As a pet owner, when I first heard that Three Dog Bakery would be closing their doors, I was heartbroken.
The bakery, a staple for pet lovers in the Short North, has been baking up delicious treats for 10 years. When owner Susan Oilar first opened her shop, the district was a different place.
Growth in the Short North didn’t happen overnight. It required early risk takers who were willing to be urban pioneers with no guarantee of success. People who believed in the concept of an arts district and in the potential of the community.
Like many, the first question I found myself asking on hearing the news was, “Why don’t they just open a new location?” but for an owner like Oilar, it’s not about opening up somewhere else. It’s about the community and life she had spent ten years building.
“It’s hard. I really felt like I put a lot into building the community, and it’s hard to leave it,” said Oilar. “This is where I live. I live here now, I moved here after opening my business and invested. It’s hard to just pick up and move. I love it here.”
Business owners who care deeply about their surrounding community aren’t as common as you may think. Not only has Three Dog Bakery been a popular spot for dog owners, it’s also been the driving force behind one of the most popular events in the Short North.
The Annual Easter Begg Hunt has been hosted by Three Dog Bakery for the last 9 years. Even on the heels of the devastating decision to close her business, Oilar is still putting the community first.
“We don’t want to be [apart from] the neighborhood. The owner of Big Fun wants me to continue the Easter Begg Hunt, even without a storefront,” explained Oilar. “Hopefully, the businesses will partner with me and we can still do it because its such a fun event for the neighborhood.”
Mikey’s Late Night Slice has also expressed interest in continuing the event, according to Oilar. “So I’m keeping all of my Easter eggs,” she said with a laugh.
As the Short North grows, small businesses are getting run over by the success they helped create. As a city we should stop and consider what we are losing when a neighborhood like this fully gentrifies and becomes a corporate paradise.
Should small businesses be forced to relocate or take out astronomical loans just to be a part of the world they created? Are places like the Short North going to be open to only high-end chains and larger local brands? And where are retail startups meant to live in this city if they aren’t funded by trust funds or a wealthy spouse?
Oilar doesn’t believe her landlord is invested in the Short North as a community, but she understands that it’s his business, so naturally, he’s thinking of his bottom line.
“I’m not mad at anyone. I’m just sad that we couldn’t weather the storm,” she explained. “With the rent increase and the sidewalk project, I can’t financially do both.”
Larger names in the area are able to deal with construction and rent increases. Places like Cameron Mitchell have a handful of restaurants in the area, making it easier to tolerate construction projects that impact sales.
“You can’t compare a multi-million dollar corporation to a single, female owned business,” said Oilar. “I can’t weather that rent increase that they could. I don’t have ten other restaurants to weather that.”
That doesn’t make Three Dog Bakery a badly planned business or any less valuable to the community. Of course, some would argue that Oilar should seek out more affordable locations, such as up and coming neighborhoods like Franklinton. But even areas like that come with an expiration date for small businesses.
Franklinton is on the fast track to gentrification. Small businesses who are building the community there now, may be facing the same situation Oilar is ten years down the road. In Columbus, you hear the usual suspects, from large corporations to city council, going over well-trodden ground when they highlight the importance of small business and the effect they have on our neighborhoods
But at the rate we’re going, everything that makes Columbus what it is will be replaced by large chains and expensive apartments and condos. How do we encourage small businesses to invest in their neighborhoods if after all of their risk taking, long hours, and hard work, we reward them by pricing them out?
“It’s hard. I really felt like I put a lot into building the community, and it’s hard to leave it,” said Oilar. “This is where I love. I live here now, I moved here after opening my business and invested. It’s hard to just pick up and move. I love it here.”
Three Dog Bakery will officially close its doors on January 31. Until then, Oilar will remain open, spending time with her regulars and selling delicious treats to doggos in the community and around the city.
“I just want people to know that I love this neighborhood,” she said. “I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss every day coming to work. I love the dogs.”