How LemonGrenade helped other Hamilton businesses with dozens of volunteer hours

Thommy Long of LemonGrenade Creative has been named Hamilton's Small-Business Person of the Year, shown with his dog, Rae, named after the Star Wars character. He will be celebrated at Thursday evening's State of the City speech. PROVIDED
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Thommy Long of LemonGrenade Creative has been named Hamilton's Small-Business Person of the Year, shown with his dog, Rae, named after the Star Wars character. He will be celebrated at Thursday evening's State of the City speech. PROVIDED

For years, Thommy Long and his company, LemonGrenade Creative, provided free graphic-design help to organizations and businesses.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit early this year, completely halting many companies' operations, he decided to raise that assistance to another level.

LemonGrenade, a six-person design firm, provided free branding assistance to 37 Hamilton businesses, helping them upgrade their websites, their social-media outreach and the way they marketed themselves. The company spent about 100 design hours creating more than 100 ads.

Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said LemonGrenade helped many companies up their social-media efforts in ways that created new sales for them at a time when physical distancing and closure of non-essential businesses across Ohio crimped companies' profits.

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“My philosophy is, if we’re slow, I’d rather my team be flexing their design muscles and working on brands that they’ve never had a chance to work on, just to have some fun with it,” Long said.

“And what ended up happening, which is kind of cool, is a lot of those people that got the free social-media graphics ended up being our clients, because we showed them what their brand could look like in a whole new way, whether it was typography, or colors, or photography style, or things like that.”

Long has been named Hamilton’s Small-Business Person of the Year. He will be celebrated during Thursday’s State of the City speech by City Manager Joshua Smith. That event, which requires paid admission, will be at Rotary Park (106 N. 2nd St.), and will begin at 5 p.m. with a cocktail hour, followed by the presentations around 6:15 p.m. beneath the adjacent McDulin parking garage.

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Long said he hadn’t expected to land new clients from the effort, which his company called “Free Lemon-Aid.”. A couple decades ago, Long found the phrase “Lemon Grenade” on urbandictionary.com, which listed that as being old military slang for the most deadly weapon ever. He wanted his company to be clients' secret weapon.

Gina Stitzel, owner of Revive Salon, was one person whose company was helped while it was closed. LemonGrenade offered free images the salon posted on its Facebook page.

“It’s always good posting things on social media, and helping to just relay our message,” Stitzel said. “It’s always nice when somebody offers to do something like that.”

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Long graduated with the Fairfield High School Class of 1994 and from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1998, and has lived in Fairfield, Hamilton and Liberty Township. He is married to Kellie Long, and they are parents to two sons, Julian, 14; and Griffin, 11.

Bates said one thing he appreciates about Long is how helpful he is when working with clients. Rather than presenting them with an idea and then persuading them to believe they should like it, he seeks to create work that they appreciate as much as he does, Bates said.

“He’s creative genius, without ego,” Bates said.


Hamilton’s State of the City event on Thursday

  • City Manager Joshua Smith will give his annual presentation about the state of things in Hamilton.
  • Paid admission is required. It costs $25 for Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce members, and $30 for non-members.
  • A 5 p.m. cocktail hour will be at Rotary Park (106 N. 2nd St.), followed by the presentations around 6:15 p.m. beneath the adjacent McDulin parking garage.
  • Hors d’oeuvres will be served, and there will be a cash bar, except that because of the pandemic, tickets will be required instead of money so the bartenders don’t have to handle dollars and coins.
  • Seats for the audience will be 6 feet apart and masks are expected.
  • An artist will create a large chalk mural in honor of the event and there will be music.
  • To register, go to www.hamilton-ohio.com.