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Not Business as Usual
New Short North Business Association Executive Director John Angelo
A man with a plan to take the Short North to the next level

by Jennifer Hambrick
September 2005

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Photo Gus Brunsman III

John Angelo and Duff Lindsay of Lindsay Gallery
recently collaborated on an advertsing project.

There is a new man behind the curtain at the Short North Business Association.

The Short North Business Association (SNBA) has appointed Florida native and longtime Cincinnati resident John Angelo as its new executive director. Angelo is the SNBA’s fifth professional executive director since 1992.

Dean Berlon, co-owner of Urban Order Architecture and chair of the search committee that hired Angelo said the committee voted unanimously to hire Angelo because of his marketing and event-planning experience and his familiarity with the Short North.

“He had a genuine love of the area,” Berlon said. “He was from Cincinnati, but before he even knew about this position, he was bringing groups of people up to the Short North to show them how to create a genuine arts district. He also had great marketing experience and great event experience.”

As president of the Avondale Neighborhood Association, Angelo employed city and corporate funds to reclaim Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood from the blight of prostitution and drugs and organized a volunteer effort to restore historic houses in that area. He also advised Downtown Cincinnati Inc. with market research to determine ideal locations for different types of retail businesses. Until his appointment to the SNBA, Angelo owned and operated the Cincinnati-based event consulting firm Eventures. He dissolved the company when he accepted the SNBA position.

“When I decided to take on the role of director of the SNBA that was a full commitment,” Angelo said. “The position has absorbed every waking minute.”

Though a southern transplant, Angelo is no stranger to the Short North. He says he “stumbled across” the district on his first visit to Columbus nearly 10 years ago and liked its feel.

“There was something about the mix of the people, the energy,” Angelo said. “I went back to Cincinnati and talked to people and asked them if they had heard of ‘that area with all the art galleries.’ I made a point to come back here a couple of times a year. In January I came to the Gallery Hop and I was astounded by the number of people who were visiting. I went back to Cincinnati and spoke with a number of developers – we had been focusing on Cincinnati’s urban core – and [in March] I brought half a dozen developers with me to Columbus to see the Short North.”

Angelo says the vacancy announcement for the SNBA executive director position he came across online at read “as though someone had gotten my resume.”

He wasted no time applying for the job.

“I have been over the last 15 years in community development and event development and was beating my head against a wall with the proposition of starting with a losing venture [in Cincinnati] and turning it into a winning venture. So, the proposition of taking a winning venture and really running with it [was appealing].”

Though the Short North may be thriving, there’s still plenty for the new SNBA executive director to do in order to bring about the search committee’s clear vision for the district.

“We want to create an area where people can live, work and play here 24 hours a day, so you really never have to leave the Short North,” Berlon said. “We want to maintain our arts background (and) we want to look at the businesses that we need and determine how to recruit them to create a strong mix of shopping, entertainment, dining and arts.”

To this end, other Short North community leaders and business owners hope retail serving day-to-day needs will augment the existing mix of art galleries and curio shops.

“There are fewer practical retailers now than there were a few years ago,” said Cleve Ricksecker, director of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District and the first executive director of the SNBA. “We lost [the original] An Open Book, and we lost Functional Furnishings. The neighborhood will work best if there is a mix of practical retailers and high-end destination. It desperately needs a drug store, hardware store. There’s only so much of a market for a Rembrandt.”

Angelo agrees and says one of his goals is to find the ideal blend of retail shops to encourage people to visit the Short North and enable residents to live there comfortably.

“I think it’s a balance between stores and services that cater to people coming to visit the Short North and stores and services that cater to the residents of the Short North,” Angelo said. “We’ve got to find that synergy, that balance. We have a wonderful mix of eclectic shops, but I think we need to balance that with a mix of daily living [shops]. If the mix isn’t right, then it’s very difficult to keep customers coming back.”

Angelo also plans to develop a range of marketing strategies tailored to the wide variety of businesses currently in the Short North.

“The businesses don’t want a one-size-fits all marketing campaign for the Short North,” Angelo said. “They want to see a variety of marketing strategies. A strategy for higher-end galleries is different from a strategy that would attract people to going out to dinner and dancing afterwards. I think they’re expecting the Business Association to help create those strategies.”

“I think at the most fundamental level it’s about getting customers into the respective businesses, not just mine, but all of them,” said John Allen, owner of the Short North Tavern and former SNBA president. “We have this big strip that runs from Goodale up to Fifth and that’s a long commercial strip. And the businesses on the north end are different from the businesses in the south end.”

Among other issues Angelo promises to address are the problems of limited parking and inflexible parking restrictions in the Short North area. He also plans to continue to develop promotional events like the Via Colori street painting festival and the Holiday Hop into good investments that bring repeat customers to Short North businesses.

Angelo believes Short North residents want many of the same things for the district that owners of SNBA member businesses want: vibrant urban living and commerce in a unique historic area.

“I think that residents want businesses and patrons that respect that this is also a residential neighborhood,” Angelo said. “They don’t want the Short North to become mall-strip America. I think residents cherish the history of the Short North and they don’t want to see that bastardized.”

Neither does Angelo who, you could say, lives at the office. Though his home at King and High is technically outside the official Short North boundaries, he considers himself a Short North resident. He credits much of the Short North’s success to his neighbors’ concern for their community.

“I’ve been in communities before where people say, ‘the city is supposed to take care of the surroundings, I’m just in charge of my property,’’ Angelo said. “The people here say, ‘I’m part of my community, so I invest.’ I think that’s why the Short North is thriving. It’s all about the people.”

© 2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.