As the year comes to a close, the Short North Alliance is looking to the Columbus community to help support local businesses challenged by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, about 350 businesses called the Short North Arts District home, said Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance.
But this year, foot traffic has dropped by about 50%, and about 30 businesses here have either closed or announced upcoming closures, Pandora said.
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Businesses opening and closing is part of the district’s fabric. In a typical year, about 20 to 25 businesses close, but that’s also offset by the opening of about 30 or more replacements, Pandora said. This year, only 11 new businesses opened in the Short North so far.
“We’re concerned,” Pandora said.
Businesses here typically benefit from visitors already in the area attending conventions and sports events and visiting the Ohio State University, Pandora said. But event cancellations have severely depleted foot traffic and challenged businesses.
“Now more than ever, they really need help,” Pandora said.
So in the spirit of Giving Tuesday, the Short North Alliance is asking for donations to go toward a slew of initiatives designed to help lift businesses up, including programming, promotions, public art projects and creative events.
This year, the Short North Alliance was able to develop a supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the business community, Pandora said. The alliance also implemented a grant program in which businesses could get $10,000 from the Federal Cares Act allocated by the city of Columbus.
In May, the alliance also launched the Short North Arts District Local Business Gift Card Give Back, in which customers who buy a gift card through the program receive a second gift card valued at 50% of their original gift card purchase to another district business, paid for by a matching fund. The alliance just secured funding to carry out the program again for the holiday season, Pandora said.
Programs like this, she said, allow the alliance to spread as many dollars as possible to businesses that need the money.
“They just need to keep going another day,” she said.