Connect with us

Community

Second Story

There’s no perfect formula for connecting artists and audiences. But if there were one, the secret ingredient that distinguishes nuisance from ....noise would probably be the venue itself. Maybe that’s why serious musicians and their faithful followers are driving in droves to a former furniture store out in Newark for craft beer and cocktails before [...]
J.R. McMillan

Published

on

There’s no perfect formula for connecting artists and audiences. But if there were one, the secret ingredient that distinguishes nuisance from ….noise would probably be the venue itself.

Maybe that’s why serious musicians and their faithful followers are driving in droves to a former furniture store out in Newark for craft beer and cocktails before settling in for shows that defy expectations at any decibel.

Unlike an aging arena or basement bar, Thirty One West was built for music back in the days when Newark was known as “Little Chicago” for its robust theater scene. But after decades of decline, the satellite city has been torn between playing second fiddle to a tempting metropolis just over the horizon or forging its own destination identity. The dance hall days are long gone, save this one last ballroom that happened to find a second life as a low-frills furniture store waiting to be rediscovered and reinvented.

“During construction, we did a series called the Ballroom Revival Sessions. We wanted to share with folks where we were in the process and were eager to have music in the space and hear how it sounded,” explained Tom Atha, champion of Newark’s own larger revival and a familiar face for anyone who’s ever been to Thirty One West.

The Church Street “project” (as it was locally known) included a barbeque joint, a yoga studio, a play café, and an art space anchored by Atha’s alma mater, Denison University. But the second-story live concert venue and street-level bar are the jewels in this downtown crown of urban renewal.

It didn’t take long for word to get out that there was acoustic street cred in their quirky old ballroom with a bar in both the basement and the balcony (ironically replicating the feel of a house show in a space that once sold couches and loveseats). Perhaps that’s why acts that could play anywhere are reconnecting with their roots in a venue that actually brings artists and audiences together outside the outerbelt.

“For me, the biggest part of choosing a venue is whether the audience can hear the show as we intend it. You don’t want it loud, and reverberant, and noisy. I really prefer to have a listening environment,” revealed Steven Page, who recently played his first gig at Thirty One West. The fearless former front man for Barenaked Ladies knows what makes a room and an audience both hum. “I’m pretty aware of the fact that my audience isn’t 22 anymore. They’re not going to want to come see me and stand on a concrete floor for five hours.”

Many musicians often have only rudimentary information about a venue before playing there for the first time—city and capacity might be it. Bookers and promoters schedule the shows. One delivers the talent, the other the audience. But when artists are impressed by the right place, or turned off, everyone tends to hear about it.

“Lots of artists compare notes, especially the horror stories. But if there’s a new venue opening up in town, or one that’s developing a new reputation, you automatically share those experiences with other musicians,” Page noted. “I’ll go to my agent and say I really want to play there again—and that helps get more acts booked there as well.”

Every venue has a different vibe, and Thirty One West seems to occupy the fabled Goldilocks zone right in the middle, large enough to achieve critical mass, yet small enough for the shared experience not to get lost.

“If a room is acoustically dead, some songs won’t have the same kind of expansive feeling they would in a more lively room. And if a venue is really noisy, it’s harder for us to hear ourselves onstage. If notes go out and wash around the room, we may have to choose songs that require less precision. The strokes are broader,” Page explained. “Sometimes we’ll play in a place that’s really ornate, and you can tell an audience is intimidated by that. They aren’t as expressive right off the bat, so you have to work a little harder for them to feel less self-conscious, let go, and enjoy the show. I like those challenges. Honestly, I like having to work for every bit of applause.”

This is where Thirty One West really ups the ante for concert venues, and is a credible threat for the predictable digs folks are used to in Columbus. Techs know the room, so artists are also at ease, tuning the whole hall like one giant instrument instead of turning everything up to 11 and hoping for the best.

“The folks at Thirty One West told us it was the first time for a lot of people there at the show, so hopefully connecting with a new clientele will help build that core audience. For us, the staff and crew were great, easy to work with, from the monitors to the PAs. They were helpful and hands on and really knew how to work their equipment,” Page revealed. “That’s a big difference.”

Even so, old habits are tough to break with some tours that tend to look past smaller shows or locales, despite the increased attention from performers and their patrons.

“It could be daunting initially to attract acts that are used to playing right in Columbus. It’s a beautiful building, aesthetically and acoustically. That’s what’s going to win them over. It’s such a great listening room—without being precious about it,” Page opined. “I feel I have to earn people’s quiet. But if it’s a talky room, maybe it’s because audiences can’t hear us as well. Everyone here was relaxed, enthusiastic, and into the show. That’s what the right venue can do. It’s not just the building; it’s the audience it attracts.”

However, the ballroom is only part of what distinguishes Thirty One West from your typical concert hall. It’s about building that elusive connection that doesn’t fade away after the encore.

“We started the 31 Club when we launched, which is our $100 membership….We do member appreciation shows, there are discounts on our bar and our merch, we open access to ticket sales early, and give away tickets,” Atha explained. “This past year, we extended our membership to include a Season Pass at a $500 level. That also includes two general admission tickets to every show for the calendar year.”

Imagine buying concert tickets like Netflix. Instead of only going to see the bands you know, you’re more likely to discover new ones—and that’s kind of the point.

“Folks were coming out to shows they never would have otherwise. If we have enough members who do that, we can take bigger risks as a music venue, and do a better job curating, if we know there is a core audience to support it,” Atha said.

For details on upcoming shows at Thirty One West, or to see their Ballroom Revival Sessions, visit thirtyone-west.com

Continue Reading

Community

North Market Past: A history of the 143-year-old business

Avatar

Published

on

Contrary to what some might expect, the North Market has outlasted a history that’s pitted culture and economics against it. It has, through dedicated merchants and customers, endured.

Columbus’ three other public markets can’t say the same. The Central Market, the East End Market House and the West End Market House have all risen and, ultimately, fallen over the decades. That leaves the North Market as the only space through which the city can preserve and celebrate this aspect of the area’s history.

The original North Market (image courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library)

“This place has been evolving since the day it opened in 1876,” said Rick Harrison Wolfe, executive director of the North Market Development Authority. “Everything changes. The merchants changed, the way people shop changes, the buildings change. ... We are an evolving thing, and that’s the only way we’ve been able to survive over these 143 years.”

Columbus was incorporated as a city in 1834, and the first public market was born a little over 10 years later: the Central Market, built around 1850, stood on Fourth Street between Rich and Town Streets. If that location rings a bell, it’s because today, that is the location of the Greyhound Bus Station.

At the time—before the era of supermarkets—public markets were a place for Columbus residents, farmers and merchants to buy and sell fresh food and other products. This was a national trend according to the Ohio History Connection, many cities were building public markets “to facilitate agricultural and industrial as well as retail trade around the middle of the 1800s.”

The Central Market House became “one of the best-known institutions of Columbus,” with blocks of stalls lined with horses and wagons where three mornings during the week and Saturday nights it was “a very busy scene,” write Lyan Liu and K. Austin Kerr in their book The Story of Columbus: Past, Present and Future of the Metropolis of Central Ohio.

The two other now-closed markets, the West and East End Market Houses, were built following the Central Market House, and in 1876, the North Market opened on Spruce Street.

The land upon which the North Market sits has a story that precedes the historic space. It was Columbus’ first cemetery, the Old North Graveyard, dating back to 1813. The cemetery remained in use until 1873, growing to more than 12 acres and becoming the final resting place for some of the city’s founders, including Columbus’ second mayor, who was buried there in 1823, according to Jannette Quakenbush’s book Columbus Ohio Ghost Hunter Guide.

But times, and Columbus, changed, and the city needed to make room for the future. Columbus’ first railroad station was built next to the cemetery, and as it grew throughout the 1850s and 1860s, the railroad companies led lawsuits to acquire more and more of the cemetery’s land, Quakenbush writes. In the end, many—though not all—of the Old North Graveyard remains were transferred to Greenlawn Cemetery.

The original North Market was a two-story brick building. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the market had a slate roof and was 325 feet long and 80 feet wide—distinctly different from its space now. The neighborhood in which the North Market was built was undergoing a massive transformation in the late 19th century, becoming a hub of commercial and warehouse buildings and reflecting “the growth of Columbus as an important retail and distribution center after the Civil War,” according to the Ohio Historic Places Dictionary. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the market would eventually come to occupy one of those old warehouses after an incredibly turbulent and uncertain period in the market’s history.

By the mid-20th century, public markets were losing their popularity, and a fire at the East End Market in 1947 put an end to one of Columbus’ four markets. Just a year later, the North Market itself burned down. To revive the market, its merchants pooled their resources and purchased a military-surplus Quonset hut. In contrast to the market’s previous building, the Quonset was a metal, arch-shaped building meant to be a temporary space.

However, as the remaining markets went out of business— the original Central Market was demolished in 1966—the North Market limped along.

“That was maybe the 50s or 60s, as public markets were starting to struggle, and we were city owned and city operated up until the late 80s,” Wolfe said. “Generally speaking, that’s not in this day and age the best way to do it.”

The market was losing money, but as the last one standing at a time when people were once again becoming interested in markets and their vendors, the city, merchants and shoppers decided to create the North Market Development Authority in an effort to reinvigorate the space.

The NMDA in partnership with the city and community partners was key in transforming the North Market into its modern iteration. In 1992, the city purchased a former Advanced Thresher warehouse adjacent to the Quonset hut. It was a space with “an interesting interior structure of wood and steel, abundant windows to provide natural light so lacking in the old market, good vertical and horizontal clearances to enable movement of crowds, and a second level of office, restaurant and dining space,” as the AIA Guide to Columbus describes. In other words, the foundation in which the current North Market resides could be built. The North Market moved in 1995.

North Market, 1985 (Photo courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library)

“There was no arena, there was no convention center. All the buildings on Park Street were boarded up,” Wolfe said. “It took the support of the city, and individuals and some of our corporate friends around to keep this thing alive.”

When Wolfe became the NMDA executive director in 2013, he says he wanted to get the market out of more than 100 years of operating in the red. Continued investment from the city has been vital to make that vision a reality.

“We have to be subsidized, and we also have to be creative on how we make money,” Wolfe said.

The North Market may be the only remaining public market in Columbus, but two others still exist in Ohio: one in Cleveland and one in Cincinnati, Wolfe says. It’s not even the only place in Columbus people can go for a reminder of this piece of Columbus’ history; a new restaurant called the Central Market House is named in tribute to “the thriving Central Market which served as the central economic center of Columbus from 1850 until 1966,” according to its Facebook page. However, the market is a must-see for Columbus residents and visitors, presenting a one-of-a-kind microcosm of the city’s food and cultural scene, and it’s a storied space that Wolfe himself is partial to.

“The Short North ... COSI, the art museum, those are all amazing resources and amenities to our city. But you know, we’re free to hang out. I think we’re the best out of all those. I think we’re the best.”

Continue Reading

Community

Farm to Vehicle: Veggie Van brings affordable staples to those in need

Linda Lee Baird

Published

on

Bushels of greens, squash, tomatoes, beans, and peppers are laid out on tables under a tent on Cleveland Avenue—the organic produce clearly labeled as such. I’m munching on fresh peach salsa, and holding a recipe card listing the ingredients I’ll need to make the recipe at home. It feels like an upscale farmers market, but it’s a different take on the concept. This is the Local Matters Veggie Van, a mobile, affordable market that brings fresh food into neighborhoods under-served by traditional grocers. Every week, the Veggie Van makes regular stops in the city’s Linden, Hilltop, and King-Lincoln neighborhoods.

“Our goal is for you to be able to make a complete meal for under $10,” said Monique Williams-McCoy, Local Matters’ Community Food Access Coordinator. To achieve this, the Veggie Van sells staples such as lemons and limes, and shelf-stable items like beans, rice, and olive oil, in addition to seasonal produce. While the “local” part of the organization’s mission is brought in through food farmed from Local Matters Community gardens and relationships with Ohio growers, what matters most to Williams-McCoy is making sure people have healthy food on their shelves. “It’s important for us to be able to get it local, but it’s more important for people to have access,” she said.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Accessibility goes beyond presence; it’s also about knowledge of how to prepare what’s available. To assist, Williams-McCoy leads cooking demos and hands out samples of prepared foods using the ingredients which are for sale that day. “I’ll have recipe cards. I’ll take them right up here to the market ... [and] show them what they need to get,” she said. “We may not have anything fancy like ugly fruit or jackfruit, but we will have those things that ... you know how to go about preparing them— where you’re not going to be intimidated.”

First launched in 2009, the Veggie Van didn’t resonate with customers as hoped the first time around. “It was way before its time,” Williams- McCoy explained. But when Kroger’s Northern Lights location closed in early 2018—leaving the Linden area without a major supermarket— staff at Local Matters began thinking about pursuing the idea again. With issues such as food justice, accessibility, and smaller-scale food production garnering attention over the past decade, the timing felt right. Local Matters was selected by the University at Buffalo to participate in a study about the role of mobile food markets on increasing food security and improving fresh food access in communities under-served by grocery stores. The Veggie Van relaunched in July.

Community support and partnerships became the key to the project’s success this time around. Ijeoma Nnani, Owner and Pharmacist at Trio Pharmacy, said she was committed to the project. “When Kroger closed down, the whole area became ... a fresh produce desert. So I thought of what I [could] do to get people to eat fresh,” she said. Nnani heard about the Veggie Van through conversations with people in the community, and she reached out to Local Matters. “They came, we had a meeting, and that was it.” The Veggie Van now sets up shop in front of her business every Tuesday.

Williams-McCoy said the Veggie Van is well-received by patrons. “They love the display of the market because they feel like they’re shopping with dignity, and they love that everything’s fresh, and they love that the prices are very reasonable,” she said.

In addition to accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, Local Matters offers Produce Perks, doubling the value of SNAP benefits spent on fruits and vegetables. The community pitches in as well—sometimes people will leave extra money when they make their purchase for others who need it. “People are paying it forward here,” Williams-McCoy said. “I don’t want anyone to walk away from my stand hungry.”

The potential benefits from this project extend far beyond the conclusion of a satisfying, home-cooked meal. Reliable access to healthy foods, as well as the knowledge and skills required to shop for, prepare, and cook healthy meals on a budget, are key aspects of increasing food security and preventing diet-related disease, a point Nnani emphasized. “Even though my profession, my business, is to give people medicine, I tell them that if you eat well, you don’t need my medicine. You may put me out of business—who knows—but I’d rather that you’re well!”

If you ever spot the Veggie Van around town, Williams-McCoy invites you to come by. “You need to stop and get your shopping done, and know that you’re supporting something that’s really needed in the neighborhood.”

Visit local-matters.org/veggie-van for the Veggie Van’s weekly schedule.

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Two of the 13 “Greatest Places in America” are in Central Ohio

Mike Thomas

Published

on

Throughout Central Ohio, efforts to uplift communities have been ongoing for decades. Now, some of these efforts are garnering attention on the national stage.

According to a report from Columbus Business First, The Short North Arts District and Delaware's historic downtown were named among 13 “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association, a national organization of urban planners.

The APA's picks highlight locales representing “the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.”

In its rundown of the Short North Arts District, the APA points to the neighborhood's status as "a pioneer in urban revitalization in Central Ohio," and goes on to call the neighborhood the "art and soul" of the City of Columbus.

As for downtown Delaware, the APA It highlighted efforts by civic and business leaders in transforming the derelict city center into a thriving neighborhood full of attractive amenities for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Continue Reading

No mo’ FOMO

Missing out sucks. That's why our daily email is so important. You'll be up-to-date on the latest happenings and things to do in Cbus + be the first to snag our daily giveaways

Shop Now!

The Magazines

X