Small Business in Hamilton Thriving Despite Pandemic
City of Hamilton Economic Development Department
Even in the midst of a historic pandemic, business goes on in Hamilton, Ohio. Over the past few months, the city has celebrated the opening of Pinball Garage, a classic pinball arcade with a cocktail bar; Smoochies Boba & Crepes, a bright and cheery place to grab a bubble tea, fresh fruit smoothie, or a yummy crepe; and the Strauss Gallery & Gift Shop, a hip shop with works from local artists living in the downtown Artspace lofts.
Hamilton’s small business community has made amazing progress over the past five years, and local leaders have worked hard to keep this community thriving even through these trying times. The Rapid Restart Team, a collaboration between the City of Hamilton and the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, has implemented over twenty five initiatives to keep the small business community strong through the pandemic.
The largest and most effective program was the Hamilton Small Business Stimulus program launched in late March 2020, as shutdowns across the country began in earnest. This program offered $300,000 to local businesses to be paid back through the sale of gift cards.
The Hamiltonian, the community’s local magazine, launched a Digital Tip Jar as a way for the community to send direct financial support to Hamilton’s workers in the service industry who are unemployed or underemployed. Residents have also been encouraged to support local food establishments through the Take-out Tuesday promotion.
Hamilton’s Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) has been an important part of helping local restaurants thrive, and DORA cups (usually $1 per cup) have been released to our 16 liquor serving establishments at no charge to help increase the impact of to-go sales.
During the height of the pandemic shut-down, Hamilton restaurants hosted the first-ever restaurant week. It was carry-out only, and a true all-digital campaign. The event was a huge boost for our businesses, and fun for residents, during an extremely bleak time. Temporary curbside pick-up locations were created for all food serving establishments in March, and due demand from retail and service locations, we have created permanent rideshare, pick-up, and carry-out 10 minute parking spots throughout our high traffic business districts, called Curbside Hamilton.
The Rapid Restart Team created five outdoor dining areas with picnic tables, sanitizer stations, signs on best practices for social distancing, trash cans, and more to assist local food serving establishments with social distancing. To boost retail sales, the team developed “Hamizon” a small business interactive guide and marketing campaign focusing on our local retail and service industry businesses. It includes high quality images of store owners, their stories, hours of operation, and how to order from them.
These initiatives have kept our local business sector strong. Even now, a number of new small businesses have announced plans to open soon. Chick’nCone, a Nashville hot chicken and waffle cone restaurant, and Billy Yanks Burgers & Bottles should both open by the end of the year. Main Street Throw is a disc golf and skate board shop set to open at 111 Main Street in August 2020, and Jane Curry, the owner of Kensho Karate in Lindenwald, is opening a specialty retail shop at 2263 Pleasant Avenue called the Linden Tree this month. We even have a food truck and outdoor event venue, called The HUB on Main, opening in July 2021 in the 500 block of our historic Main Street Business District. With Spooky Nook Sports, a sports and event center under construction and slated to open at the end of 2021, the future in Hamilton remains bright.
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