Specialty shops sprout up as neighborhood prospers
Posted August 18, 2014 in Articles
Author: Judy Stringer
Big-name developers and University Circle anchor institutions are not the only ones basking in the glow of the neighborhood's new life.
Dozens of new businesses are sprouting up in and around University Circle, feeding off expansions of the area's venerable health care, education and arts organizations and ambitious development projects like Uptown.
The number of small businesses in University Circle alone — not counting growth just outside of this one-square-mile area — has doubled in the last two years, according to Laura Kleinman, vice president of services for University Circle Inc. (UCI).
Kleinman, who oversees the Uptown Business Association, said the bulk of those companies are retail-oriented, including new shops, boutiques and eateries, where the growing population of residents and visitors can enjoy “anything from macaroons and ice cream to fine dining.”
Homegrown Constantino's Markets opened a store in the Uptown development in 2012. The first two years had been a bumpy ride for the Cleveland-based grocer, said Constantino's University Circle general manager Andrew Revy. The neighborhood had not been home to a grocery store in about 60 years, Revy said, and established residents were accustomed to shopping elsewhere.
Such habits do not change overnight, he said.
Then there is the “massive amount” of development and construction around the University Circle store, Revy said, which sometimes made it difficult for customers to access it or parking.
Still, Revy is optimistic about the direction of University Circle and Constantino's future there.
“All the projections we did, and the economic studies that pointed to prosperous operations there, are all true, but we were just a little bit ahead of schedule with those economic projections,” he said.
Part of his optimism also stems from neighborhood-building initiatives that are giving a boost to small businesses in and around University Circle.
University Hospitals, for one, has committed to buy 80% local. While that is more of a regional pledge, entailing suppliers all over Northeast Ohio, it certainly translates into more opportunities for University Circle businesses, from daily catering and landscaping needs to construction services for the never-ending list of renovation projects, said Mary Beth Levine, vice president of system resource management at UH.
Revy and shop owners Shane and Britt-Marie Culey, who opened Coquette Patisserie across from the Cleveland Institute of Art early this year, count the local institutions among their catering clientele.
Shane Culey said his French confection shop recently delivered a large pastry order for nearby Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center. He has also done business with divisions of CIA and Case Western Reserve University.
“There is most definitely a supportive relationship between the large institutions and the little guys like us,” Culey said.
Local business owners say recent gains, however, are more likely tied to the overall growth of University Circle as a place to live, work and visit rather than buy-local strategies cropping out of the neighborhood's anchor institutions.
Culey points to anecdotal evidence like an increase in sightings of “scrub-wearing” customers and more couples and families stopping into the shop before or after visiting local museums.
In neighboring Little Italy, local photographer David Schwartz has seen foot traffic at his studio increase as more residential and commercial tenants mov---e into University Circle.
That is especially exciting, he said, since the development is not complete and because UCI and the Uptown Business Association are actively helping local small companies capitalize on the momentum.
For her part, Kleinman said the recent additions have brought many of the products and services needed to support a thriving neighborhood, but more is to come.
Meanwhile, much of what it still lacks — an auto body shop, for example — can be found in one of the adjacent communities. University Circle is not an island. Supporting businesses and development around its edges is another way to encourage prosperity within the Circle, she said.
“It's important to look at the broader corridor, because we are all connected,” Kleinman said.