Sharona’s And Jerry McClain

            Sharona’s is closing tomorrow. The online Advocate (updated) stories Kent Mallett reported drew over 50 comments. This is a human interest story more than a quotable news item. Sharona’s appears to have been very well liked with a strong customer base. Analysis finds something incongruous with the various headlines, owner’s reasons, etc. given in the accounts. Parking is cited as a problem though attendance is not. Restaurants in the Short North, German Village, The Arena District and even Easton would kill to have the ease, access and amount of parking available to Sharona’s customers. About a block away, just south of the eatery, is a huge public, no-pay lot (in addition to the on street, no-pay parking and various private lots). Perhaps the headline should have read “Lack of Valet parking contributes to Sharona’s closing”.

 

            Maybe this blog posting should read “The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same”. Kent Mallett reports Downtown Hotel May Become Double Tree (The Advocate 10-2-13). Glowing endorsements of what a significant impetus to the downtown economy an international franchise will bring. ““There is something to be said for brand recognition. People recognize it. They trust it. They believe in it.”” (Dan Moder, executive of the Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau). Speaking of conventions, didn’t Jerry McClain promote and promise a convention center on the north side of Locust Street before “the removal of dilapidated houses”? Memory brings back architect’s renditions of this promised gateway to Newark appearing in The Advocate. Speaking of memory, wasn’t the hotel a national franchise hotel/motel at one time during its various reincarnations under different identities? (no time to research that one). In Kent Mallett’s article “The Hilton name will be another key downtown improvement, McClain said, after the removal of dilapidated houses along Locust Street, construction of Heartland Bank at the Ohio16 exit ramp and McClain’s own office building under construction on the corner of Fourth and Locust streets.” Analysis finds it delightful that a name will be an improvement as The Heartland Bank is a (totally material) projected afterthought to the original “development/improvement” of the land along Locust between Third and Fourth (it is located on the west side of Fourth). What we in actuality are witnessing is a vacant lot, same buildings with new names and a stick built, two story structure on a slab foundation that most new home construction today definitely would outsize. But those homes wouldn’t be “named” an office tower. Name says it all, I guess. I think the original “improvement/development” involved a request/demand for a TIFF that didn’t materialize. Maybe someone finally got things right.

           

            Analysis finds Sharona’s and Jerry McClain bring to light the stark contrast in the approach to the economics involved with reinvigorating downtown Newark. The “Name says it all,” “They believe in it.” reveals the globalism economic emphasis – it is only something “out there” that will bring wealth and better our community. The local without franchise cannot be trusted. Sharona’s suggests a community centered, local economic approach. It closes though it had a lively and continuous customer base. Analysis suggests two speculative insights. If “parking” had anything to do with it, then maybe downtown Newark should be reconfigured as a strip mall for the convenience of all. Perhaps profit margin had more to do with it. The snide remark would be “Mamma’s don’t let your babies grow up to be restaurateurs. Make them be doctors, and lawyers, and such.” Analysis suspects Sharona’s was expected to show return on investment. For someone able to make that kind of investment, other instruments may bring a larger return with much less personal involvement, hassle and headache. Starting a second profession for entertainment reasons is great, if you can walk away from it whenever you would like (which you can’t do with the commitment a restaurant requires). Maybe it stopped being fun. This is where the two economic approaches clash. Rents are too high in downtown Newark. They are so because the landlords can point to outside traffic filling the downtown during the week days. Weeknights and weekends? See McClain’s hopes for the efficacy of the new name. Local economics? There are a lot of vacant storefronts downtown, even more vacant lots (parking lots). In addition, expectations of a global market return on investments produces expectations of a much larger profit margin and higher rents. Local community business proprietors often point to a smaller profit margin, but also integral membership in the community as part of their return on investment. If improvements, developments in Newark are all geared, focused, directed and based on a belief in the great wealth and dynamic “out there” which will sweep in and make it all better, then it will price out the local enterprises like Sharona’s. There is much to be said for the multiple riches of a local, community economy; one where everyday people, showing up every day, fuel community with everyday budgets while global economy convention centers remain only a gleam in the eye of Jerry McClain.

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