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Can small businesses stay relevant as neighborhoods change?

Posted at 4:00 AM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 17:12:16-05

CINCINNATI — Sharon Butler knows what it takes for a small business to survive in this day and age.

For more than 30 years, the BonBonerie, which Butler co-owns, has watched businesses come in and out of O'Bryonville. The well-known Cincinnati bakery has done lots of things over the years to retain its customer base and continue to get new people in the door. Just one reason they added a tea and coffee shop.

"We've seen solid businesses, we've seen some turnover, and we've seen some businesses grow that already are here but they're taking over three or four buildings," said Butler. "This building has been so many different things: it started out as a nail salon, a massage salon, antique shops, gift shops."

So what does it take for a business to survive more than a couple years in a constantly changing neighborhood?

Josh Rothstein has some ideas. The retail specialist helped find a new restaurant to move into the location vacated by 8th & English, which served seafood while its doors were open from 2017 to 2019. The building was only listed for a month.

"If you're going to get off your tush and go to a restaurant, you want to have an experience," Rothstein said. "Restaurants that are kind of run of the mill and have simple, bland menu items are probably on the chopping block to be closed if they haven't already."

New restaurant moving into 8th & English's former location
New restaurant moving into 8th & English's former location

While the new restaurant isn't ready to divulge any details just yet, Rothstein said that for restaurants to stay relevant, and open, today means they have to be a good enough experience to compete with UberEats and DoorDash.

Back in The BonBonerie on Madison Road, while Butler loves the busy road because it keeps people driving by businesses in O'Bryonville, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

TheBonBonerie has been open in their Madison Road location for 31 years
TheBonBonerie has been open in their Madison Road location for 31 years

"I think people are daunted a little bit by traffic," Butler said, "but we have parking here now and that's made a huge difference."

Another reason she said the bakery has survived 31 years in this location is the size of the space.

The BonBonerie has been open in this location for 31 years
The BonBonerie has been open in this location for 31 years

"You have to afford the rent for sure," Butler said. "That's why we never opened too big. We started small and kept it small. If we had taken over this whole space, it would've been way too much."

O'Bryonville will continue to grow, Rothstein said, if new, unique restaurants and businesses like The BonBonerie move in.

"Soon, meaning in the next 10 years, you may see a bigger renovation happening," he said.

O'Bryonville Business District to see new restaurant moving in
O'Bryonville Business District to see new restaurant moving in

WCPO 9's ongoing series, Move Up Cincinnati, tracks regional growth and how our community is working to uplift those left behind. To contact the Move Up Cincinnati team, email us at moveupcincinnati@wcpo.com.

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