for the others. There’s no guarantees in any business but the small mom and pop shops have a particularly big hill to climb.
These are brutal business markets with a lot of heavy hitters that use their economies of scale, supersized-marketing budgets and market share-dominance to hold the little guy down. So when you design your economic strategy around the underdog shops like we have, we all have to learn to have thick skin and recognize that a high turnover rate is the price we pay for that strategy.
Recognizing that reality doesn’t mean we accept it as a fait accompli — au contraire, we don’t want anyone to go down without a fight. We’re in their corner cheering them on and dusting them off between rounds but at the end of the day it all comes down to how many customers support these local businesses.
Money talks and the customer’s dollar speaks the loudest. Shopping, eating and buying local is more than a political soundbite, it’s how our favorite mom and pop stores stay open. Our only counter punch to the big box stores are those customers that make the choice to spend their money supporting the small local businesses because they believe in small business, they buy their neighbors dreams and they put their money where there mouth is.
For years Kent residents had asked the City to help bring more business activity into Kent. Survey after survey rated more retail, restaurants and shops as a top priority and now that we’ve helped deliver the goos — all of us need to go out and buy them.
Industry statistics are painful to read if you’re fan of local shops — some 60% start with big dreams but end in failure after 5 years.
With so much of the deck loaded against the little guy we brought some trump cards of our own in the design of the downtown project. We included a lot of convenient parking (480 new spaces once PARTA opens the deck), we included a 100 room signature hotel that promises to bring great foot traffic downtown all year long, we reconnected the downtown with the 27,000 students and 3,000 employees on campus with credit cards in their pockets that are only about 1/4 mile up the esplanade, we partnered to restore an old eyesore hotel to renew our skyline, we are building lots of outdoor public space that is engaging (public art) and comfortable (lots of natural and man-made benches and seating areas), we found a great mix of unique restaurants that sets Kent apart from our peer cities, and if all that fails we included a new apartment building that would be home to some 60 new downtown residents that would be a captive market for all the downtown retail and restaurants to take advantage of.
I hate that we lost some good friends with the recent business closings but we’ve only been able to play a couple of our trump cars so far and I feel confident that when we lay down all of our cards we will have a thriving downtown business environment.
Until we get to lay down all of our cards, the wild card that trumps everything are the customers that can personally keep these great businesses afloat until the final deal is dealt.