In fact, the numbers are clicking frantically past my eyes like the inflated scores at an arena football league game, and increasingly, the entries are clustered pleasingly close to home.
Friends, that’s the whole point.
While it remains self-evident that a broad mix of specialty and niche businesses is needed to take New Albany’s downtown commercial district to the next step, and that crucial questions of core neighborhoods and downtown housing are yet to be fully resolved, only fools and Dan Coffey (pardon the redundancy) can argue that progress isn’t being made.
The most tangible signs of this are the three newest downtown eateries and watering holes, which naturally are a special interest of mine owing to the presence of locally brewed NABC craft beers on tap at each: Bistro New Albany, Connor’s Place and the recently opened Speakeasy. I laud one and all who are taking the risks to operate in downtown New Albany, whether hair care or computers, and whether long-standing or a start-up, and yet in my niche in life, it's the restaurants, pubs and performance venues that are closest to my heart.
It may seem to some that my perpetual advocacy of these establishments owes entirely to self-interest in the business sense, and there’s some truth to this, though not as much as one might believe. NABC is a mature company with a strong clientele at the home base on Grant Line Road. We derive far more profit from selling house beer by the “Progressive Pint” at Rich O’s and Sportstime than by vending it to resellers, and there’s always at least a chance that anyone I urge to dine and drink downtown might have deposited the same money into my own cash registers had I permitted them to remain seated at my own bar.
It’s deeper than that, and obviously, self-interest in the context bears considerably more complexity than a first glance may afford. In personal and professional terms, food, drink and music are primary, and my wife shares these and similar interests. We have chosen to invest in the city center by buying a house and living on East Spring Street, in the midst of an historic neighborhood, and just a short walk or bicycle hop from the city’s downtown business district.
For us, quality of life issues in New Albany certainly revolve around obvious concerns like law enforcement, municipal services and access to the basics, but also pertain to the proximity of those things in life that we like: Food, drink, music, museums, books, and places to walk and ride bikes, just to name just a few. The more of these available in New Albany, the better for us … and for people like us who enjoy them, too.
I can hear the objections now: What about existing businesses? What about Hugh E. Birs, Little Chef, Tommy Lancaster’s and the other downtown stalwarts who’ve been serving the public for decades? Are we elitists who are “too good” for places like these?
Not at all, ma’am.
Long may they prosper and grow as integral components in the retail fabric, but let there merely be other options for those among us with differing tastes, because believing in the merits of diversity implies a wider availability of choices. Let there be country music at Bir’s, eclectic courtyard stylings at the Bistro and Connor’s, and jazz at the Speakeasy, and let’s work together to make downtown a place where fans of all varieties of human experience can come and find something to their liking.
And support local business while visiting. Maybe they’ll decide to live and work here, too. Then, finally, we begin to enjoy the best from all worlds, to the benefit of resident and business owner alike.