Goes Without Saying

News flying low and slow under the radar today concerns The Sparta in downtown Newark. Analysis notes not saying “The Sparta Restaurant” for The Sparta happens to be one of those shape shifting entities akin to a chameleon. No sooner than one reaches for “restaurant” than one is holding on to Project Main Street. As far as news is concerned, restaurants in downtown Newark come and go, primarily for aspirational reasons, money and business. But The Sparta is not a business though it is a restaurant; more of that shape shifting DNA. From the economists’ statistical standpoint of start up success, flower shops do best. Fastest failures are restaurants (see above “come and go”). Economists claim it takes 3 years for a restaurant to establish any sustainable potential. The Sparta is past that. What gives (or takes)? Anna Jeffries’ report “After three years, Sparta seeking community support” (2-5-16, Newark Advocate) provides the closest to a selfie of the shape shifting Sparta possible. The article presents future aspirations (“Raising the $10,000 by April will help the business, but it’s not the only solution, he said [“Allen Schwartz, acting president of the Sparta’s board”]. The number of meals sold every hour needs to increase by two to keep the restaurant in the black.”) as well as start up intentions (“He [Chris Ramsey, former Sparta owner and Project Main Street originator] opened the restaurant with a plan to offer jobs to people who wanted to be trained to work in the restaurant industry. His long term goals included creating a community supported agriculture program to grow locally-produced food, launch a green-jobs training program and convert the second floor of the Sparta into classroom space.”). But what is Project Main Street? Like all of today’s presidential candidates say – you can go to the website for specifics on mission statement, policy, etc. Much like the poor, Jeffries’ article reveals The Sparta’s great (and urgent) need. Most poor want better than what they have which, if they are poor, they may have in name only, or not at all. Precarious would best describe it. Unlike the poor, The Sparta has a rich network of like minded entities of goodwill. Indeed, merging with Goodwill would be one outlet from poverty. The two shape shifting entities compliment each other by maintaining analogous descriptions of being not for profit while operating as a business. Businesses that are not really businesses but embrace business because, well, it’s good business! From “Newman’s Own” to “Wounded Warriors” Americans are not only familiar with but inundated by shape shifting entities whose mission statements consist of service and community, that are in the business of serving the disadvantaged, which often extends to the poor. Analysis finds all of this implicates an “advantaged” lurking somewhere. This becomes a bit unsavory determining who’s in, who’s out, who is rich and who is poor, the advantaged, the disadvantaged, and who’s responsible for what. These shape shifting businesses differ from religious institutions who answer to a higher calling. They also differ from public, democratically instituted and maintained providers like the library, senior centers, public arts organizations and public schools. Shape shifters, like The Sparta, superficially resemble today’s ever growing public/private partnerships. The resemblance fails in that though shifty, public/private partnerships have no shape. Analysis finds this to be yet another option for The Sparta – becoming shapeless by being subsumed within the Licking County Chamber of Commerce that administrates the Grow Licking County public/private partnership. A theoretical option is relocation. SPARK has relocated its art workshop from downtown Newark to Granville. A “Goodwill” type local donation business once operated in Granville for the benefit of Licking Memorial Hospital. The business is gone, no longer needed by Granville or the community hospital. But the volunteer and goodwill potential remain. Local business, local donation, locally sourced, all involve location. Such a move might entail a loss of property, history and personal identity through the rupture of re-location, but what poor person hasn’t been subjected to that?

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