2020 Year in Review: Business
- Published: January 10, 2021
In January, the News reported on efforts to alleviate previous delays in drug orders and other difficulties at Benzer Pharmacy, formerly Town Drug. A regional manager for the national pharmacy chain pointed to issues with the company’s wholesaler related to new acquisitions of pharmacy locations in Ohio. The local pharmacy has since regained its footing, and in November, the downtown store — a pharmacy location for about 90 years — changed its name to Yellow Springs Pharmacy.
Clem & Thyme Nutrition and Wellness expanded its East Enon Road practice, the News reported in February. Founded by Leslie Edmunds, the practice offers nutrition therapy, dietary consulting, cooking classes and more.
Current Cuisine’s co-owners, Karyn Stillwell-Current and Steve Current, were honored by the YS Chamber of Commerce in February with the 2020 Community Impact Award. The award recognizes the couple’s 36 years of supporting, and feeding, their community. Started in 1983, Current Cuisine has offered prepared foods, meals and international groceries at its popular downtown shop since 1989.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, leading to a statewide “stay-at-home” order, the News covered the immediate impact of pandemic-related closures on local businesses. A dozen downtown business owners spoke with the News regarding how they were coping, and adapting, to the abrupt changes. Most of those interviewed were deemed “essential businesses” by the state, and allowed to stay open, with restrictions. Others were required, or opted, to close for the duration of the “stay-at-home” order. Merchants expressed a mix of uncertainty, worry and resolve, as well as a commitment to serving the community.
In early May, the News interviewed six local restaurant owners regarding the state of local eateries and a brewpub amid dramatic business losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, as well as statewide and nationwide, restaurants and bars were among the hardest hit businesses, with mandated closures and a slow return to limited-capacity indoor dining. Local restaurant owners reported revenue losses ranging from 40% to 80%, and widespread layoffs of restaurant employees. Most continued to provide delivery and carryout options during the state closure, and all expressed gratitude to villagers for their support and continued patronage.
Also in early May, the News spoke with numerous downtown retailers about their reopening plans just ahead of Ohio’s retail reopening date of May 12. Merchants expressed a range of fears and concerns, including safety issues, business losses, employee well-being and the realities of operating on tight margins. While most local retailers reopened on or near the restart date, some delayed for additional weeks, citing health and safety concerns. Villagewide, reopenings touched off debate, with some citizens on the side of limiting downtown tourism, and others favoring getting local merchants and employees back to work.
The News enlarged on these themes later in May, with an article focused on the future of downtown Yellow Springs. Local merchants who were interviewed aired concerns about the survival of their own shops and the entire downtown. Some hailed the forms of assistance provided by Village and community leaders, while others argued more help was needed. Assistance included forgivable loans, delayed-interest lines of credit, community donations and other support. The Yellow Springs Community Foundation, the newly formed Yellow Springs Development Corporation, the Village of Yellow Springs and the Yellow Springs Credit Union were among the local entities providing financial assistance.
Continuing the theme, the News reported in early June on a fundraising campaign to bring funds to small businesses that lost revenue due to the pandemic. The brainchild of Jamie Sharp, owner of Yellow Springs Toy Company, Uplift Yellow Springs was organized by a group of local merchants in cooperation with the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. The effort launched on May 29 with a couple dozen participating businesses.
A business downturn due to COVID-19 was one factor among several that resulted in the May sale of DMS ink to Graphic Village, a Cincinnati-based print marketing firm. The sale price was undisclosed, and the former president of DMS, Christine Soward, continues as a business development officer at the new firm. Graphic Village plans to maintain the Yellow Springs direct mail printing facility, which at its height employed about 100 people from the greater Dayton area. DMS relocated to Yellow Springs from downtown Dayton in 2016, after owners Christine and Ken Soward purchased the former Creative Memories building at 888 Dayton St. and moved their company there. Plans for significant expansion at the site did not take shape amid a subsequent business downturn. The Sowards remain the owners of 888 Dayton St., home to several other businesses.
In June, a new distillery and winery got approval from Planning Commission to move into Millworks. Tuck-N-Reds Spirits & Wine offers products such as multi-grain whiskey, sweet potato vodka and “mountain wine.” Located in space previously occupied by S&G Distillery, which no longer operates at Millworks, as well as other space adjacent to YS Brewery, the business plans to open in early 2021.
Trilobites, ammonites and megalodon teeth, oh my! Local residents Eric and Jackie Clark celebrated the opening of their new fossil shop, Rock Around the Clark, in July. The store sells their large collection of prehistoric wares.
In July, the News reported that cannabis company Cresco Labs in Yellow Springs had received an Ohio medical marijuana processor license, allowing it to expand production and potentially increase its workforce. As many as 30 local jobs could be added, company representatives said, though the hiring timeline remains unclear. Chicago-based Cresco Labs located a facility here in 2017, receiving an Ohio cultivator license in 2018 and harvesting its first cannabis crop in January of 2019. Turned down for an Ohio processor license in 2018, the company received the license in June of 2020 after a lengthy appeals process. The cultivator license allows Cresco to begin manufacturing concentrates, edibles and other cannabis products at its Yellow Springs facility for sale in dispensaries around the state, including five that Cresco owns and operates.
A new tattoo parlor and arts organization opened in July. The inspiration of local artists Lindsay Burke and Pierre Nagley, YS INK Arts Collective was formed to offer professional tattoo artistry and serve as a creative hub in Yellow Springs.
The Little Art Theatre reopened on July 24 after four months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the re-emergence of Yellow Springs’ nonprofit movie theater proved short-lived. Low attendance amid the ongoing pandemic made operating the theater financially unsustainable, and in September, the Little Art board announced the theater would close temporarily until sometime in 2021.
Plans to renovate a downtown property into a nail salon and an upstairs apartment with a large roof deck were approved by Planning Commission in August. The property, 239–141 Xenia Ave., was purchased in 2018 by Iron Table Holdings, a company owned by nationally known comedian and local resident Dave Chappelle. The company purchased two other downtown properties in early 2020, as well as two additional Yellow Springs properties, including the historic Union School House, late in the year. In December, the Yellow Springs Development Corporation disclosed that Chappelle’s company was also the buyer of the former firehouse on Corry Street, and planned to convert the space into a comedy club.
The News revisited the state of local restaurants in September, six months into the pandemic. The report was surprisingly positive, with several interviewed restaurant owners revealing that business had come back stronger than expected. All owners voiced apprehensions about potential business declines over the winter, when tourist traffic would decrease and outdoor dining options would be limited by cold weather.
Wavelength Aveda Salon & Spa closed its doors in September, after 27 years in Yellow Springs. Owner Gary Glaser cited the difficulties of operating during the pandemic as one factor in the closure. Speaking to the News, Glaser expressed deep appreciation for the people and community he’d served for nearly three decades.
In October, the News profiled Karen Wintrow, longtime director of the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce and a former Village Council member and president. Wintrow and her husband, local architect Ted Donnell, moved away from the village this fall. In her chamber role, Wintrow successfully promoted Yellow Springs as a regional tourist destination, growing the village’s tourist economy.
The space formerly occupied by Wavelength didn’t stay vacant for long. Jessica Holihan and Heidi Quigley of H&H Studios snapped up and remodeled the Corry Street location, opening their salon and massage parlor in November.
In another business collaboration, local chef Miguel Espinosa and a staff of seven moved into Trail Town Brewing, the future brewpub owned by Jake Brummett. Operating as Miguel’s, with both dine-in and carryout options, Espinosa has expanded his popular food truck menu to include items such as fish tacos and sashimi. With Miguel’s open as of Nov. 27, Espinosa’s downtown food truck is currently on hiatus. Trail Town Brewing has been in the works for three years, and once the brewpub opens its doors, the restaurant and brewing businesses will operate side by side.
In December, the News reported one permanent and several temporary business closures. The Spirited Goat shut its doors for good on Dec. 3. The coffee house, which had seen months of controversy over mask-wearing and other issues, was shuttered by owner Michael Herington. Shortly thereafter, former owner Patrick Harney, aka “Brother Bear,” launched a fundraising campaign to repurchase the business. Meanwhile, Peach’s, Ye Olde Trail Tavern and the Import House closed for the winter. Owners Don Beard and Christine Monroe-Beard cited COVID cases at two of their establishments and the overall worsening pandemic as reasons.