The Trending Issue

A – Activism

Hey, what can we say? It’s a weird world out there right now, and Columbus, long a haven for active progressives has spent 2017 taking to the streets in Trump’s America. Whether it’s to march for women’s rights, immigration law, or to protest police brutality, the city is using its collective voice. What used to be the occasional gathering at the Statehouse has now turned into a common sight—simultaneously a sign of democracy and unrest at work.

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B – Brunch

Thinking about opening a restaurant? A dive bar? A retail store? Well, you better be thinking about a brunch menu. Yes, pretty much every place—or it seems like it—rolls out that special menu on the weekends, inviting you to come as you are and stay as long as you like. Chicken wings? Craft cocktails? German sausage? Pretty much anything goes in the competitive culinary market, where it’s an active arms race to compete for your hangover dollars. We ain’t mad.

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C – Craft

It describes our beer. Our cocktails. Our outlaws. As we continue to shed our test market rep, Columbus is full of folks putting real thought and effort into what they put out. Plus, it doesn’t make us cringe nearly as much as “artisanal.” For now.

D – Development

Columbus Hits Puberty, Still Very Awkward. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, it’s likely that someone has already purchased your rock and is turning it into a mixed-used 5-10 story building. Yes, we simply could not go without mentioning Columbus’s building boner right now—this city has the hots for development like Helga Pataki has the lady sweats for Arnold—and boy howdy is it a trend—one that’ll shape the way Columbus is seen and explored forever. It’s the biggest and most immediately noticeable trend we have (outside of downtown taco bars). You see, Columbus is a relatively young city, and that makes the development all the more striking; it seems like a near constant influx of building, demolition, and “reinvigorating” areas to bring in more foot traffic, only to redevelop those things. Especially when you look at already established cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland. If Mufasa were here, this is what he’d call the “Circle of Life,” but he’s not, so we’re just left to watch and watch as White Castles are torn down and then rebuilt ad infinitum.

This is the alpha trend in Columbus, where everything begins and ends because, without development, boutiques and niche shops vanish. Small, strange, and often mind-boggling restaurant concepts go kaput, and all we’re left with is boring, vibrant fields (or just areas the city has deemed “neglected”).

First, the big one—the Scioto Peninsula, where the CDDC and its public-private partners are investing more than $220 million to revitalize 79 acres in and around the plot in “an activated and engaged cultural and parkland district.” This is going to be the largest development Columbus has seen in its modern era.

After that, we’ve got big changes to the North Market. The city has officially whittled their redevelopment proposals down to three, two of which propose the North Market surface area parking lot become a multi-use skyscraper (or if your definition of ‘skyscraper’ is strict, a much, much, much taller building).

Finally, we have the most recent announcement (unless something else was announced before we printed this, which is possible): River & Rich. Scheduled to break ground in early April, this Franklinton development will bring 230 apartments, 25,000-square-feet of bottom floor retail, a 292-car garage, three-story buildings with garden and townhouse-style residential apartments as well as five-story buildings with flat-style apartments above ground-floor retail. Essentially, the whole area is going to change drastically with rents skyrocketing, within the range of $959 to $1,999.

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E – Electric Cars

Yeah, electric cars have been around for a minute now, but our city will soon become the epicenter for the ones you don’t even have to drive! Okay, it’s not exactly Doc Brown-type stuff, but we still think it’s pretty damn cool that, thanks to the city winning a $50 million transportation grant, we’re gonna look a little bit more future-y in the near-future. Plus, with the recent launch of Hopper Carts, a free local ride-sharing concept, you’ll be able to hop around the city with a light footprint—environmentally and fiscally.

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F – Festivals

Just about anything you want to celebrate in this city, there’s now a festival for it. Presumably taking their respective leads from the enterprising folks at Independents’ Day, who grew a movement from Gay Street concrete a decade ago, locals are putting up their own creative tent stakes. We’ve had Snow Days and Sick Weekends. This spring we’re going to have a Flyover Fest (5.11-13), a music/literature/film event put on by indie publishing house Two Dollar Radio. This summer (6.3) we’ll have Chicken and Beer, an event dedicated to, you know, two of the best things in the world.

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G – Gaming

Columbus loves old-school games. And we’re not just talking about 16-Bit. Think even more old-school. Those unaccustomed with the tabletop gaming trend typically assume it’s a bunch of folks who enjoy playing Monopoly for eight hours straight. (Hint: no one enjoys that.) It is these type of repetitive, luck-based board games that have given the tabletop trend a bad rep because, let’s be honest, rolling around a board for hours on end is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Fortunately, ever since the game Settlers of Catan hit it big with American audiences, Euro game developers have zeroed in on a shiny new market. For years, the likes of the Soldiery, Ravenstone Games, and the Guard Tower have been our go-to retail shops for picking up our favorite hard-to-get board games, but as of last year, the “boardgame bar” concept finally arrived in Columbus. Shops like Kingsmakers in the Short North and Tabletop Game Cafe in Clintonville stock their shelves with a catalog of fun and engaging board games to try for free. Just whatever you do, don’t lose any of the pieces or spill your drink into the box because, if you do everyone loses.

– Danny Hamen

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H — Healthier Options

Between MRE’s veteran-owned and operated Paleo/Gluten-free friendly meal prep startup that aims to meet your nutritional goals, and speedy, sustainable places like Acre expanding, you’re running out of excuses not to eat yourself into tip-top ship-shape. The once yearly descent of hardbodies on the capital city for the Arnold has put a root down. No longer will Columbus be known for ranch dressing and the Thurmanator. We are now a place of triathlons, raw food, and qualifying races. Any eatery worth its (low-sodium) salt in this town has meals on the menu that would make your trainer proud, and it’s no longer a niche market. Everywhere from burger joints to taco trucks are recognizing that the trend is pointing toward clean eating right alongside our favorite cheat meals. Once the domain of bodybuilders and semi-professional athletes, it’s not uncommon these days to see social media posts featuring a week’s worth of clean eating on the feeds of the guy who sits at the desk next to you and your cousin that used to sell Mary Kay. Hold onto your quinoa and prepare to get lapped.

(We were just kidding; ranch dressing and Thurmanator. This is still the Midwest. Please don’t leave us.) – Jeni Ruisch

I – Improv

Ahh, improv: the high-flying tightrope of live comedy. With no safety net of script or structure, it’s about as scary as it gets, and we’re gonna be honest: when it’s bad—it’s really damn bad. That’s why we’ve been excited to see Columbus keep the trend on the plus side of the meter. Columbus Tool & Die used to be the top troupe in town, the veterans at MadLab kept the form alive and breathing for years, and there was (and is) 8th Floor Improv on campus, whose alums now litter the Chicago scene. Building on that, there’s a brand-new crop of performers in the city damn good at making shit up. Hashtag’s unique approach includes non-actors as guest stars from the community and live musicals, and Nest Theatre landing in Columbus has given locals a product steeped in Second City training.

J – Jackets

As in Blue. Formerly the hockey-team-that-couldn’t now doesn’t need any other descriptor—it’s just Jackets, as in the best sports team in the city this year. For a franchise that often saw the postseason far off on the horizon, the CBJ and their tough-talking coach, John Tortorella, have set a new standard for fans. Not satisfied with one of the NHL’s longest-ever winning streaks and clinching their third playoff berth, the Jackets could still end the season with the President’s Cup, given to the squad who finishes the season with the best record. OF ALL THE TEAMS! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

K – Karaoke

We know. Karaoke at first glance may seem like an unremarkable trend, as it is as popular in Columbus as it is in San Francisco or Tokyo. But what gives Columbus its edge is our wealth of karaoke options—a Sunday through Saturday event brought to you by a variety of colorful Columbus locals who are more than likely underpaid and overworked. It just warms our hearts that no matter what day it is, we are able to find someone to play the haunting melody of Chris Isaak’s  Wicked Game for us to croon over. We are looking at you Excess Karaoke and One More Round for leading the pack. Bonus points for Parker Paul and his unique brand of live band karoake.

L – Lists!

Columbus does love a good list, doesn’t they? Now that we can be validated in the notion that we’re the Best City to Eat a Donut in a Vegan-Friendly Dive Bar, we probably should retire the premise. It’s just lazy journalism.

M – Movie Industry

Film for film’s sake often shares the same fate as art for art’s sake. Until someone agrees to finance and feature the work, it’s just an idea no one ever sees.

That’s been the rub in Columbus and other wannabe film cities for decades. Despite what filmmakers and filmgoers may want, there never seemed to be more than grand plans with no ground game and egos without execution. Movies are made by middlemen—and women, though too few. (But that’s another rant.) Financing isn’t an afterthought. It binds the whole production process together from inspiration to exhibition.

That’s why Columbus needs Keida Mascaro, a producer who produces.

“People often confuse the production of film with the business of film,” explained Mascaro, whose upcoming genre feature is scheduled to start shooting in May. “You can make all the films you want. But if you can’t get those films distributed, you’re just burning your investors.”

Mascaro found frequent faults in the way many local filmmakers pitch projects. Instead, he starts the conversation with potential investors by comparing making a film to launching a startup.

“We have a startup culture in Columbus. People understand what that means,” he said. “When you open with ‘film,’ investors equate that to art. But investors and patrons aren’t the same. They aren’t donors or collectors. Investors want to see a return.”

This insight prompted a small dinner party last year—at least “small” was the plan. Mascaro invited some local film folks and prospective investors to his place for a casual conversation over dinner. He hoped a handful would attend.

Word got out and more than 70 people RSVPed. Even Mayor Michael Coleman showed up, and he wasn’t even on the guest list. Columbus is still hungry for a real film industry. “The distribution model has decentralized. It used to be a bottleneck where to get from conception to delivery, everyone had to go through these very tight channels,” he said. “With the advent of streaming—specifically the Netflix model—there are many more ways to get your project distributed. It’s a producers market.”

Minus mountain peaks and sandy beaches, Ohio’s topography offers filmmakers regional looks unique from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other established motion picture backdrops. But Columbus also holds its own when it comes to gritty, urban exteriors, as seen in John Travolta’s recent (albeit limited) release, I Am Wrath. Though generous tax credits help, Mascaro admits the challenge now is to build on that experience and exposure.

“When we premiere our film, people are going to see major actors in places they know. But, they’ll see them in a cinematic way they haven’t before,” he said. “They’re going to see it in a theater; they’re going to see it on Netflix.”

“You’ll see that local fingerprint on this film, and the next film we’re shooting this summer. But it’s more than just a couple of features,” Mascaro explained. “It’s about creating an industry here where everyone comes together. It’s a barn raising.” – J.R. McMillan

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N – Nostalgia

While parts of the city’s development tend to run from its past—man, we used to hate keeping buildings around didn’t we?—there is now a renewed interest from the city’s prideful populace in its hometown history. Ohio State Press has been on a brilliant run, publishing books on James Thurber, Poindexter Village, and, in what is just as nerdy, but way more interesting than it sounds, the way water shaped our young city.

O – On-Demand Delivery

Guys. You can order booze on Amazon and have it at your door in two hours.

P – Podcasting

One thing that sticks out about 21st-century entertainment is that we have more options than ever—gone are the days where we plan our schedule around ABC’s primetime lineup and our bathroom breaks during the commercials. Streaming has become the dominant method of entertainment access, meaning we get to watch exactly what we want, when we want. And not surprisingly, this trend is mirrored by the insurgence of the podcast—a form of streaming radio that can be accessed anytime, anywhere…from on the train to on the toilet. But what makes podcasts especially unique is that there is no barrier to entry.

“They are kind of all over the map—from very low quality, two-guys-with-a-microphone-in-their-basement to high production NPR audio dramas. Believe me, if I could do it, anybody can.”

That’s Eric Zimmer, one of the hosts of The One You Feed, a Columbus-based podcast about how we create a life worth living and what that means. Three years ago, Zimmer followed his curiosities by hosting authors, psychologists, musicians, spiritual teachers, and philosophers in his home to understand what this question means to them. Today, he and his audio engineer partner Chris Forbes have up to 400,000 downloads per month, creating an unintentionally lucrative career for the pair.

However, with accessibility comes competition, as every day more and more network podcasts clutter the airwaves, making it harder for local podcasters to get off the ground.

“I am astounded everyday. I am thrilled that we are able to hold our own with how many podcasts are coming in, and how many famous people are doing podcasts. There is a little bit of a risk at this point of it losing its independence, but I don’t think it will ever go away.”

When I spoke to Zimmer, he was in San Francisco tracking down the host of Sleep With Me, a podcast designed to put you to sleep. “A lulling, droning, boring bedtime story to distract your racing mind,” reads the website’s header.

“The guy manages to be just boring enough to get your attention, so you stop thinking about what you were thinking about, but boring enough so you fall asleep,” said Zimmer. “It is a bizarre kind of genius.”

It is that kind of bizarre genius that makes the podcasts phenomenon so unique-—that there is a podcast designed for every subject matter imaginable. Want to tune into 24 dudes talking about fantasy football? There’s a podcast for that (League is Life). Want to learn about idiosyncrasies of professional wrestling (Mundane Nights), craft beer (The Beer-Monger Sessions Radio Show), True Crime (True Crime Garage), and weird state history (Ohio v. the World)? You will be happy to know that all of these are out of Columbus, demonstrating that you don’t have to look very far to find a podcast that is right for you. At all times, there is someone, somewhere out there with a microphone and Internet connection ready to fill up your brain with useful (or useless) knowledge about whatever you are into. And that is a testament to the zeitgeist of our times—the accessibility of information and the tremendous power of options.

– Danny Hamen

Q – Quitting

You heard us: it’s a trend. Quitting booze. Quitting your soul-sucking corporate job. Quitting the worry that people don’t give Columbus enough credit. Embrace it. It feels good.

R – Record Stores

The record store revival is hardly new or newsworthy. In fact, the record industry just had its best year since the first time a Clinton ran for president 25 years ago. Hell, they even outsold digital downloads. True story.

But don’t expect to see the return of Towers Records or another such superstore emerge. Those sales reflect not only a shift in audio sensibilities but the evolution of the record store itself into curated collections of eclectic and esoteric stacks of wax waiting to be discovered.

“We do a lot of special orders. I think with social media, you’re able to directly ask people what they want,” explained Brett Ruland, owner of Spoonful Records on East Long Street. “You can just text them or Facebook them when it’s in. No one answers calls anymore.”

Long time audiophiles aren’t the only ones lining up on Record Store Day (April 22), the once obscure pilgrimage that’s become an annual, nationwide release party. It’s now a generational event—a common bond shared throughout the year.

“The best thing for me is when a mom is in getting her daughter a gift and I can see all of the bands on her list,” he noted. “If I haven’t heard of them, I know I need to check them out to see if they have any vinyl I should have in stock.”

But the shift to younger listeners and newer bands isn’t the only trend Ruland has seen. It’s a passionate pursuit for artful artifacts by casual collectors and affectionate amateurs from far beyond the outerbelt.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed folks coming to Columbus on little record road trips. We’ve even organized a Columbus Record Store Crawl every October where folks try to hit as many stores as they can in one day,” Ruland revealed. “We were surprised by how may people came in from out of town—towns that maybe didn’t have a record store anymore, and they come here and find a dozen.”

Like most collectibles, condition counts. So buying vinyl online isn’t like buying a bestselling book or blockbuster movie that’s brand new. You have to hear an album first and in the flesh.

“We have folks from the Convention Center who always come through—definitely from ComicCon,” he noted. “But even for hockey games, we get people from Canada or New York who come in. I’m still surprised by how many hockey fans are into vinyl. Maybe it’s the nostalgia for the game and format.”

“There’s definitely a film connection. One of the guys from the Wexner came through with the director of Aquarius, a Brazilian film about a retired music critic surrounded by her record collection,” Ruland recalled. “There’s also a silent film convention at the Renaissance every year. That’s always a huge draw.”

– J.R. McMillan

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S – Socially Conscious Business

Socially conscious companies are everywhere—or are they?

It’s a corporate claim that’s difficult to prove and impossible to enforce. Perhaps that’s by design. Every HR poll attempting to ascertain which attributes employees value most throws “socially conscious” into the mix and shade on any organization that isn’t.

But with so many industries fueling conspicuous consumption, surely being socially conscious has to mean more than just bike racks and recycling bins.

“When I went into labor five weeks early, I was life-flighted to the hospital, and my son spent the first 13 days in the NICU,” recalled Heather Whaling, founder and president of Geben Communication. “During that time, I was singularly focused on what I needed to do to get him healthy enough to bring him home.”

“I never had to worry about getting paid for the time I was out of the office, or whether I had a job to come back to because I was the boss,” she explained. “That helped crystallize the importance of paid leave to me. It’s stressful enough becoming a new parent, and I can’t imagine doing that with the added burden of worrying about whether or not you still have a job or if you’re going to get paid.”

Instead of letting this realization fade, Whaling’s epiphany became a company policy. Geben Communication offers 10 weeks of paid leave to new parents—whether they give birth or adopt.

“It was important to me to create a policy that includes moms and dads. A lot of policies cover moms only,” she noted. “My belief is that if your policy provides leave for moms, but not dads, you’re reinforcing an antiquated gender norm that mom is the caregiver and dad’s career is more important. No company of mine was going to do that.”

Whaling credits the policy with the firm’s ability to recruit and retain top talent—employees who have ambitious career goals but also want to have families. Geben Communication also encourages contribution to the local community, providing up to 30 hours of paid time for every employee to volunteer or provide pro bono work to causes that matter to them.

“We’re focused on creating a place of employment that is flexible and supportive, one that recognizes our employees have lives outside the office. As an employer, I want to help my employees pursue those priorities,” she said. “Whether that’s getting involved in an organization, serving on a committee or board, or being a more attentive parent, work-life balance allows them to be their best selves in the office.”

The company’s “Give More, Grow More” initiative also celebrates service with Kiva credits, allowing employees to support an aspiring entrepreneur through Kiva’s online micro-lending platform. Whaling has been a trustee with Kiva Columbus since before their local launch and an outspoken ambassador for the program.

“It’s been an interesting evolution. It’s definitely affected our business development because clients are very attracted to our culture,” Whaling revealed. “Investing in your people isn’t a cost—I see it as a true investment.”

– J.R. McMillan

T – Tiny Living

F*ck it, right? You don’t need all that stuff anyway. Of course, in a city where rent is rising and floor plans are shrinking, many are embracing the less-is-more lifestyle. Downtown micro apartments are filling up faster than they can lay drywall, and companies like Tiny Modern Living are creating off-the-grid custom abodes for those that embrace the off-and-the-grid existence. Just try not to get ketchup on your record player.

U – Upscale Barber Shops

It seems like just yesterday that dudes barely gave a damn about the way they looked. Not in 2017 Columbus. Following the luxury trend that seems to trail just about any new concept these days, Columbus has become an all-of-a-sudden hotbed for guys seeking more than just a hot shave. Holy Moses in Grandview was the leader, opening last spring, with Bates and Brown (Bethel Road) and Goodfellows Tonsorial Parlor putting chairs down in German Village last fall. And you know when Charles Penzone gets in the game (their Royal Rhino Club will open later this year in Italian Village), we’ve reached full-tilt trend. Some joints you can sip a cocktail, some you can shoot some pool, all while getting a facial, scalp treatment, and even aromatherapy! Congratulations dudes: you’ve gone from boys to men.

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V – Virtual Reality

And you thought it was just for people seeking neXXXt level thrills. The nascent technology is already being embraced and adapted by companies in Columbus, from Grant Medical’s 360-degree immersive trauma training to Multivarious Games’, the augmented reality game development out of their new Idea Foundry office. We’re also be able to claim one of VR’s modern viral heroes, Tim Donahey, who is setting up his ATG Studios after famously losing 15 pounds in 50 days just doing virtual workouts. Maybe we’ll make another list: VR Capital of the World!

W – Westerville

Welcome to Westerville: Now With Booze (and Ikea)! Once known nationwide as the birthplace of the Tolerance Movement and its anti-saloon stance, the sleepy suburb has been transformed by a swirl of development. In the few years since the area “un-dried” itself, Uptown has developed a new face. Temperance Row Brewing and its accompanying deli were just the start, as it led to other new spots like 8 State Bistro (in the old local movie theater) and the upscale Asterisk Supper Club. Oh, and the BIG news: the new IKEA location, opening this summer. This is all upside for Westerville and only bad news for West Chester, who just lost millions in traveling revenue for cap city kids with a lust for affordable home goods.

X – X-Pats

Look, there are not many words that start with X, let along things that are trending, so we’re just gonna use this space to salute the long-lost Columbus kids that have found their way back home—and to pat ourselves on the back for sprucing the place up while you were gone. Sorry about the City Center, but there’s a lot better beer here than there used to be, and the river isn’t poisoned! You’re welcome (back).

Y – Youth Entrepreneurs

Te’Lario Watkins II is a tiny tycoon. Beginning with a cub scout project centered around planting seeds and watching them germinate, he began a journey into cultivation that grew to include home-grown mushrooms that he sells fresh and dried at local markets around central Ohio. Using his family home as his office and indoor grow operation, Te’Lario runs a tight ship. Adorable and gregarious, the elementary schooler is charming his way through the talk show circuit as he hawks his fungal wares. When I was 10, my parents were still trying to teach me not to kick boys on the playground. This little dude’s got a five-year plan and a solid business model. He told Steve Harvey he wants to be a zillionaire, and doggone it, he might just grow into that title. – Jeni Ruisch

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Z – Zoo

We tried to find something to place here, because after all—EVERYONE knows about the best zoo in America. But then again, when you’re best, you’re always on-trend. The sad passing of Colo, the world’s first gorilla born in captivity, was a reminder of just how impactful the zoo has been in its field, and weeks later they shattered their attendance record, proving just how beloved it is for the folks here at home.