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The Birth of a Green Corner

Green businesses find a home in Columbia-Tusulum

By tt stern-enzi · April 13th, 2010 · News

Greener Stock is in its infancy and has occupied its space in Columbia-Tusculum for a little more than two months. But the green building supply retailer must develop quickly, a not so simple task for a business born in the middle of a recession.

Believe it or not, architect Heather E. Curless, owner of Greener Stock, saw the economic climate as an opportunity.

“First off,” she says, “a lot of homeowners and business owners are looking for ways to save money from an energy-efficient perspective. Our products like denim insulation and the high efficiency bulbs fit right in with that type of scheme. And then there’s the fact that we’re all trying to re-invent ourselves and our lifestyles.

“My background is architecture, and that part of my business pretty much dried up. So this gave me the chance to branch out and do something I’d been wanting to do but didn’t necessarily have the time and hoping that one will help the other.”

Curless, a South Carolina native, says so many new green products and lifestyle concepts are moving into in the marketplace that it was the right time for her to jump in.

“The timing is right for this movement now because of the focus on energy efficiency issues,” she says. “The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Program — the Green Building Certification program through the U.S. Green Building Council — is getting a lot of steam, especially right now with the city’s tax abatement program being offered to residential and commercial LEED projects. And these are the types of products that people need to implement to meet those qualifications.”

Greener Stock has struggled a bit to find regional products to offer, Curless says, but “the LEED Program recognizes a 500-mile radius and we try to stick to that parameter for regional products, so we do look for the closest option if we have multiples to consider.”

Of course, in this early stage, Curless takes heart when she considers the customer support she’s already received from across the region.

“We have people coming from all over: Northern Kentucky, Indian Hill, Northside, Loveland,” she says. “(The green mentality) is definitely out there, and not just in the urban neighborhoods. We have rural customers who have been engaged in recycling and reclamation for years and have seen the cost benefits. One guy told us, ‘Green is the new cheap.’ ”

‘Doing something important’

Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum but right across the street from Greener Stock, Green Dog Café is the latest restaurant venture from owner/executive chef Mary Swortwood. She and her partner Mark Swortwood started Brown Dog Café in Blue Ash and Tinks in Clifton.

Green Dog business cards announce the cafe as the home of “sustainable, organic, stylish food in a contemporary setting.” It’s a mission statement that Mary embraces completely.

“I knew I wanted to get back into the restaurant business as an owner,” she says. “Before, I had done real high-end fine dining, getting the best ingredients from all over the world, and I did really well. That was more than 10 years ago, but this time I wanted to do something progressive and health-conscious and to support local, to support Cincinnati.

“In terms of the green aspect, I just wanted to be a responsible chef for my community. I think and hope that we’re doing something important by serving the public and the community good wholesome food with local products in a space with building materials from within so many miles in the region. I didn’t know if this would be my last venture, but I wanted to make a responsible statement.”

It’s no coincidence that Green Dog is located in Columbia-Tusculum.

“We got a loan from the city of Cincinnati from the Grow American Fund, partly for our green initiative and for as many jobs as we’ve created in this particular area,” Mary Swortwood says. “We did lots of research and found this neighborhood to rank high in terms of the kind of progressive sensibilities that would embrace the concept of what we wanted to do here, and we also considered the convenience of people coming and going to work along Columbia Parkway, which feeds into so many communities.”

Still, as with Greener Stock, questions surround the decision to start such a venture during these tough economic times, especially a restaurant. Mary thinks she made the right call.

“It’s an expensive venture, a ‘green’ restaurant, but just because the products themselves are more expensive it doesn’t have to be expensive for the customer,” she says. “That’s part of the reason why Green Dog is a casual dining restaurant. I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible would be able to enjoy it.

“We make our money by volume, not necessarily by how much each person spends individually. We’re open lots of hours during the day and between meals so people know we’re available to them and willing to appeal across the board.”


GREENER STOCK: 3528 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia-Tusculum, www.greenerstock.com
GREEN DOG CAFE: 3543 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia-Tusculum, www.greendogcafe.net

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