From: Mary Arnholt
Received: Oct. 10
After many articles in The Republic about the CDI program, it is time to describe how it feels to be on the other side, to have opened a restaurant in Columbus without help.
In 1998, I leased a building, extensively renovated the building, purchased the equipment, purchased a liquor license, hired 30 new employees and started Smith’s Row. Other than a tax abatement, I received no financial assistance from the city of Columbus or any corporation or individual to start my dream of a restaurant that Columbus would be proud of.
In those 14 years, Columbus has experienced times when the economy was good and others when it has been tough. Columbus has seen downtown restaurants come and go. The Redevelopment Commission formed CDI and started the process of enticing new restaurants to downtown Columbus in The Commons and Fourth Street parking garage. Those restaurants received build-out costs, delayed lease payments, reduced lease agreements and free liquor licenses. Those restaurants should be pleased with their financial advantages provided by CDI. On the upside of Columbus, all the new dining choices add vibrancy to downtown Columbus. There are people leisurely walking around, cars in parking spaces. It is a positive atmosphere.
One month ago, the Fourth Street renovation project started. The first night at Smith’s Row, we had two guests, After that night I knew I needed a plan that was proactive. I made changes to our website and Facebook, developed a construction discount program, and called on every commercial customer that I thought might be interested in a group lunch or dinner but could be flexible in their access to our building. I thank all the customers who have remained loyal to Smith’s Row.
The Fourth Street renovation has been intense for every business on Fourth Street, including business from Third to Fifth streets, on Washington Street. Everyone has shown a tremendous amount of patience. City Engineer Dave Hayward and Gary Davis and Kevin Mathews from Reith-Riley Construction Co. have been great to work with.
They are making every effort to complete to project expediently. It is a great project for Columbus, which should bring even more visitors to our downtown area.
For restaurant owners/operators, we should simply feel blessed to be a part of it, whether we have been doing it for 14 months or 14 years.