Small business survives 60 years of downtown changes
COLUMBIA - Over the last few years Columbia residents have seen the heart of downtown grow upwards. High-rise apartments have become a staple of the downtown atmosphere as more luxury student apartments are built each year.
With this increase, many small businesses are forced out of their original locations and in some cases forced to move out of downtown completely.
One man’s family business has evaded the ever-changing landscape for over 60 years. Bob Wood is the owner of Dawson Shoe Repair on 8th Street in downtown Columbia. Since 1956, the Wood family has been sole owners of the shop, passing it down from father to son and son to grandson.
Originally one of nine shoe repair shops in Columbia, Dawson Shoe Repair now remains the only such establishment in the entire city. Wood says the success is due to the good values his shop prides itself on.
“We try to treat customers how we want to be treated, you know the golden rule. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you,” said Wood.
Wood says the values his father and grandfather instilled in him are ones that he hopes to pass down to his son when the time comes. Wood added that these values are what have kept his business going for all these years.
“You know I am of the belief that I don’t pay my bills, the customers pay my bills,” said Wood.
Wood said he knows the sustained success in Columbia is no small feat, and he hopes he can continue to serve the city for many years to come.
“The thing that scares me more than anything else you know is all these high rises that are being built, and you know is that going to displace me, is that going to move me out again? I hope not,” said Wood.
While Dawson Shoe Repair has been relocated 6 times to different spots in the downtown area, some small businesses aren’t that lucky.
Barnhouse Crazy Music was once located on the corner of 8th and Locust, but because of high-rise apartments is now in the Parkade Center on Business Loop 70.
“It’s just a cultural shift, it used to be a sunny downtown, you know, one level sun hits all areas and now you’re seeing big buildings sort of blocking that out,” said Bill Barnhouse, the owner of Barnhouse Crazy Music.
Barnhouse said there are pros and cons of both locations but hopes that the downtown businesses start to explode out toward where he is located. Barnhouse said his store is about word of mouth, so customer satisfaction is vital.
“I like things to stay the same, I do. I like the old Columbia, the older the better and I like a small town feel,” said Barnhouse.
Wood echoes Barnhouse’s opinions about how Columbia is evolving.
“I’d be out of business if I spent money the way the city does,” said Wood.
Because city leaders have extended a freeze on new construction until March 2017, businesses in downtown Columbia likely won't have to worry about relocation for some time.
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