Chuck Williams from the Ledger called the other day and asked if I’d participate in 5 questions for the paper — after careful consideration of about 2 nanoseconds I agreed — who the heck am I to turn down free publicity for Country’s.
Most of the questions were about “Uptown” and that got me to thinking and reminiscing about “Downtown” Columbus.
I’ve seen it in its heyday and it’s low day and now when downtown is the coolest area in Columbus. I grew up on Talbotton Rd. and beginning at about age 11 use to catch the bus in front of our house and go downtown for movies and shopping. Back then my Mom wouldn’t allow me to go downtown in jeans — you had to dress nice. As I sit here in Fountain City Coffee in my jeans with my shirt tail out and Country’s hat on, I’d say things have changed a little in the last half century. Downtown of course use to be the hub of everything. There was great shopping with Kirven’s, J.C. Penney, Bentley’s, Metcalf’s, Chancellor’s (still there as you know) , Davison’s Dept. Store, Kiralfy’s, McCory’s, Kress , Rosenberg Jewelers, Schomburg’s, Sol and Harry and lord knows how many more great stores I can’t think of right now. If you didn’t have money there was always great window shopping. Our Christmas tradition was to come look at the window in Kirven’s. They always had something special for Christmas with animation. There was also great food like Spano’s, Broadway Billiards for Irish Stew, the restaurant in Kirven’s for chicken salad, great old cafeterias like Morrison’s and meat and three like Strattford’s.
I first started working in downtown at age 14 with Sol & Harry’s. We sold everything from bed ticking to suits. I worked there part time until age 21. I met best friends there and played pool across the street almost daily ( whenever Harry wasn’t looking and we could sneak out!) Before and during that time downtown Columbus became a part of me that’s certainly still there.
In the late 80’s when the old Greyhound bus station became available, I found out Country’s could buy it and I couldn’t resist. It wasn’t any thought out decision it was just a chance to return to my roots in an area I loved. It would never have happened without help from the city and Genevive Green at the Woodruff Co. We opened next to — Video Fantasy — a perfect example that I didn’t really think things through. We’ve been lucky over the years being sustained first by the mills and then TSYS and now lucky enough to be part of all the wonderful things happening in downtown.
Downtown has become and is continuing to become an incredible area because of a lot of great city leaders and I consider myself lucky to be able to hold on to their coat tails. CSU has probably made the biggest difference in downtown. They’ve tastefully renovated lots of buildings and built many new ones and have built a population of outstanding young people. Think how lucky we are to have a great high tech anchor like TSYS on one end of Broad and the high intellectual anchor of CSU on the other.
If you don’t frequent downtown — you are missing out. Just sit in a sidewalk cafe and watch the wonderful eclectic collection of humanity going by. Dine in any one of the independent restaurants like the Market or the Loft, Old Siam, The Black Cow, Twelfth Street Deli, The Rankin Deli, Picasso Pizza, Uptown Fish, The City Market, Ruth Ann’s, Minnie’s or — gotta say it — Country’s or have an ice cream at Brother’s. If you’re young enough, go to one of the clubs, have a brew at The Cannon or just chill at Fountain City Coffee. During the summer you’re really missing out if you don’t come to the farmer’s market each Saturday morning or go to a Friday night concert. There’s always something going on from concerts to parades to races to great food to great people watching. DOWNTOWN is the place to go to get away from the sameness of “GENERICA”.