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Urban Spirit Coffee Shop Celebrates First Year

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Urban Spirit first opened their doors at 893 E. Long Street on February 19th, 2008. Despite a brutal cold snap that day, business was brisk, and the neighborhood quickly embraced this new gathering spot. Owner Charity Martin-Via has seen her fair share of ups and downs over the course of the past year but remains optimistic with her business and flexible with her business plans. The Near East Side is a neighborhood in transition, and Martin-Via describes what sort of mindset it takes to lead the way in being an entrepreneurial pioneer.

Q) Urban Spirit is about to celebrate its one year anniversary. How have things been this first year?

A) The first year has been full of challenges, successes, and learning experiences which try the entrepreneurial spirit. Challenges include two burglaries, a four day power outage, the blizzard of 2009 and sustainability. Successes include creation of an outdoor community jazz night, launch of an urban spirit art scholarship, opening the Urban Spirit Loft Gallery space, development of several civic partnerships, and notable business recognitions. Urban Spirit is pleased serve as an official partner to organizations such as HomePort, The City of Columbus Community Relations Commission, The Columbus Historical Society, The Change Agency, The Ohio Environmental Council, and more.

The Urban Spirit business model is reviewed on a monthly basis to evaluate fiscal strength, goals, and administrative effectiveness.  Numerous adaptations have been made in order to navigate changes in consumer trends and economic shifts.

Life as an entrepreneur forces resiliency.  I am often in a state of self-examination and constantly evaluating my personal and business stamina.  My administrative functioning is high and low level – such that no task is too meaningless. These trying economic times are insensitive to the small business owner and such times require a work ethic and business savvy that I have found challenging yet rewarding.

Q) Yeah, it does sound like a lot of small business owners are struggling right now, so that’s great to hear that you’ve been able to adapt your business plan and remain flexible. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past year is the plethora of special events going on at Urban Spirit. Can you tell us a bit about some of the successful events you’ve hosted in the past year?

A) Some of the events we’ve hosted include:

– Environmental Education sponsored by the Ohio Environmental Council
– Opening Exhibition and Performance by Artist: LaTreice V. Branson
– Community Summer Jazz (Thursday Evenings)
– Saturday Cartoons and Crafts
– Winter Wonderland Cookies, Conversation, and Horseback Rides

Weekly neighborhood events include Tuesday night poetry hosted by Writing Wrongs Poetry

Special guests to the shop in the past year include Hip Hop Mogul Russel Simmons, Black Enterprise C.E.O. Earl Graves, Comedian Andrew Ford, Professional Athlete Mike Doss, Jazz Great Dean Francis, Artist Queen Brooks, Sculptor Omar Shaheed, Artist Pheoris West, and many others.

I have also met, due to co-sponsored events and outreach efforts… President Barack Obama, Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kevin Lyles, Mary J. Blige, and Bruce Springsteen.

Q) Wow! That’s quite an impressive lineup of guests for year one! What about the everyday folks though? How has the neighborhood reception been so far?

A) Community support has been wonderful.  Many of our customers are transit customers from downtown, students, policy leaders, and original residents to the neighborhood.  Without a volume of walking traffic on Long Street right now, patrons must make a substantive effort to visit us.

Q) You mentioned scholarships and partnerships a bit earlier. Can you talk a bit more about the philanthropy side of Urban Spirit?

A) Urban Spirit sponsored a youth athletic league, began a beautification mural, gave an art supply scholarship to a CCAD student, donated product to community outreach organizations, and partnered with local schools in company internships.  Urban Spirit employed 7 area youth during the summer and provided 5 student internships.

Q) Nice. So, what do you have planned for 2009? Any upcoming events to mention?

A) In 2009, Urban Spirit is pleased to present quarterly art exhibits, a lecture series, and its community jazz night.  “The Brush Experience” is every first Saturday.  It is an art mixer where artists can mingle and create individual or collaborative pieces on site.

Q) This last question might be a bit of wild speculation… but what do you envision Long Street around Urban Spirit looking like in another 10 years?

A) Long Street is on its way to large scale revitalization. The “speed” of its revitalization depends on individual investment and the entrepreneurial spirit. The city and community must foster an environment sensitive and conducive to sole proprietorship. Corporate development and venture capitalism must not overshadow the desperate necessity for creative and personal investment.


Urban Spirit Coffee Shop. Ltd. at 893 E. Long St. (the corner of 17th and Long) celebrates its one year anniversary on Thursday February 19, 2009.  Join us Thursday evening in the Urban Spirit Loft Gallery from 8p-11p for the anniversary party where band, Mojoflo plays the night in style! Entrance is only $10. Will call available.

Customer appreciation includes $2 Method Mochas, $1 house brew coffee, and free anniversary posters all day!  Urban Spirit Coffee Shop will unveil its commemorative limited edition anniversary tumbler and t-shirt. Only 50 tumblers and t-shirts are available!  Enjoy our signature drinks and enhanced product line of fresh baked goods. Any patron spending over $20 will receive a free $5 gift card! Thank you for your support and we hope to see you on Thursday February 19th!

For more information, visit www.urban-spirit.com.

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