Upper Arlington’s Tremont Center is a popular spot in the center of the city, a hub for a variety of restaurants, shopping and services. Two of its tenants —a relative newcomer and an old favorite — are the most recent recipients of UA Community Foundation Good Neighbor Small Business Grants.
Chef-O-Nette, Tremont Center’s iconic diner, is a favorite place to get a cherry Coke, fries, and its signature Hangover burger. Just a few doors to the west is UA Fitness, a place you can go to work off those indulgences. These local businesses, nestled among the homes and schools of the Tremont neighborhood, are just as much part of the community as the families living around them.
“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, both businesses have had to change the way they operate and have experienced real disruption,” says UA Community Foundation Executive Director Tracy Harbold. “The Good Neighbor grants are helping each get through difficult times.”
“What wonderful support the community is showing us,” says Chef-O-Nette owner Harlan Howard. Randy Clinger of UA Fitness agrees: “The support from the community and members at large has been great,” he says.
The foundation recently expanded the reach of the Good Neighbor Fund from struggling families to small businesses in UA experiencing hardships during the pandemic. Here’s a look at how the Good Neighbor Fund helped each business.
From its corner spot in Tremont Center, Chef-O-Nette has been a fixture in UA since 1955, and Howard’s family has owned and operated it since 1970. Howard took over the business when his father retired in 1993. He remembers the conversation going something like this: “My father said, ‘I’m gonna sell it — are you gonna buy it?’”
Ohio’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on restaurants diminished the number of customers Howard’s business is serving. And customers are the heart and soul of Chef-O-Nette; over the past 50 years, Howard has seen generations of UA residents come and go — as diners and part-time staff. “It’s been so fun to watch,” Howard says.
“I’ve been told I’m not going anywhere and, by golly, I didn’t,” Howard jokes. He’s using the money from the Good Neighbor Fund to pay his bills for a month. When asked how he heard about the grant assistance, he said a friend told him after her husband applied for it. “You feel like you’re battling it on your own sometimes,” he says. “It’s such a great thing they’re doing. It’s so kind.”
At about 9,000 square feet, UA Fitness is a boutique gym with a tight-knit group of trainers and members. Unlike some small businesses that were allowed to operate in some capacity, UA Fitness was restricted from allowing any members into the facility.
“We’re working online and through live classes, but for true fitness we need to be open,” says Clinger. He hopes they’ll resume business soon. “It’s critical that when we are allowed to open up again full-time that we are not in a deep financial hole.”
Thanks to the grant assistance from UA Community Foundation, Clinger and UA Fitness have found some relief. “The review committee knew of the pressing need,” says Clinger. “They’re paying a huge chunk of our operating bills for the month.It could mean the difference in not being able to open the doors again. It’s a huge help.” Clinger says it may take time to gain back what they’ve lost, but thankfully they have a solid and loyal membership base. He is adopting new cleaning standards and will have a temperature gauge to help ensure member safety.
Clinger says his partner heard about the Good Neighbor Fund from one of their neighbors in the Tremont Center—Tim Moretti, owner of Moretti’s of Arlington. “Small businesses are the heart and soul of America,” he says. “America is at its best when our creativity and hard work shine for everyone to see and try.”
“It is wonderful to see people like Tracy and the foundation stepping up in the toughest of times and showing their true colors as the most wonderful and caring of people,” Clinger says. “Those are the stories we should celebrate as a community.”