June 13, 2009
Summer has arrived with a vengeance. The air hangs heavily. Chris goes into the backyard to gather beans and cucumbers, and returns exhausted, breathless. A voluminous humidity clings to our skin like a fog, seeping deeply into each pore. And, like a cranky house guest, she stays much too long. We know it will be many months before this visitor packs her bags and moves on.
Here, we do not need a calendar to mark changes in seasons. Our internal almanac is triggered by clammy clothes sticking to the backs of our thighs, and by the sad realization that it is just too hot to sit on the porch in the evening.
We take comfort in the faith that the sauna will eventually melt, and a cool autumn wind will disperse the last wisps of summer''s steaminess into the atmosphere.
But, some changes mean extinction. When a business closes it seldom re-emerges, like Persephone, flourishing and fresh. (Except, of course, for Woody''s on the Water; perhaps you really "can''t keep a good thing down." It is a perennial in a crop of annuals.)
I suppose we were all sorry to see the end of 509 Tapas. That was a wonderful restaurant concept at an awful time in the economy. They offered unexpected fare, in a sophisticated atmosphere. I''ll miss the generous servings of olives and the sandwiches on crispy bread that reminded me of mini poor boys.
More bad news was the announcement that Anne and David Griffin have decided to move back to Florida.
"We feel like we''re drying up," she told me. "We need to get back to the ocean." This couple may be fauna of the sub-tropics. They just could not thrive in our climate.
Their charming coffeehouse on Main Street is up for sale. Everything is there for an enterprising entrepreneur. Mississippi Coffee House has furniture, all those expensive latte and espresso machines, and a faithful clientele. This could be a gold mine for a hard-working businessperson.
Most of us would rather see the Griffin''s change their minds, but that seems unlikely.
Not all changes are calamitous. There is a new re-sale boutique on Fifth Street, named "New 2 U." The windows are filled with a treasure trove of glassware and dresses, purses and intriguing paraphernalia of all sorts. That looks promising.
Also, around the corner of Fifth and Main Streets several empty store fronts appear to be undergoing a sprucing-up. This, too, is a good omen, signs that a new business may soon open.
I have asked this question before: "What does Columbus really need?" Is there a venture that we would support?
Often (in my opinion), establishments with great products and service just cannot make it. Why? Downtown Columbus is a wonderful location, with free parking. It is a cool place to shop, eat or just hang out and listen to music. This is a mystery for Hercule Poirot.
I am so proud of some of our downtown success stories, like Shannon Borchers at Le Gourmet, Sarah Labensky at The Front Door and Peggy Strauss at Café on Main. Perhaps these restaurateurs should give classes on running a business in Columbus.
Yes, we love to eat. But, man (and woman) does not live by lunch alone. We must have art and accessories, wine and a real book store, one for people who read.
I hope that we do not lose any more small businesses. The random, empty shop windows are beginning to make downtown Columbus look like a prize fighter, grinning with missing teeth.
Most of us can''t buy Mississippi Coffee House, or start a shop of our own. But, truly, we must support our friends. We should not let downtown Columbus wither like a ghost town, dying in small bits with each flip of the calendar.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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