Thursday, December 3, 2009

Uptown Westerville is a Place for People

Read about Uptown Westerville in this week's ThisWeek:

Businesses bring a new feel to Uptown

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:10 PM

ThisWeek Staff Writer

The atmosphere has changed in Uptown Westerville over the last few years as more and more independent business owners open shops peddling a variety of goods and wares.

"Uptown continues to try to get out from under the impression that it's just three little blocks of antique shops," said Kriss Rogers, president of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association and owner of Outside Envy, which specializes in home and garden décor. "There's all kinds of eclectic businesses."

Many of Uptown's cornerstone businesses, such as the Déjà Vu consignment store, Amish Originals Furniture Co. and the Uptown Pharmacy, still serve customers. But over the years, new businesses have moved in, offering a variety of novel retail opportunities, such as The Blue Turtle Tea and Spice Co., Encircle and the Uptown Cigar Co.

Coffee shops abound, but Rogers said each offers a different experience.

"There's so much personality up here," she said. "I think of Uptown Westerville as our very own eclectic shopping mall."

Westerville City Council chairwoman Diane Fosselman said there are traditional elements that draw people to Uptown: the historical feel of preserved streets and buildings, as well as building signs, street signs, benches and flowers.

In addition to that atmosphere, Fosselman said the main draw to Uptown is the newfound variety offered by the locally owned businesses.

"As far as shopping goes, you can find things in Uptown that you can't find any place else," Fosselman said. "All of that just helps create this atmosphere of 'community-minded' and just gives people a real positive sense about Westerville."

And Uptown is continuing to draw businesses as well as shoppers.

As businesses move out, new ones line up to take their spots, Rogers said. "Right now, we have the problem of finding open storefronts on State Street," she said.

What makes Uptown in demand in addition to the mix of businesses and the historical feel, Rogers said, is the supportive community, from residents who shop Uptown to business groups and city leaders who band together to support the business district.

"You can't invent this stuff," Rogers said. "It's been here for a long while."

Jeff Hartnell, executive director of the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau, said those partnerships among businesses, community groups and city leaders have led to the shift in Uptown's atmosphere over the last few years.

"It's unbelievable the effort has gone to (revitalize) the energy behind this Uptown area," Hartnell said. "I'm so overwhelmed with what's happened the last three years that I've been here."

In addition to attracting new businesses headed by passionate entrepreneurs, Hartnell said the shift has drawn more people to Uptown in his three-year tenure at the visitors and convention bureau.

When he first took over his post, he said Uptown events put on by the bureau had an average attendance of fewer than 1,000 people. Now, he said the bureau's summertime Fourth Friday events host around 100 vendors and attract an average of around 6,000 patrons.

"All of this has brought a brand new energy to the community," Hartnell said. "This is a great community. This Uptown district is full of energy. It's full of new things."

That energy gives Uptown Westerville the edge over the many historical suburban shopping districts around central Ohio, he said.

"I wouldn't trade our Uptown area for any of them," Hartnell said. "It's really an amazing area."

To read this article online at ThisWeek, Click here.

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