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Common Time, Common History

614now Staff

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I know plenty about rivers. I have a natural science background, and I’ve grown up creeking, canoeing, and kayaking.

I know a lot about the floods that happened in Columbus in the early part of the last century. Through a year of research I did for a (614) story that came out in 2015, I interviewed dozens of experts, spent time on and in the waters of the Scioto and Olentangy, and acquainted the tip of my nose fondly with the pages of ancient surveying books from the county auditor, and histories of Franklinton and the surrounding areas.

I even know a little about Franklinton.

But I know absolutely zero about opera.

I don’t know, and didn’t grow up with, anyone who is an opera fan. And when I choose the music that I listen to or go see, it is decidedly not opera.
So, my interest was piqued when I heard that a new show was rolling into town. Opera Columbus and ProMusica have collaborated on a commissioned opera, The Flood, a modern story sung in English about events that rocked these very streets over a hundred years ago.

The Great Franklinton Flood happened in March of 1913. Days of rain and a spring thaw raised the level of the Scioto river past the wooden flood wall’s capacity. The wall burst, and millions of gallons of rushing river pummeled the settlement that had for two centuries been building up on the west banks.

Those that were able fled for high ground in what is now the Hilltop area as the torrent stripped the low-lying land bare. Schools, homes, churches were destroyed and swept downriver. Some buildings in Franklinton still testify their survival with water marks, far above the heads of 21st century spectators.

When the frigid waters receded, 93 were tallied dead. (The actual number is possibly higher.)

Rebuilding efforts were hampered by mud and cold, and the fact that the bridges across the river—bridges that would lead to help and supplies—had been torn away. It would not be the last time the flood wall was breached. Subsequent floods would rock the bottoms until a high, strong wall was built in 2004. It stands now at 30 feet, higher than the waters have ever risen.

This is a story few have heard, even within the confines of our city. Despite its devastation, the Franklinton Flood is a story that, like the waters of the modern rivers, has receded quietly.

Opera Columbus aims to change all that.

They have spearheaded a movement which has borne a new story from history. Using a ground-breaking custom set, and meticulous costumes, The Flood ventures to tell the story of a Columbus family afflicted by the disaster, people who gaze out over the same river many of us pass by every day. This connection should not be lost on the viewer. But who is the viewer? To whom does this history belong?

Frankly, I did not believe it belonged to me. A Columbus resident, I hunger for more information about our shared history. But I never thought I was an opera goer.

There was someone who knew better.

The Creative and General Director of Opera Columbus, Peggy Kriha Dye is a Julliard-trained, world-traveled opera singer who allowed non-opera-going me to sit in on a rehearsal of The Flood in Opera Columbus’s downtown headquarters. What I experienced was transformative.

After some quick notes and feedback, the artists launched into an aria sung at the side of a dying woman’s bed, palpable sorrow in the man’s huge round voice. The power that came from the singers stupefied me as the skill-honed and diaphragm-supported crescendos filled the high-ceilinged room. I could feel the reverberations through my sternum. I looked downward, overwhelmed by the intimacy promised from eye contact with a singing performer.

Am I an opera person? I just might be an opera person.

(614): How is creating a commissioned opera is different then re-creating a classical opera?
Dye: We are starting from scratch! We chose the composer, librettist (writer) and topic to get the show created. That takes approximately one year. We have two workshops with singers to work out the kinks. We had one in NYC and one in Columbus. Then the librettist and composer take the notes from the workshops and make the necessary changes. The parts for the orchestra also have to be created. Once all that is finished (a three year process) we start a five week rehearsal in Columbus. That is normally where we would begin for a typical production. In addition, the cost is double that of an average production…so lots of fundraising!

What was the inspiration for deciding to tell the tale, over a century after the terrible flood?
Janet Chen, my co-producer and Executive Director of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and I wanted to commission a piece that is about Columbus and would give references to the city. We wanted to bring Columbus into the art that is being created here. We met with WOSU to discuss their series, “Columbus Neighborhoods,” and asked them, what neighborhood has a story that is epic, i.e. operatic. The flood of 1913 that affected the neighborhood in Franklinton the most, was the obvious choice. Nothing has shaped the city more than that event. Its traumatic effects and stories have been passed on through generations of those that live here.

“The story is about an event that shaped our city. It’s a drama full of suspense and mystery with music that was created for this production and for this Columbus premiere.”

There is a juxtaposition between the state of Franklinton as it exists now, and the perceived target audience for opera. West Franklinton has a lot of poverty and homelessness. While opera is seen widely as a refined, high art. What can build a connection between these worlds?

We didn’t want to produce a show about Franklinton, only to exclude the residents from the actual show. We have made thoughtful decisions about how we can marry the show to the people of Franklinton. We are bringing Korine, the composer to schools in Franklinton to share insights about the production with them. Janet and I gave a presentation at LifeCare Alliance. We answered questions and brought some performers with us so that they could get a taste of the opera. With the help from some generous donors, we are bringing coach busses and offering premium seats for free to approximately 100 Franklinton residents. Opera Columbus is striving to change the perception of what an audience member has to be. Our logo says it for us, “Make it Yours.” Our regular tickets start at $25. We realize that $25 is still substantial to many, and we are hoping Franklinton residents will take us up on the free tickets we are also providing.

Can you tell me how opera has changed as it has evolved into the modern day?

The operas themselves have evolved. We often take a traditional opera, and shorten it to no more than two hours, translate to English and use surtitles. We might also take an opera traditionally set in the 1700’s and produce it into modern day or in a setting more relatable. We don’t cast according to color and sometimes even gender, but according to talent. If that means we need to modify things, we do. We incorporate technology, film, and sometimes modern instruments like electric guitar. I think it’s foolish not to use all the modern resources we have if it can tell the story better. The music is timeless and olympic. It’s the story that I’m interested in evolving. The topics are going to always be relevant; loss and tragedy, love and passion.

Why should someone who has never been to an opera before consider seeing The Flood?

The story is about an event that shaped our city. It’s a drama full of suspense and mystery with music that was created for this production and for this Columbus premiere. ProMusica is playing!

You will witness a world premiere.

It’s only just over an hour.

Tickets start at $25.

We have a bourbon bar.

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Community

Nancy’s Home Cooking ensures no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving

Aaron Wetli

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Rick Hahn is passionate; passionate about his restaurant, passionate about his community, and most especially passionate about the assistance he offers to those in need.

Serving hearty breakfasts and delicious lunches (get the chicken and noodles), Nancy’s Home Cooking has been a Clintonville staple since it was opened by Nancy Kammerling in 1968. In 1970, Kammerling sold the business to Cindy King who ran the restaurant for nearly 40 years before niece Shelia Hahn took the reins.

Flash forward three years and both King and Hahn, neither of whom would turn away a customer in need, had passed away, leaving the future of the restaurant in doubt. This is where Shelia’s husband Rick stepped in.

“I married into the King family but still didn’t know anything about cooking,” Rick said. “I learned from watching a lot of cooking shows on television. I just felt that I had to keep Nancy’s going and to continue Cindy and Shelia’s commitment to serving the community.”

On his watch, Hahn has implemented a Pay It Forward program that serves between 10 and 20 customers a day. In short, for $5, you can purchase a future meal for someone in need; the only caveat is that the buyer has to write a message on a post it note that is delivered with the lunch.

“People can write whatever they would like,” Rick explained. “Some messages are funny and some are inspirational. Some are even movie quotes or jokes. The important thing is that the notes brighten the day of the person who receives it.”

It should be noted that these Pay It Forward meals are not just a box with a turkey sandwich, potato chips and an apple. Those who receive the meal can choose from chicken and noodles; biscuits and gravy; a breakfast platter; Southwest chili; grilled cheese; and bean soup and cornbread. The menu is seasonal and changes for appropriate outdoor weather conditions.

At the suggestion of girlfriend Richelle, Hahn also offers personal hygiene kits to those who ask. These kits, which come in drawstring backpacks, aren’t cheap to assemble (about $10 each) and contain a 30 day supply of soap, toothpaste, wipes, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo and other assorted toiletries. Women’s kits also contain feminine hygiene products.

“As for the kits, no one is turned away. You don’t even have to eat here to get one,” said Rick.

The real Belle of the Ball, though, is Rick’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Last year Rick, with help from his staff, family and neighborhood volunteers (different shifts of 50 each), served over 500 dinners to the community. Canopies, tables, and different stations line High St., the attitude is festive, and again, no one is turned away.

“On Thanksgiving, we are probably in violation of a few zoning laws, but I don’t think anyone really cares. All of the other businesses are closed that day and we have High Street to ourselves,” Rick said while laughing.

And what a Thanksgiving dinner it is. Last year’s menu contained the regular Thanksgiving staples—turkey, ham, rolls, green beans and mashed potatoes as well as pizza, shrimp cocktail, brisket, ribs, and lobster. Not too shabby.

“Not everyone who comes to the meal is homeless or even necessarily in need. Some of the attendees are elderly, have no family, or have no other place to go. I’m happy to give them a place to go,” said Rick through a smile.

It is safe to say that Rick has honored the legacy of the King Family.

Nancy’s Home Cooking is located at 3133 N High St. If you would like to donate money towards the Pay it Forward meals or Thanksgiving Dinner, you can do so in person or use PayPal.Me/nancyshomecooking. You can also drop off new/unused toiletries at Nancy’s from 6 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Uncategorized

Total ClusterTruck: “Ghost kitchen” focuses on delivery-based dining

J.R. McMillan

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When Chris Baggott returns from a run to the ClusterTruck kitchen, he’s almost always late, and his fellow drivers don’t mind letting him know it. Tight delivery times aren’t just an expectation for the fledgling food service. It’s part of the brand, serving fresh fare to waiting patrons, often in less time than the average restaurant.

So what’s ClusterTruck’s trick to providing such a wide range of high-quality cuisine at a record pace? There’s no restaurant, and their slowest delivery driver, Chris Baggott, is also the CEO.

“I don’t go out as much as I used to, just to keep my hands in it. But when I get back minutes later than our more experienced drivers, they laugh at me,” Baggott confessed. “If you’ve been doing this for a year, you’re good at it. You know which corner or which door, a little shortcut here and there. Faster delivery is what makes our business work.”

Photos by Zane Osler

Quietly creeping into the local culinary scene between the flood of innovative eateries and a fleet of food trucks are so-called “ghost kitchens.” They’re restaurants without the restaurant, focusing exclusively on delivery without the hassle and overhead of running a retail establishment. Homegrown concepts like Food Fort Columbus and 1400 Food Lab help industry entrepreneurs prepare meals with all of the precision of their retail rivals. Kitchen United, which already operates locations in Pasadena and Chicago, is scheduled to open their latest facility in Grandview Yard this year as the next phase of an ambitious nationwide expansion. For those struggling to find and afford suitable space, it’s the culinary equivalent of co- working and part of an already $100 million food delivery industry.

But ClusterTruck remains the original, unapologetic disruptor. Operating out of an inconspicuous warehouse near downtown Columbus, it relies on its own dedicated delivery team instead of contract food couriers to serve their hungry customers.

“There’s a broken model in third-party food delivery, from delays that affect quality to low courier morale. If you look at Yelp, a lot of the negative reviews are really criticisms of the delivery process,” he explained. “When I first looked at this market, the restaurants weren’t happy, the customers weren’t happy, and the drivers weren’t happy. So we deconstructed it and built a system that serves all of its constituents.”

That approach may sound a little wonky for a phantom food truck operator. But Baggott didn’t work his way into the restaurant business busing tables. His former life as a software creator proved both profitable and liberating, with earlier endeavors snapped up by Salesforce and Oracle for handsome sums. Along the way, he got back to basics, exploring his growing passion for sustainable agriculture, going as far as starting his own grocery store, then founding three farm-to-table restaurants from scratch. Baggott is as much a chameleon as an iconoclast, as comfortable in a conference room as a chicken coop. Even with dirt under his fingernails, the gears of an engineer are always turning.

“Let’s say the customer is five minutes away from the kitchen, and I have 30 minutes to get the order there. Our software manages our drivers, so we may not start making your food immediately,” Baggott noted. “Our driver may be able to make another delivery before your order is ready. We’ll start making your order when the driver is five minutes away. That way, you get your order on time, and fresh from the kitchen.”

Comfort food is evolving by definition. From hearty carbs to sophisticated salads, “comfort” is now more a measure of how food makes you feel, not an arbitrary attribute that’s the same for everyone. Meeting that ever-expanding expectation is also an edge for such hyper- efficient eateries.

“Ghost kitchens can iterate and innovate. We recently launched a gyro in Indianapolis. We also launched a protein bowl with hummus we make in house,” Baggott recalled. “That’s when we realized we already have pita, tahini, and chickpeas—we should make a falafel. Now, we’re testing recipes to launch a falafel.”

Not all revelations are as obvious or unemotional. The Columbus customer base continues to grow, as are operations in Denver, Kansas City, and the original location in Indianapolis. But ClusterTruck locations in Cleveland and Minneapolis were temporarily suspended. Some menu items have also gone away when they didn’t make the cut, including their take on Johnny Marzetti.

“Dropping Johnny Marzetti was heartbreaking for me because we already had all of the ingredients. I loved it, but it just didn’t sell. But a big advantage we have over a brick-and-mortar restaurant is access to data. A traditional restaurant may launch a new menu item and sell 500 the first day,” he explained. “But they can’t see who orders it again, or worse, who ordered it and never came back. All of those transactions are anonymous. We see everything, order rates and reorder rates. We don’t just know what sells, we know how it impacts overall customer experience.”

ClusterTruck launched a tofu kimchi burrito that initially sold very well, but then seemed to taper off. They dropped it, but once they dug into the data, they discovered existing customers returned, but customers whose first order was the ill-fated burrito didn’t. Their online menu has since become more adaptive, featuring items with higher rates of reorder for new customers, something typical restaurants just can’t do, and an insight they probably would have missed.

“One of the challenges with Cleveland and Minneapolis was building the brand. We were great at building kitchens and software, but frankly, we weren’t great at marketing because what we do is so different,” he noted. “We haven’t abandoned those cities, we’re just refining our marketing before we reopen. It’s one of the advantages third-party food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash have. They’re just adding a new service to an existing restaurant. We have to introduce a whole new brand.”

The funny thing about brands is that they aren’t how you view your company, it’s how others view you. And that’s also an inherent challenge for restaurants minus retail, even as the market for prepared foods booms. Catering is key for most ghost kitchens, and ClusterTruck tapped into it early, making group orders easier for folks with restrictive and selective diets, even offering access through the popular office collaboration platform Slack. Now about a third of sales come from group orders. But every new business needs a little luck and a leap of faith. Fast, free delivery still came down to customers meeting couriers at the curb, a hunch that paid off.

“That’s our entire business model, and the one thing we couldn’t know for certain before we launched if customers would be willing to do. It’s why our drivers get four to six, even eight deliveries an hour, instead of just one or two,” Baggott explained. “We’ve had more than a million deliveries and I can count on one hand the number of complaints we’ve had about having to meet the driver. When it comes to quality, every efficiency matters. It’s why customers are as much a part of our success as our staff and our software. They come to us, online and outside, and that’s what makes ClusterTruck work.”

For menus and ordering, visit clustertruck.com.

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News

Dear I-670 drivers, your lives may never be the same

614now Staff

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Notice anything different on your I-670 and/or I-270 commute lately? Could be the nine 600-square-foot, 110,000-pound digital signs towering over the freeway.

These signs display information about the first ever Ohio SmartLane.

The I-670 "SmartLane" is the left shoulder that will be open when traffic slows to a crawl. It begins just east of I-71 in downtown Columbus and extends to I-270 on the East Side.

https://twitter.com/ODOT_Columbus/status/1187093122188079104

The SmartLane will be closed most of the time, indicated by a red X. But when traffic dips below 50 mph, The Dispatch reports traffic monitors will send signals to the overhead signs to open the SmartLane. When open, the speed limit is 45 mph.

“It might sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown traveling at slower speeds actually keeps traffic moving better because it avoids the 'stop and go' conditions which can cause more accidents," said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. "Ultimately, we believe the combination of the extra travel lane and the reduced speed limits will allow for a more reliable commute for travelers along that route."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca-LdUrsmnc#action=share

ODOT has installed more than 30 traffic cameras to monitor the lane for any obstructions, reports The Dispatch. The right shoulder of I-670 will be free for disabled vehicles to use.

The $61 million project is officially complete. Visit ODOT.com for more information on the project and the new traffic patterns.

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