Columbiana sees influx of new businesses

By LINDA LONG/For the Reporter

COLUMBIANA – There’s nothing happenstance about the influx of new businesses cropping up in Columbiana. Nine new enterprises have opened their doors in just the past six months – the result of “knocking on doors and not waiting for people to come to us,” said Mayor Stancil Handley.

Handley said when he was running for office last fall he made a campaign promise that if elected, he would actively recruit new businesses and light industrial jobs to the city.

“After taking office, one of the first things we did was to hire a marketing coordinator, Helen Dean, and her primary responsibility is to bring new business to Columbiana. She and I both go out and knock on doors. If we get a lead on anyone interested in opening a business, we call them and tell them the advantages of having that business in Columbiana,” he said.

Handley said one of the “sad” things about Columbiana when he took office was that more than half the buildings on Main Street were empty.

“Now we’re getting those doors opened and the buildings filled with some very interesting businesses. We’ve got an antique shop, an outdoors hunting and fishing store, and one of my favorites, the Donut Chef,” he said with a laugh.

Recruiting new business into the city is just the first step toward what Handley hopes will be a thriving downtown and a healthy tax base. The real issue is keeping that business alive and well, which Handley said is an ongoing process. The city assists new businesses in location selection, paperwork and – most importantly – helping them build a customer base.

“People ask me and ask me, ‘What are you going to do about getting some new business in town?’ The thing is we can get 20 new businesses and if we don’t support them, they are not going to stay here,” he said. “The very worst thing that can happen is for someone to open a new business here and stay open a month and close it. That only gives us a black eye and makes it more difficult to recruit someone to come in.”

Handley said he’s encouraged so far by what he is seeing.

“As I’ve talked to new businesses they’re telling me they’re doing as well or better than they expected to do and that makes me happy. It lets me know that our citizens appreciate these new businesses and are supporting them,” he said.

Alan Keef, owner of Alan’s Outdoor on West College Street, has no complaints. He’s been in the Columbiana for “one month and two weeks” after relocating from another location in Shelby County. The store, located on West College Street, sells fishing, hunting and other outdoor gear.

“Business has been good,” he said. This is a good location for getting the traffic headed to the river.”

Charlie Hall, owner of IPT (Industrial Physical Therapy), also said business has been good since he opened about two weeks ago. He decided to settle here because it was the right spot at the right time.

“Columbiana has a reputation as a good medical community,” he said. “There is a dentist who’s had a family practice here for years, and an eye doctor and even a veterinarian. Until recently there had been a long-standing physical therapy practice. When that closed, I felt like it was time to put in another one.”

Other new Columbiana ventures include Peddler’s Creek / Barn Brat, Southern Vape, Angels Choice Boutique, The Wooden Spoon Bakery and Color Outside the Lines, a monogram shop.

But Hadley said there’s more to come.

“We’re actually recruiting outside the state,” he said. “We haven’t struck oil yet, but we will. It’s only a matter of time.”