In September 2020, I followed a dream and opened The Little Light Collective, a vintage co-op at 3041 Indianola Ave. in Clintonville. My business is not just my dream, but the collective dreams of more than 35 other women.
All these women share my space and sell their vintage treasures, handmade goods, and curated clothing and housewares.
My business is about supporting and uplifting these women.
With a focus on antiques and secondhand treasures, we help reduce waste for the better of our earth. With space to gather, we help people connect, and with classes and events, we encourage creativity and community. With the addition of pop-ups and local artist features, we support and promote others.
Starting a business during the pandemic was difficult. During the height of the pandemic, I employed strict COVID-19 protocols, including a limit on the number of people allowed in the store at any given time and enforcing mask mandates.
Navigating the pandemic isn’t easy but supporting both customers and vendors is our top priority. Now, I am extremely worried. Should city officials get their way and decimate parking along Indianola Avenue, we will experience another setback— and this one will be permanent.
Indianola businesses supported and agreed to the bike lane configuration the City of Columbus proposed as Option 4, which preserves parking on both sides of Indianola in the business district, even though parking is reduced by 50% along the entire Indianola corridor.
It is important to note that consultants hired by the city said this much removal of parking places an “unacceptable burden” on local businesses.
The Option 4 plan agreement included me as a business owner, an area resident and someone who bikes in the area. The plan is a solution that achieves a bike lane and still preserves parking on both sides along the business section of the corridor.
But at the end of December 2021, without any further discussion or notice to either the businesses or area residents, the City of Columbus changed course. Their plan removes 64% of on-street parking, leaving only 30 spaces near the businesses and no parking on the east side of Indianola Avenue.
This is going to be devastating for many businesses, including mine. Many of my vendors bring in and sell large items, so it’s essential that they be able to park close to the store for at least the time it takes to load their product in or out. Convenient parking is also important to our customers, who expect to be able to park closely in order to load fragile or larger items into their vehicles.
Businesses along this area of Indianola already have some struggle with the existing parking, especially on the weekends when all neighboring businesses are open. If people can’t park near me, I am going to lose customers to other — more convenient — shopping options.
As a resident of the neighborhood, I know how difficult parking can be on our nearby side streets. If the city removes that 64% of on-street parking along Indianola, this is going to force even more cars into the neighborhood — forcing some residents to park further from their homes.
On my own residential street, for example, we do not have sidewalks. When we go for family walks, my husband and I have to push our toddler’s stroller on the street. If more cars are parked along our side streets, this will become more difficult and less safe to do.
Safe, accessible parking is important not only for customers, business owners, and residents, but also for those in our community with limited mobility, including people who use wheelchairs, walkers and canes.
Therefore, I’m asking Columbus leaders to show that they care about independent, small businesses, our patrons, and neighbors. This affects real-life people whose storefronts are their livelihood, not to mention the huge risk we business owners have shouldered during such an unprecedented time.
I’m simply asking for city officials to please consider how this current plan will affect not only us, but our shoppers, neighbors, and community. Please return to the earlier compromise and plan we all agreed upon.
April Rhodes is the owner of The Little Light Collective in Clintonville, where she also resides.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Opinion: Will reducing parking on Indianola Avenue affect businesses?