Oct. 3—A string of businesses have opened their doors in downtown Bellbrook as the city has overhauled its approach to attracting economic development.
Several new businesses, including Outside the Box Art Studio, Realty One, Sweetheart's Goodies, Sugarcreek Photography Gallery, and the Crafter's Lodge, have opened their doors in downtown Bellbrook within the last 12 months.
Victoria Bauer, who owns and operates Heavenly Hair in Bellbrook, opened her salon in January.
"I looked for a salon in Bellbrook probably for the past five to six years, and just never found a place that I truly loved," she said. "I just took the leap of faith and did it."
Bauer, whose salon is located in Bellbrook Plaza off of North West Street, said that her decision to open in Bellbrook was supported by family and friends.
"It was a pretty easy decision," she said. "I was across from the Greene for a long time. It was just busy and I just liked the feeling of being in a small town."
The rush of new businesses, mainly in food and retail, comes as the city is changing its approach to economic development. Council member Ernie Havens said that he had fielded comments from residents and visitors saying that downtown Bellbrook was wasting its potential to be a hub for people to enjoy.
"It seemed like there was a lot of pent up energy in that direction. It made us wake up to the opportunity that we have that seems to be dying on the vine," Havens said.
Part of that cultivation involved an attitude switch from city leadership, in addition to rewriting policies to be more welcoming to enterprise, Havens said. Bellbrook recently rewrote its property maintenance codes, and city council recently voted to allow the sale of alcohol in Bellbrock Park during special events.
In September, Bellbrook also voted to create a Community Improvement Corporation for the city, the sole purpose of which is to further Bellbrook's economic development. Bellbrook has long been looking to create a CIC, Havens said, to find and curate businesses for the downtown area. One of the goals of the organization may be identifying empty or underutilized city-owned buildings in downtown Bellbrook, and turning them over to the CIC for economic development, Havens said.
"We're not doing this to put Bellbrook on the map. That's not the point. We're doing this to create a downtown for our residents to enjoy," Havens said.