Interview by Kate Ellis
LIMA – Downtown Lima is hopping. With 10 new downtown businesses in 2014 and 33 opened in the last five years, there are a lot of options to dine, eat, and play.
Downtown Lima Inc., is a non-profit organization that serves to stimulate economic development, improving the appearance and creating a positive downtown. To continue that goal they have created an advertising campaign to share and feature all the places to visit in downtown.
After a year of serving as board president Phil Trueblood was reelected to the position April 24. He sat down with the419 to talk about Downtown Lima, Inc. and their work in creating a positive, vibrant downtown.
Q. Downtown Lima, Inc. has been busy. You’ve just begun a new advertising campaign for downtown. What have you been up to?
A. It’s been pretty cool. We started off the campaign, we met about a year ago – we have a committee called the business enhancement committee – and from that we formed a group. We thought it was important to focus on the positivity of downtown Lima, debunk some of the negativity. That group, the core of it, is John Heaphy from Old City Prime (and) Beer Barrel, Rock Simmons who owns custom staffing and Bill Walter, who owns Walter Development. Those three were the core group and they thought a marketing campaign to promote the positivity was the key. So those three – (I) owe the credit to them and the donors, they went out and got money from several businesses in town and that commitment for the funds was key. We hired Modo Media, who is a Downtown Lima member, to start these commercials. The theme for the commercials coming up is dine, play, shop, work, so we just did the dine one, and I think shopping is next. They went live on television a couple days ago and all my friends are making fun of me, because I’m in the first one.
Q. You are all about downtown, so you are featuring all of the things to do and opportunities for fun right here in town, right?
A. We opened 10 new businesses in 2014, the last five years we’ve had 33 businesses, so we recognize the momentum that has been happening the last couple years and we wanted to make sure we took advantage of that and kept it going. A lot of the credit goes to the businesses that have been here the last 50 years. Those are first and foremost, I mean we are all getting excited over the new businesses, but don’t forget about Kewpee and Hofeller, Hiatt, and Clark, and Mack Camera, we just gave him (Mack Camera) a lifetime achievement award. I think they opened in 1938 or something. He just retired, so they were downtown for 60 years.
Q. For a while there was a trend of spreading businesses out toward the edge of cities, now we are seeing the opposite, everyone is coming back towards the center, and those numbers prove it.
A. Yeah, we did some research about it. Back in the 1960s – which is kind of what we are trying to promote – the big shopping mall was downtown, Greggs I think was a big department store, the places you came to eat and did everything was down here. So you see these old pictures and the streets were lined, like they are in New York, and it’s not just through Lima Ohio, the experience of the suburbs in the 1970s and 80s and big shopping malls outside the towns. Now we are starting to see this revitalization, in all cities. Look at Columbus, Ohio you had that big shopping mall downtown then it went to Polaris. Now we are starting to see the downtown in Columbus coming together. We have seen a nice restaurant base happen, we’d love to see the retail pick up here and I think it’s happening.
Q. You also help businesses out, maybe in opening or finding the spot right?
A. Another thing we do is, I don’t know if people realize, we have a loan program but last year we gave out $90,000 for new businesses, to help them out, so maybe if they need additional funding on top of what they get at a bank or if we do loans, we can do loans that maybe aren’t as stringent as what the bank does, so we can loan out money at a low interest rates for prospective new businesses or a current business. We have loans that come up, a business that has been in business for a couple years, they want to expand or they want to buy new equipment or hire new employees. In the last 10 years we’ve given out just shy of $400,000 in loans to local businesses here in downtown. I don’t think everyone realizes what Downtown Lima Inc. does, people think we are part of this city, we are not, so we are doing things other than what you see every day.
Q. You are essentially then, a friend to the local businesses here, giving them a helping hand.
A. Yep, a lot of the business owners downtown are first time entrepreneurs so part of our job is if a loan makes sense for them we do that, we also try to support them in every way we can, from a standpoint of if they don’t know how to do a Facebook page – we had one scenario where a store is very popular but the owner doesn’t understand social media so we pointed her, given her pointers on it or maybe we referred her to another business owner downtown that’s willing to help. We’ve seen that a lot, the camaraderie down here that a guy like Marc Bowker at Alter Ego Comics is willing to help out a new business because he knows if another new store does well down here his business will do well and he cares.
Q. I have to bring this back up, you were in the Downtown Lima Inc. commercial that has aired on TV now. You said you are already getting made fun of, how’d it go, making a commercial?
A. I was a little embarrassed to do that but it was fun. There are more coming though so keep an watching out for them.
Q. Are you going to be in every one?
A. I’m going to try not to be, I’m going to do everything I can to not be in them. I may be in one more or something.
Q. How did it go, were there a lot of takes?
A. So we did, we drove the car around and the guys were in front of us in the minivan with the hatch open, and they were filming me. That’s how we did the car scene, and I probably drove around (the block) 20 times. The shot at Old City Prime, I probably did it 35 times, trying to get it right. So there’s a few outtakes.