Customers can slip away silently if they believe a business is in an unsafe neighborhood, according to Heidi Samuel, chairman of the Eastmoor Civic Association’s economic development committee.
She was told by one business owner that he watched a potential customer drive away without even getting out of the car, and without saying a word.
The civic association wants to band businesses together against that kind of erosion when it hosts a meeting for merchants Oct. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at Wing’s restaurant, 2801 E. Main St.
Eastmoor is known for its strong housing stock and supportive family atmosphere, and Samuel and others want to keep it that way.
"It is important to an aging area to pay attention to retention" of customers and businesses, Samuel said.
The meeting is the next step after the association received approval in April from Columbus City Council for its redevelopment plan for Main and Broad streets.
The association wants to involve the 135 businesses on the two corridors, as well as neighboring establishments such as the Super Duper market and Gary Memorial Chapel on James Road.
Members have been spurred to focus attention on their own needs and potential as they watch the development taking place on Main Street in Bexley, to the west, and Whitehall, to the east.
Even the near east section of Main Street has seen its share of attention, with a police substation, health center, new lighting and banners complimenting new businesses in the area.
The goals of the Eastmoor effort are to strengthen existing businesses and to attract new investment by providing a safe and attractive environment. Residents have long complained about drugs and prostitution that persist, driving away homeowners and customers for local businesses.
The group was successful in getting Motel One, identified as a magnet for crime, boarded up for a year.
Without a business association, "we’re working from scratch," reported Samuel.
With the planning completed with the help of the Columbus development office, they are pretty much on their own, also, she added.
The first goal of the meeting is to establish an email block watch for business owners to communicate with each other.
While owners face similar issues, everybody feels like they are on their own unless they talk to each other, Samuel said.
The participants will also discuss the results of a survey mailed to business owners on such issues as crime and the enforcement of city codes.
It is important for the area to look after itself and have a voice, Samuel urged. She noted that the number of code enforcement officers has been reduced by 30 percent, and the city is also short of police officers.
Having strong neighborhoods benefits the entire city, Samuel believes. "I think they have forgotten that neighborhoods are economic engines."