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J. Gumbo’s Celebrates Five Years on Gay Street

Ayana Wilson Ayana Wilson J. Gumbo’s Celebrates Five Years on Gay Street
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There are many reasons to go into business for yourself: the freedom to make your own hours, financial flexibility, the autonomy that comes with self-ownership and accountability.

For Chad McCoury, opening his own business was a chance to give something back, an opportunity to help build a community. He wanted to pay forward the support he himself had received from his home neighborhood of Harrison West, and saw Gay Street as the perfect means.

Only five short years ago, Gay Street was not what it is today. Instead of being a collection of small businesses working in tandem to uplift and feed the downtown community, it was disjointed in its flux and transition. 

“I fell in love with Gay Street, and everything that the businesses here were trying to accomplish,” shares McCoury. “Lots of people kept saying, ‘open in the suburbs, better guarantee’, but I felt this was the right neighborhood to help build the kind of community I wanted to invest in.”

The previous CEO of the Columbus AIDS Task Force, McCoury was ready for more fun, and a slower, less-stressed pace than he was used to. The chance to invest in J. Gumbo’s came at an opportune moment, and offered everything he was seeking.

J. Gumbo’s, in 2009, was not a franchise business, and, in fact, the downtown branch, located at 31 East Gay Street, is not run like a franchise either. It’s more like a co-op, where brand support and services are available, but the business is completely McCoury’s.

It’s the main reason support for J. Gumbo’s has been so consistent over the last five years. The downtown community understands that this is still a locally-owned, locally-run small business, like Plantain Café or Due Amici.

McCoury has been unwavering in his commitment as well. He was instrumental in launching the Gay Street Collaborative, and has invested in the revitalization of Pearl Alley. J. Gumbo’s also serves in Nationwide’s cafeteria three days a week, and regularly participates in The Moonlight Market.

And McCoury has no plans to stop. In the next five years, expect very little to change with J. Gumbo’s. Their pleasant staff hope to still be serving delicious lunches and dinners six days a week, while continuing to stay relevant and just-so-ever-slightly ahead of the curve.

There are no plans to have J. Gumbo’s leave Gay Street, but McCoury will consider adding more stores if that’s what the market demands and can accommodate. McCoury believes it’s possible to have a united, no-vacancies Gay Street in the near future as long as the community continues to grow.

“Columbus is such a wonderful city. People know our intent and understand that we’re here to do more for the neighborhood,” adds McCoury. “We on Gay Street are all community partners, not competition, and that’s how we continue to make the area attractive.”

J. Gumbo’s Downtown officially turns five on Monday, July 14th. To commemorate the event, all Big Bowl Entrées will be just $2.99 all day long. There will also be prize giveaways, Abita beer specials, beads, live music, and more.

To show your love and wish J. Gumbo’s a Happy Birthday, visit their facebook page, www.facebook.com/jgumboscolumbusohio.

Photo by Ayana Wilson.

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