Hamilton business openings continue: ‘We have people calling us now’

Event center, restaurants open in southwest Ohio city seeing accelerated growth.

Hamilton’s small business landscape has changed dramatically, even over the past five years.

A ribbon cutting for a new business used to be a “call everyone in town” endeavor, said Mallory Greenham, assistant to the city manager who works on small business development for Hamilton. Though everyone still does show up for a ribbon cutting, the excitement is more about the number of small businesses coming and the growth of the existing small businesses, she said.

When Greenham started with the city five years ago, she said everyone just wanted to be on the east side of the High-Main Bridge or maybe in the 100 block of Main Street. But now they are opening as far as the 500 block of Main Street as more and more businesses are clamoring to be in the city’s burgeoning downtown.

“We have people calling us now,” she said. “We don’t have to go out and convince people to even come visit us. Now, they want to come visit, or people have heard of us. It’s a lot easier to make those connections.”

During the 2022 State of the City in October, Greenham said the city got to the point that businesses want to be in Hamilton is “a relentless incremental change. Big things, medium things, small things. All the things. That’s really the only way we’ve got here.”

Onyx and Ivory Event Center is one of those new businesses opening up. Occupying space at 116 N. Second St., a block from Pinball Garage to the west and the Casual Pint to the east, Chelsea Gibson and Amanda Lawwill plan to fully open next month, though they have booked some smaller events this month, and are reservations for February, March and April are filling up.

“We just want to offer things that are unique,” said Gibson, who’s been a wedding photographer for several years before opening Onyx and Ivory with her sister-in-law. They are also “Hamilton proud.”

“(The building) has a lot of history in Hamilton,” Gibson said. “And it’s right in the middle of the DORA area, which is the biggest in Ohio.”

When fully operational and pending capacity confirmation with the city, there will be a large banquet room on the event center’s second floor that will hopefully be certified to have a 250-person capacity. The smaller room has a capacity for around 80 people.

Gibson had been looking at this space for about two years, and an agreement came within the last six months, “and it all worked out.

The Main Circuit, which will take over the old Family Video at 429 Main St., is expected to be open by March 1, said owner Jim Reddy, who’s been an area resident since 1971 and 1976 graduate of Badin High School.

“The common thread in my life experiences has been service,” said Reddy, whose previous careers included work in the restaurant, automotive, and healthcare industries. “I have been fortunate to work side-by-side with some of the area’s most dedicated customer and patient care professionals. I’m so excited by the revitalization of our hometown that I couldn’t resist an opportunity to be part of it.”

The Main Circuit will be an eclectic entertainment venue with axe throwing, virtual reality (VR) escape rooms and classic floor games Reddy said were inspired by his nine grandchildren. His eldest grandson, Dimitry Soaz, a 2021 Hamilton High School graduate, will lead the VR operation.

N2FUN, a Hamilton company, will curate the classic video games, soft-tipped darts, and other family-friendly games for The Main Circuit, and there will be a full-service bar, tap room, and big-screen televisions. The kitchen will offer classic foods like pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The much-anticipated Agave & Rye will see some activity soon, city officials anticipate.

Hamilton Building Director Ken Rivera said a demolition permit was issued in December “in anticipation of getting things started, but no activity yet.” The permit is for the back building on the property that was once the Ritzi Body Shop at 339 Main St.

“The building permit is still in the design phase, so I’m sure the demo contractor’s just waiting until they get a permit submitted and approved for the new construction before they start clearing the site so that the project doesn’t sit idle for too long,” Rivera said.

Agave & Rye owners refer all media inquiries to RMD Advertising, a media relations firm.

RMD Senior Director of Public Relations Sarah Walters said in an email, “Nothing new to report at this time.”

City Manager Joshua Smith said they anticipate the restaurant that features “epic tacos” to be opening in November.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

We Love It Too, a kitchen and decor store dedicated to providing everything one would need, including charcuterie classes, is still in the process of moving next door within the same building. Their new address is 410 Main St.

“Our signs are coming within the week,” said owner Erin Robinson. “We plan on having a very grand reopening in late February, and we are so excited.”

A specific date as to when We Love It Too will reopen is not known at this time, she said. But when Robinson said when she does reopen, there will be a few changes to the store, including a clothing line and a baby section. She said the store will continue its gourmet food selection and will have some new products “and, of course, a variety of serving and dishware. And, possibly most importantly, everyone’s favorite, we are continuing charcuterie classes.”

A pair of businesses on either end of the city are “close” to opening, according to the city. The Journal-News had been unable to reach the owners of the Panda Express, in the 1400 block of Main Street, and Starbucks, in the 100 block of North Erie (Ohio 4), for confirmation. City officials said they’ve heard Starbucks could open by the end of February.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Another chain restaurant, Jersey Mike’s, is officially open at 1430 Main St. The store opened in mid-December 2022.

City officials said Ambedough, which sells bagels, breakfast items, sandwiches, and cocktails, had planned to open a brick-and-mortar store in the 100 block of Main Street, has decided not to open a physical location and remain operating its local food truck called Ramblin’ Roast.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Greenham said the future growth of the city’s small business community “is really based on what space you still have available.” She said COhatch, a co-working space, coming into the city, but it is looking for a food and beverage tenant.

“A lot of retail and people who are looking to do small shops usually reach out to us,” she said. “They come in through our economic development website, or they get to us through a mutual contact. If we’re going out, we’re looking to find something that is a complement, not a competition, and that’s filling a space that’s vacant, and we look for people with an established track record. Any reaching out we’re doing to recruit is food and beverage to fill critical anchor spaces.”

An example of the city recruiting a food and beverage establishment would be with the recently relocated historic former CSX train depot. She said the city would like to have a restaurant in that space or “something that draws foot traffic as an anchor” to the Maple Avenue corridor.

“Then the retail and other stuff will fill in around it,” she said.

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