Hamilton’s Main Street continues new business activity during pandemic: What’s happening?

With the regular announcements of new businesses opening along Main Street and in Hamilton’s downtown, officials say they have greater confidence activity can continue through the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent days, there have been announcements of newly opened businesses, including the health-food and vitamin store called “Soulshine Wellness on Main” at 508 Main St., and Reptile Pit at 512 Main St., which sells reptiles, fish and other animals.

And in July, plans were announced for a cocktail and sports bar, with an outdoor urban garden space, called HUB on Main, which will also be in the 500 block of Main, but across the street, finally adding life to a building that has been empty several years, and creating a use for a vacant property that now is covered with grass.

Meanwhile, along High Street, across the Great Miami River, two coffee houses are planning to open close to each other, on opposite sides of the street — a Biggby coffee shop and The Fringe Coffee House, decorated with murals by local artists, which will offer felons a rare opportunity to be employed, giving them a new start in life.

Also, The Benison reception and meeting space at 100 S. Third St. recently announced it has created “coworking space” for people who either can’t afford permanent offices of their own, or need space to meet during the challenging pandemic, with physical-distancing requirements.

Much of the development energy can be attributed to the planned December 2021 opening of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, which is to be the largest indoor sports complex in North America and one of the largest convention centers in the region.

“We have been less impacted than many of the communities around us, I think," said Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s not all about Spooky Nook,” he said. “I mean, Spooky Nook helps, but first of all, Hamilton never really completely shut down. And I think that’s because it’s the collaboration of everyone working together, it’s the leadership all on the same page, and it’s kind of an attitude of businesses, even when they’re competitors, really care about the success of everyone.”

“I think it’s a Hamilton attitude of we can’t let ourselves fail,” he said.

Early after the onset of the pandemic, Hamilton gained attention when it announced a program to loan city businesses $300,000 they needed to hang on through a period of decreased visits from customers. Some businesses called the loans lifesavers. The loans will be repaid as customers buy gift cards for those businesses that are redeemed for food or products.

“A lot of the businesses here in Hamilton switched to creative strategies to generate revenue,” Bates said. “The ones who couldn’t be open to the public increased their online business, or curbside service. Even some of the manufacturers really looked at how they were going to keep their people on payroll as much as possible, and still do things. I think it was creative, visionary thinking that gave Hamilton a little bit of an advantage.”

Outdoor dining has been a significant plus for some businesses, which were helped by four things the city did to assist them:

  • Officials blocked off some usual parking meter areas to provide drive-up areas where people could wait for their orders to be delivered to them outside restaurants.
  • The city and parks conservancy also installed physically distanced picnic tables in some areas to help diners with take-out orders. City Manager Joshua Smith last week told Hamilton City Council that if businesses want those tables to remain out through the winter, so people can use them on occasional warm days to eat their orders, he’s fine with leaving them out.
  • The city also blocked off sections of streets where it was possible so people could eat or drink outside.
  • Another lifesaver for business has been that the city kept its Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area, where people can drink alcohol outdoors, open, while others closed theirs.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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