Photo Gallery: North Columbia Business Association kicks off National Small Business Week
Shops and businesses opened Monday along North Main Streetto kick off National Small Business Week in Columbia. It was a “Famously Hot” morning with temperatures headed toward the 90s as members of the North Columbia Business Association and Columbia Councilmen Brian Newman and Sam Davis gathered at Vino Garage to launch the week-long celebration of small businesses.
“Small business is one of the most powerful engines in this community,” said North Columbia Business Association President Veronica Rodriguez. “A dollar spent locally reverberates over and over in this community.”
The business association, along with the city of Columbia, Richland County and the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, are hosting meet-and-greets, workshops and a conference to introduce the small business community to residents and offer tools to improve business.
The North Columbia Business Association is working to increase its presence in Columbia to bring attention to the neighborhoods along Beltline Boulevard, North Main Street, and Fairfield and Farrow roads.
“North Columbia is on the rise and is becoming one of the foremost places in Columbia,” said Tommy Burkette, past-president of the business association and membership recruitment chair.
The business association will highlight a business each day this week to encourage residents to visit and support the owners. Doug Aylard, owner of Vino Garage, said National Small Business Week highlights the efforts of intrepid entrepreneurs who often see the potential of a community long before large corporations set foot in them.
“Small businesses take the first risk when they come into underserved communities like this,” he said. “People like to think that north of Elmwood is on the shady side, but we’re here to tell you that it’s not.”
Aylard started Vino Garage seven years ago after spending years in the beer and wine distribution business. He and his wife, Karen, could not find unique wines, so Aylard decided to open his own shop.
“We carry things you can’t find in other stores,” he said.
As a proprietor, the success of North Columbia is important, not just for Aylard’s business, but for his family. He lives two blocks from his shop in the Cabbagetown neighborhood and says small businesses like his bring more than just economic value.
“They’re the ones who reflect the personality of an area,” he said.
Davis said the city has built partnerships with the North Columbia business community to attract residents to the area and encourage economic development. The Office of Business Opportunities helps small businesses with facade improvement, financial operations and customer interaction.
“The residents and organizations here want to see the city do economic development we’ve seen in other parts of the city,” Davis said. “This area is one of the city’s best kept secrets.”