Introduction

Mom’s Loudon Lunch; courtesy: KY Digital Archive

Publicly accessible businesses are one of the backbones of the economic success of a neighborhood, and are one of the most important public or private “third spaces” that communities can have. Throughout the history of the North End, one can see the presence of small-scale, neighborhood-focused businesses, from long-time fixtures like Spaulding’s Bakery or the Loudon Square Buffet to newly opened Push Push Press and Wild Fig Books + Coffee, both of which opened less than 5 years ago.

Wild Fig Books + Coffee; courtesy: Kris Nonn

Newer businesses have quickly set the defining tone for the economic development trajectory in the neighborhood - one that seems to be based around entrepreneurship and “artisanal” goods. While these new businesses are bringing economic vitality to the neighborhood, these businesses can feel foreign to long-time residents.

Vacant Storefront; courtesy: Kris Nonn

In addition, many of these businesses tend to offer non-essential services and goods instead of everyday necessities for neighborhood residents. While new businesses are by no means required to serve the immediate neighborhood, this issue contributes to the cultural changes in the North End. This stems from the perception that these new businesses are not culturally, racially, or socio-economically diverse and are not universally affordable or accessible. it is difficult to control what types of business enter the North End on a granular level, but there are opportunities to help make the businesses and entrepreneurial activities that occur within the North End better reflect its diversity and provide access and options for all.

In an ideal world, the very fabric and architectural framework of the North End would bring increased opportunities for more diverse entrepreneurs to start businesses, as compared to what typically occurs in traditional development contexts. A 2014 study from the National Trust for Historic Preservation found that “neighborhoods with a smaller-scaled mix of old and new buildings host a significantly higher proportion of new businesses, as well as more women and minority-owned businesses than areas with predominantly larger, newer buildings.” 

While this smaller scale development could potentially be a positive sign for the success of diverse businesses within the North End, there are significant economic disparities that supersede that. A study from the Minority Business Development Agency at the United States Department of Commerce states that Minority Firms are less likely to receive loans, more likely to pay higher interest rates, and receive lower loan amounts than Non-Minority Firms, and that “limited financial, human, and social capital as well as racial discrimination are primarily responsible for the disparities in minority business performance.” These disparities exist in the North End, stemming from the same racially-motivated policies and actions described in previous sections of this document. 

To help make neighborhood businesses better reflect the population of the North End, these disparities in access to capital need to be addressed.  

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There is a rich range of businesses within the North End. From long-time businesses such as the Loudon Square Buffet to brand new ones like Broomwagon Bikes + Coffee, the wide range of businesses within the neighborhood have many different sets of challenges, opportunities, and needs. In order to assess the needs of existing businesses, the North Limestone CDC and University of Kentucky Community Innovation Lab took a two-step approach. 

The first step was a series of community dinners for North End residents and business ownersco-hosted by North Limestone CDC and University of Kentucky Community Innovation Lab. At these dinners, residents and business owners were asked questions about businesses and business growth in the North End. This was followed up by interviews with individual business owners.