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Free rent offered to small business owners in College Hill for the holidays

Set the Vibez Balloon and gift bar in College Hill
Posted at 5:21 PM, Nov 19, 2021

CINCINNATI — In College Hill, several local business owners are getting the chance to operate in their own retail space, just in time for the holidays.

Our Shop will hold its grand opening on Small Business Saturday.

The six month pilot program, which is run by the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, is offering free rent and retail space to five small business owners.

“Our Shop is a new program we’re launching here in College Hill with the objective to bridge the gap between businesses who have gone through incubators and have business plans, but aren’t quite ready to sign a long term lease at a store front. We’re kind of looking to explore what the post-COVID environment looks like,” said Seth Walsh, Executive Director of CHCURC.

Walsh said more than 50 business owners have applied to the program.

The pop-up shops will open in two currently vacant store fronts on Hamilton Avenue.

Set The Vibez balloon and gift shop will operate at 5852 Hamilton Ave. LAMA Herbal Solutions, Launch Party, DeeDee’s Butter Bar and Like Mom’s Only Vegan will operate at 5846 Hamilton Ave.

Walsh said the program is a way to gain exposure for these small businesses, while also connecting and activating the business district in College Hill.

“College Hill’s business district is six blocks long,” he said. “You can’t have vacant spaces, because when you start to string together one or two or three vacant spaces, no one wants to walk past it. Then all the sudden you’ve cut off some of your business district. So filling these vacant spaces with new businesses that are coming in allows us to start connecting the north and south even further.”

Although the store fronts haven’t officially opened yet, business owners are already feeling the impact.

“I’ve had three people come in and try and buy balloons,” said Erika Standifer, owner of Set the Vibez.

Standifer said, prior to this, she was running her business mostly from her garage.

“With a storefront, I think people take your business a little bit more serious,” she said. “With the times that we’re going through right now, with everything being online, you never know who is scamming, who is not. So just having an actual storefront is a benefit to us, because you can actually come in and see we have the product.”

“This means everything to me. This is such a huge step for my business,” said Brit Cochran, owner of Launch Party, which sells beauty products. “This is a dream come true to be able to feel the support of the community. The support of the business association, it is very validating that I’m on the right track and that my business can continue to grow.”

Cochran said the storefront will give her an opportunity to expand her business and meet with customers face to face.

“Online has been difficult, especially for a very tactile product like beauty is,” she said.

Maria Walkup agreed. She runs LAMA Herbal Solutions, which sells CBD products.

“It gives us a chance to get our name out to people, and having a retail space for a number of months gives us an opportunity to talk to customers, because in this business consultation is key,” said Walkup. “We have an online store, but that face-to-face contact is very, very important to what we do.”

Walsh said CHCURC will use data from the pilot to direct future development in the area. The program is in partnership with The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, YARD & Company and the Kolar Experience Institute.

The grand opening is set for Saturday, Nov. 26, from 11am to 6 pm.

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