Coronavirus not slowing Hamilton’s growth and upbeat mood, residents say

Maria Peckinpaugh, co-owner of downtown Hamilton business Sara's House, said the city's central business is resilient enough to survive - and in some ways thrive - during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
Maria Peckinpaugh, co-owner of downtown Hamilton business Sara's House, said the city's central business is resilient enough to survive - and in some ways thrive - during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

It may be a global pandemic, but some Hamilton business owners and residents say when it comes to their city’s growth trend, coronavirus has slowed but not stopped progress.

The weekend’s sunny but cool weather saw some residents out and about in the city’s downtown central business district with almost all wearing protective masks.

They are optimistic Hamilton’s expanding economy, fueled in part by the downtown economy, will survive the recent uptick in coronavirus cases being seen in both Butler County and across Ohio.

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“I think the city’s overall mood is great and it’s moving in the right direction,” said Steve Timmer as he enjoyed a beverage in the outdoor area of Municipal Brew Works on High Street near the banks of the Great Miami River.

“Hamilton has really changed in the past five or six years and it’s really exciting,” said Timmer, who grew up in the city.

And coronavirus is “just a speed bump,” not a wall, when it comes to that progress, he said.

In the past week, the state has set daily records for coronavirus cases multiple times, which has raised concerns among some about how life might change if future government action is taken. The Journal-News spent time this weekend talking with people for their thoughts on the current state of the virus and their daily lives.

Dalton Lubbers, a tap manager at the downtown brewery, said things are moving back closer to life prior to the onset of the coronavirus in March.

“We are getting pretty cheery crowds. But with some of the newer downtown businesses than us it (coronavirus) may have taken more of a toll,” said Lubbers.

He in part credited the city’s DORA district (Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area), which allows downtown visitors to carry locally purchased alcohol-based drinks around the central business district and across the river into the Main Street business area.

Other business owners also pointed to the city’s Alive After 5 events, most recently happening last Friday evening, for helping attract visitors downtown to local shops, restaurants, art galleries and pubs.

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Maria Peckinpaugh, co-owner of Sara’s House décor and gifts shop in the High Street business district, said coronavirus brought challenges but also some opportunities.

“It’s helped us create more of an online perspective and work to flourish our business in different ways that we never expected before,” said Peckinpaugh.

The mood among customers and residents is “resilient,” she said.

“They are happy that shops are still open and restaurants are open and they are able to spend time around Hamilton,” she said. “They (businesses) have created a safe and helpful environment for all the shoppers.”

Among those shoppers Saturday was city native Shawna Neeley, who said the city’s progress has happened without sacrificing “it’s small-town vibe.”

The impact of coronavirus on the city also has an unexpected benefit, said Neeley.

“Honestly, everyone has been a lot nicer. It really brought together that small-town hospitality that we have here even though things have really changed and you have to wear masks and everything,” she said.

“A lot of people here are optimistic and we’re all kind of hoping for a better next year and that everything will be worked out and figured out by then.”

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