A look at three local businesses and how the pandemic has affected them.
By Meghan Beery, ’21.
What do a glam salon, a rock-n-roll coffee shop and a family-owned bakery have in common? They’re all right here in Upper Arlington! The Blowdry Café, Colin’s Coffee and the Original Goodie Shop have been adding local flavor to UA for many years.
The Blowdry Café, established in 2014, is located at 4740 Reed Rd. According to owner Ashley Blackstone, the café is a one-stop shop for hairstyles.
“Our concept is unique to the salon industry because we are not a full-service salon, so we don’t offer highlighting and cutting,” Blackstone said. “Getting your hair done for events, interviews, work, photoshoots—it all applies.”
After reopening on May 27, The Blowdry Café has taken special measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and promote social distancing.
“We do a health and temperature screening of each employee everyday at the beginning of their shift, and we have also put hand sanitizer everywhere in the salon,” Blackstone said. When social distancing isn’t possible, barriers are placed between guests. Employees and clientele are required to wear masks as well.”
“My initial and constant concern, of course, [is] safety,” Blacsktone said. “But as far as business, my employees [are] definitely my top priority. So keeping them informed, staying in contact, making sure that they were okay financially was probably my biggest concern during the quarantine time.”
Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the Blowdry Café continues to keep its doors open and serve the community.
“Blowdry Café, as a company, is the definition of small, local business. It’s based on nothing but hard work, perseverance, not just from me (the owner) but from everyone who is employed here. We’re like a small family ourselves, so we love to invite people in, get to know the community, treat our clientele like they’re part of the family,” Blackstone said. She encourages students to support the business and spread the word to their relatives.
Just south of the Blowdry Café is Colin’s Coffee, located at 4714 Riverside Dr. The local coffee shop, owned by Colin Gawel, is a community staple.
“I think we’re just known for being a friendly place people like to come visit. We’ve got a lot of personalities, kind of customer-driven, kind of unique,” Gawel said. Aside from coffee drinks and bagels, he considers the shop’s charisma to be its main attraction.
“Small businesses just have a little more local flavor and personality because we’re not being run from some corporate office,” he said. “The interactions, the way people know each other by name and things like that. You know, rock-n-roll books on the counter and posters.”
According to Gawel, it is the local flavor that small businesses add to a community that makes them so special.
“I don’t think anyone wants a town where there’s nothing that’s local. And, you know, when you spend local, the money definitely stays in your community,” he said. “So you know you’re investing in your community; it’s all staying right here.”
It is that community investment that supported Colin’s Coffee through the pandemic.
“You know, Arlington is … they’re really good at supporting local businesses. They have pride in their community,” Gawel said. “I mean, that’s really what got us through our pandemic was our core customers.”
Although the lockdown affected Colin’s Coffee, Gawel considers himself one of the luckier businesses.
“We’ve been fortunate because coffee drinks and things can survive pretty well with to-go,” Gawel said. “It’s really bounced back.”
In response to the lockdown, Gawel implemented many new programs for customer safety and comfort, including a text line that will become a permanent fixture in the business.
“People now can text their orders in and we can bring them out here and they can pick them up so you don’t have to wait in a drive-thru, you can just text us and we’ll tell you when it’s ready,” Gawel said. He encourages students to hop on a text line and try out a drink.
“Just give it a shot,” Gawel said. “If you just pick one day a week, just to go spend local, it really adds up. Because the small businesses, you’d be surprised, just a couple orders really help.”
Just a five minute drive south from Colin’s Coffee is another UA business, the Original Goodie Shop. The bakery is found at 2116 Tremont Center and has been in business for the last 65 years.
“We are a family-owned bakery, a traditional bakery,” said co-owner Emilie Smith. “Full-line, everything from doughnuts to cookies to cakes. We make buns, breads, dinner rolls, danish, basically everything.” The bakery is particularly known for its cinnamon sticks, made with sweet roll dough, cinnamon and sugar glaze.
“We sell thousands of [cinnamon sticks]. They ship everywhere too. People love them,” said Smith.
Similar to other businesses, the Original Goodie Shop was forced to adapt when the lockdown went into effect.
“We shut down the entire storefront and we were only offering curbside pickup. We were considered essential in the beginning, so we did not have to close,” said Smith. “We were doing the curbside pickups, phone orders only, we did start accepting Grubhub too, to start getting more delivery.” The bakery now uses Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates services.
After reopening, the bakery made additional adjustments, from wiping down the store every hour to limiting the number of customers allowed inside.
“We blocked off half of our business and condensed our showcase so that there was less to touch and see. And coffee, for instance, we have to serve you; you’re not going to pump your own coffee. Little things like that have been tweaked, just to eliminate touching and less moving around,” said Smith. Employees and customers are required to wear a mask when inside the store. At the moment, three customers are allowed inside the business at one time.
Even though business has been slower, Smith still feels that the community has been very supportive of the bakery.
“I really think the location and being in Arlington and this community has a lot to do with the fact we’re still in business. Because it’s a close-knit community and everyone’s big into tradition,” said Smith. “That really does feed into why we’re still in business. It’s just this beautiful community: family-centric.”
The Upper Arlington Community Foundation (UACF) has been particularly helpful for small businesses. The UACF established The Good Neighbor Fund to support both residents and small businesses that have fallen on hard times economically. Colin’s Coffee was one of the grant recipients.
“[UACF] paid my month’s rent back in April when everything was kind of crazy and that was such a relief for me and our employees,” Gawel said. “They did it for other places and they helped out small businesses.”
While the Original Goodie Shop did not apply for the Good Neighbor Fund, the bakery did take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program and is using the money on a special project.
“We were fortunate enough to be approved for that Paycheck Protection Program,” Smith said. “We’re really excited, we’re going to buy hats that are branded for our employees.” Smith added that the UACF did reach out to the bakery, but the shop declined to apply for the Good Neighbor Fund.
“I [wanted] the funds to be saved for other businesses that needed it in UA, so we declined to apply just because we got the other loan,” Smith said.
Between the Good Neighbor Fund, the Paycheck Protection Program and the continued support of residents, each business appreciates the close-knit community of Upper Arlington.
“The community’s just really good to us as small businesses,” said Gawel. “We feel lucky to be here and hopefully we reciprocate.”