As High Street construction brings more national chains, coffee shop owners say local businesses have a role to play in maintaining OSU’s history. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Social Media Editor

As construction continues on North High Street, national chains and companies are eyeing locations throughout the off-campus area. However, some local businesses are wary of the changes, worried they might squeeze out fellow Columbus originals.

Mike Heslop, owner of local coffee shop Kafe Kerouac — which is not in the way of any immediate development, such as the 15th and High redevelopment project — says the business has a role to play in maintaining OSU’s history.

“I think locally owned businesses are the thing that gives a neighborhood its vibe and essence,” Heslop said. “When you take that away, you lose that and you go to generic-ness.”

Heslop said he had a dream of adding character to campus when he first opened the cafe near the corner of East Northwood Avenue and High Street in 2004.

“After I graduated in 2000, I thought that the campus was losing its independent coffee bar spaces, in a general sense,” Heslop said. “I saw a void and thought it needed filled.”

Kafe Kerouac sells coffee and alcohol along with records, books and comics — some of which are written and illustrated by local artists.

“We cater a lot to local literature, comedy, music and everything else,” Heslop said.

Heslop said he worries new buildings will lead to higher rents, which might make it difficult for small businesses in the area.

“Do you really want a campus full of Applebee’s and a lack of identity?” Hislop said.

Erin Prosser — director of community development at Campus Partners, which is spearheading the 15th and High redevelopment plan — noted that OSU is only in charge of construction projects on High Street between East 14th and East 16th avenues.

Developments outside of OSU’s control include The Wilson and Wellington buildings. The Wilson building is under construction on the corner of High Street and East Lane Avenue, and plans to hold a White Castle, Chipotle, Starbucks and CoreLife Eatery. The Wellington building, under construction on High Street between East 16th and East 17th avenues, is slated to host a Target and Chick-fil-A.

“Before they tear this stuff down, they should preserve some of the businesses that have been here a long time.” — Jimmy Barouxis, owner, Buckeye Donuts

In the meantime, Campus Partners is reaching out to students and community members for feedback on the potential tenants in between East 14th and East 16th avenues.

“We are in a listening phase, we are collecting that information now and hopefully early 2018 we will have some information on what we found as we communicated with those students and the neighboring community,” Prosser said.

Coleen Thompson, a fourth-year in evolution and ecology who frequents Kafe Kerouac, said she prefers going to locally owned businesses that are involved with the community and contribute to Columbus’ character.

“It shows Columbus’ spirit in small places like (Kafe Kerouac) that are specific to this area,” Thompson said.

Down the street, Buckeye Donuts — also out of the way of any immediate development — has been in the same spot on the corner of East 18th Avenue and High Street since opening in 1969.

It is now operated by Jimmy Barouxis, whose grandfather and father started the shop 48 years ago. Barouxis said he believes Buckeye Donuts is essential to the campus area because of its history.

“Most coffee shops anymore have separate seating, like Starbucks, they don’t have counters like that,” Barouxis said of the restaurant’s diner-like set up. “They have separate seating so people are more private and into their own thing, into their laptops.”

Barouxis said he hopes there will be an effort to preserve small businesses on High Street that contribute to the character of campus.

Construction is underway at The Wellington. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Social Media Editor

“Before they tear this stuff down, they should preserve some of the businesses that have been here a long time,” Barouxis said, noting the bar Too’s Spirits Under High. “They should try to incorporate some of those places.”

Anne Lemieux, a fourth-year in Spanish and speech and hearing science, said she found that locally owned businesses such as Buckeye Donuts create a bigger impression than big chain restaurants.

“When I talk to people who only visited from out of town once or twice, that is the place they remember,” Lemieux said. “Not the McDonald’s or Wendy’s down the street.”

Barouxis, who attended college in the 90s, said he notices past classmates who visit High Street already don’t recognize High Street.

“All those (alumni) come back and the places that they’re looking for and that they went to are gone and they come see me because this is all that’s left on the strip,” Barouxis said.