Ami Murphy Iannone


There’s a great old movie called “Teacher’s Pet,” made in 1958, in which Clark Gable plays a hard-nosed newspaper man named James Gannon. He’s in a feud with Doris Day’s character, who is a journalism instructor at a local night school. Gannon thinks going to school for journalism is bogus — the only real way to learn is to sweat it out in the newsroom: 

Teacher’s Pet (1958) Paramount Pictures

“So he’s got more degrees than a thermometer, so he speaks seven languages, so he’s read every book. So what? The important thing is he’s had no experience. He didn’t start at the bottom and work up. That’s the only way you can learn.”

Turns out, there’s lots of people who are starting to agree with Mr. Gannon and this week, National Apprenticeship Week, is dedicated to those kinds of people. I wanted to explore some of the reasons that the apprentice model is having a revival, why it needed a revival at all, and how it is affecting lives right here in Columbus.

I spoke with Beth Gifford, President and CEO of Columbus Works, to get her take on some of these national trends and how her organization is working to change things here. Columbus Works is a non-profit organization providing job training and placement services to area residents living in poverty who desire to advance to economic self-sufficiency through employment. Her insights into the local labor force were incredibly helpful as I started to tackle this question of “why don’t we work with our hands anymore?” 

Changing Attitudes About Work

First it feels important to address a mindset shift that seemed to occur sometime in the past 50 years. Many of our grandfathers worked with their hands. Throughout America’s booming years, there was ample manufacturing– especially in this part of the country. And then somewhere along the line, the idea of working with your hands became somehow less than. There were no shortages of jokes about plumbers or factory workers in sitcoms when I was growing up. It seems that almost everyone united under the premise that a four-year degree in a liberal arts discipline was somehow the pinnacle of education.

Slight hiccup: there’s not tons of practical use for those degrees without further training or even more advanced degrees…

Mike Rowe, the guy from the Dirty Jobs show, talks about this phenomenon all the time:

“I strongly support education in all its forms. I have a college degree, and as I’ve said many times, it’s served me well. But I believe society is making a terrible mistake by promoting college at the expense of all other forms of education. For instance, the surgeon […] will never make it to the hospital to successfully remove my appendix without a functional infrastructure, which depends almost entirely upon an army of skilled tradespeople. And yet, our society clearly values the surgeon far more than mechanic who keeps her car running, or the contractor who put in the roads that allows her to drive to the emergency room.”

America’s College Tuition Crisis

As the quotes above describe, one of the most obvious reasons that people are turning to trades, and one of the most vigorous topics of discussion in the US right now, is the skyrocketing costs of college.

Last year Time magazine looked back through their archives to see how the conversation on college costs had changed over the century they’ve been covering topics of interest to Americans. What they found was that while the costs of tuition have always been of concern to American families, the scale of those costs and increases is at an all-time high. Meaning that proportional to family incomes, the cost of attending college has been inflating exponentially.

While the costs of attending college are rising, the number of students attempting to attend college is also rising  (probably because of that perception that college is the only way to go). But a slimming margin of those people are actually finishing the degrees they set out to achieve. This means rising student loan burdens and declining diplomas. CNBC sites “over 44 million Americans collectively hold more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt and only 54.8 percent of students graduate in six years.”

The Retiring Workforce

Besides the ever-blooming costs of college and the decreasing odds that those who start to pursue degrees will ever finish them… there is the aging workforce handling those skilled trades jobs Mike Rowe talks about.

During America’s booming manufacturing years, it was considered both lucrative and respectable to pursue a career in a skilled trade. Until, for some reason, we all changed our minds about that…  

Beth Giffords says that “for several decades it was not a priority to encourage youth or students to participate in apprenticeship programs. While there were still apprenticeship programs in place, there was little focus on encouraging participation.”

Now we’re in a collective position where the skilled workers are getting old and they’re ready to retire, but there’s almost nobody ready to take over for them. The stats on baby boomers currently holding skilled trade positions, and how few young workers are in line to replace them, are dumbfounding. Research conducted by Adecco says that by 2020 there will be 31 million jobs vacated by retiring baby boomers without skilled workers ready to take over. These are positions like electricians, HVAC techs, plumbers, pipe fitters, construction workers, and machinists.

But combating that paradigm we’ve created about the superiority of “thinking-based” collegiate careers versus labor-based skilled trades isn’t easy. I asked Beth Giffords about what has changed in the new wave of apprentice work, part of it seems to be effectively conveying the value of the training and part of it seems to be adjusting the nature of the work itself:  

Technical schools, educators, and employers are successfully marketing the value proposition of working in the skilled trades to students, their parents, as well as adults in career transition. Companies have enriched jobs in the skilled trades, to include technology and requiring decision making and judgement. This new skilled trade job is attractive to the 21st century worker.”

Earn While You Learn & Apprenticeship in Columbus

This movement towards experience-based learning has many advantages and there are groups right here in town working to train and employ apprentices in many different fields.

Columbus Works helps to bring people out of unemployment and into lucrative positions. And they’re very successful at it. Gifford says that “82% of our working Members retain employment. 10% have been promoted this year.”

We’ve written about Franklinton Rising, which provides training in construction and homebuilding, and the HireLevel Auto group which trains young people to be auto mechanics. Additionally, Columbus State provides incredible two-year degrees and many apprenticeship programs designed to put people to work quickly– sometimes while you’re still in school.

A Tale of Two Degrees

I am the recipient of a Bachelor’s degree in English from the Ohio University Honors Tutorial Program and I have been paying on a mounting pile of student loans for almost a decade now. Recently I refinanced them all into a single, giant payment and will hopefully kill them in the next 5 years, but those payments are staggeringly high and my path to my career was a winding one supplemented with lots of bartending.

My husband had a BFA in Painting and Printmaking that he was using to work at a string of local coffee shops until he decided to attend Columbus State for the Electromechanical Engineering Tech program. He was done in 2 years flat, we were able to pay for all of his schooling out of pocket as he pursued this degree and he started earning money (and credit towards his degree) at Honda during the second year of his program. Now he is employed on Honda’s maintenance team full time and could basically get a job anywhere on earth with his skill set. Plus he makes more money than me. (I’m clearly a convert.)

Beth Gifford talked about the life-changing aspect of the “earn while you learn” model, especially for people who were entirely out of work before pursuing their apprenticeship:

For adults transitioning from unemployment getting involved in an apprenticeship program increases their earning power in a shorter period of time. What may have taken 7-10 years in working their way up, maybe getting on-the-job training opportunities, can be completed in 3 years.

So, what kind of opportunities exist locally for people in skilled trades?

Short answer: tons.

Gifford said that “individuals who have completed a skilled trade apprenticeship program can expect to be in demand by employers all over the city.” Their opportunities can include “industries such as facilities management, building services, construction, healthcare, manufacturing, automotive services, transportation, air transport, and distribution.” Additionally, the “employees with excellent soft skills combined with their skilled trade credential can expect to be courted by multiple employers.”

I don’t know about you, but “courted by multiple employers” sounds to me like a pretty enviable position in 2017 America.

Feature photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Cara Mangini has been chopping vegetables for a long time.

You may know her as the genius behind local staple Little Eater. But Cara has traveled and worked all over the world, including her training as a vegetable butcher at Mario Batali’s Eataly. Now you can add author to her list of accolades… and a pretty good one at that.

Just recently, Southern Living magazine listed her cookbook “The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini”  as number 2 on their list of the 100 best cookbooks of all time.

We asked her some questions about this recent honor and for some pro tips for eating in this zip code.

You’re on there with some serious legends… we’re talking Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Fannie Farmer and Alice Waters. How does it feel to be listed amongst culinary royalty?

I am honored and so grateful! This particular list is really special because so many of the cookbooks are classics and I look up to many of the chefs and authors as my culinary heroes. To be in their company and receive recognition as an all-time best, hopefully will get The Vegetable Butcher into more hands and ultimately, help people celebrate vegetables and cook more intuitively with them every day. That’s my goal always. 

Photo by Rachel Joy Barehl

What do you think your book adds to the cannon of food lit?

I designed The Vegetable Butcher to be the ultimate guide to cooking with vegetables—how to select, store, prep, slice, dice, and masterfully cook vegetables throughout every season. It’s a resource that demystifies produce with my tips, tricks, techniques, and how-to information that somehow no one ever taught you. It’s also a traditional cookbook, with over 150 recipes, that makes vegetables less intimidating, and more exciting and practical for everyday cooking.  I think it gives vegetables well-deserved recognition for flavor and abundance, not sacrifice or obligation. My hope is that my cookbook will prove to be timeless and inspire readers to put vegetables in the center of the plate and most importantly, find the joy and beauty in cooking with seasonal ingredients.

What is your favorite cookbook? Is it on the list?

I could never choose a favorite cookbook! There are so many books on the list that have influenced my cooking and that I admire including, but certainly not limited to The Silver Palate, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, The Art of Simple Food, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The New York Times Cookbook, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, The Victory Garden Cookbook and The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Dorie’s Cookies and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home (instant classics) have become more recent favorites.

Why write a cookbook these days when you can have a YouTube cooking channel or a food blog?

There is nothing like a cookbook to have and to hold! Cookbooks, good ones, have been tested thoroughly and designed to teach, inspire, and to get messy and to use. Most people, myself included, find inspiration and culinary education in so many different ways and certainly different media channels, but a thoughtful and well-curated and researched cookbook (the kind you know was a labor of love for the author) will always be my number one.  

Can you talk a little about the difference between inventing food and cooking it for people (like you do at Little Eater) and teaching people to cook your food (like you do in the book)?  Do you prefer one or the other? How do you feel about releasing that level of control over the outcome?

When I was in the recipe-testing phase of writing The Vegetable Butcher I didn’t sleep much! I would test and retest a recipe even if it was the middle of the night. I felt the pressure of getting it exactly right to ensure that my science experiments could be repeated over and over by anyone who picked up the book. At a certain point, I had to recognize that most cooks will make a recipe their own and not follow the recipe exactly… and that’s okay. There are so many different variables in the kitchen. I have had to get comfortable with giving up control. Knowing that I put in the work to write recipes that work gives me some peace of mind.

Cooking for people at a restaurant is equally terrifying to me, but I appreciate being able to control the outcome and the whole experience. I always want people to be happy with the food on their plate whether I taught them how to make it or whether it was a dish I created for them in my restaurants or at home.

Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake with Browned Butter Frosting Photo from Matthew Benson

Thanksgiving is coming up, what recipe from the book do you recommend for the holiday table?

I have a ton of favorite Thanksgiving recipes from the book. It is the end of harvest season—one of the most exciting times to cook with vegetables. Some of my favorites are Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter and Parmesan, Celery Root Pot Pie,  Sweet Potato Latkes with Cranberry-Chipotle Jam, Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake with Browned Butter Frosting, and Spiced Winter Squash Chèvre Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust.

Where do you grocery shop in Columbus (besides Little Eater of course)?

Honestly, I really only shop at Little Eater Produce & Provisions at North Market for local produce, pantry basics and all of my favorite food items from artisan makers in Ohio and beyond. (It’s all the stuff I can’t get anywhere else!)  I buy cheese at the Black Radish at the North Market. I buy Dan the Baker bread at the farmers’ market.  Right now, with our new restaurant opening in Clintonville I am not cooking much (at all) at home so there isn’t a need for a lot of groceries.

Feature photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

One of my most haunting college memories is from a house party with a bunch of hockey players.

I was there with my former roommate– who was dating a hockey player– my cousin, and my very close friend. We had been drinking, as was customary for a Saturday night at OU, and I was admittedly pretty intoxicated.

At some point in the evening I entered the livingroom to see a very, very large hockey player face-down on the ground. It looked like he was passed out. Adrenaline kicked in and I immediately sprung into action. I was afraid he would puke and drown in it, or that he had cracked his head when he dropped, or I don’t even know.. just that he didn’t look right.

I ran over to him and began to try and flip him over to see if he was breathing, to see if he needed medical attention. No one would help me.

I was confused. I kept tugging on his arm and asking for help– this guy was huge. No one budged.

He wasn’t moving at all. I was getting scared and increasingly mad that everyone seemed to be standing in a circle around the edges of the room motionless.

After what felt like several minutes, this dude got up and started laughing. The room filled with garish, carnivalesque laughter.

He was fine. He had been faking it.

I was horrified.

I ran all the way back to my house. I felt so profoundly stupid.

How many of them had been in on it? My friend Nick consoled me as I sobbed on his shoulder, saying he couldn’t tell it was a prank either. My sweet little cousin said “I was one step behind you honey.”

I just kept saying “He looked like a ragdoll. I thought he was dead.

I think often about that night. It has stuck with me for nearly a decade now. That feeling of helplessness and embarrassment stemming from what should have been the right instinct. To run in. To protect. To help a human I thought was in danger. It was a filthy trick that I have never ever forgotten.

Each time a hazing or drinking death comes up in the news– like the recent tragic story of Timothy Piazza at Penn State— I relive the somewhat blurry moments of that hockey party.

As an adult with a child on the way, I again feel helpless when I hear stories like this. With the advent of social media, there is a new level of potential embarrassment and peer pressure layered onto the enormity of young adult social situations. What if someone had taken a video or a Snapchat of that moment in my life and broadcast it to the world? The multiplicitous eyes that could have mocked me or left sneering comments…

But when I think about it now, I’m so glad that the outcome was just me looking like a silly drunk girl. Because the outcome could have been a mother losing a son.

I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad I looked stupid. I’m glad I was raised to be someone who runs in.

The details of Piazza’s death are stupefying. Not least of which is the fact that it took hours for anyone to call for help. If even one of those boys had the sense to run in, to help, to protect, maybe this story would have turned out differently.

Now the question becomes, in this modern age of swift and relentless judgment, how can we raise kids who are willing to run in?  Even when it means getting laughed at.

I think the answer is manyfold, but we can start with teaching empathy and personal responsibility.

Every time I made a poor decision, my parents would ask me something like “how do you think that made your sister feel?” I was trained to think about how my words and actions impacted other people. This doesn’t mean that I never do careless things, but it does mean that when my actions hurt another person, it bothers me deeply and I am compelled to rectify the situation.

As the oldest child, the heaviness of my role was constantly reinforced. I am responsible for not only my actions, but I am also a guide to the smaller people who look up to me. Sometimes the burden of this responsibility was stifling and overwhelming, but ultimately it made me very prepared for a world where many people are going to need many things from you. I think of myself as a steward of those in my care. If I let them down, I let myself down. When my child makes a decision that hurts another person or sets a bad example, I will ask them to think about the consequences of those actions.

This is how you build an internal compass. A compass that works no matter who is standing around watching, judging, trying to sway it.

The day after that party I called home. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I was obsessively stewing on it. My mom put my dad on the phone. He asked if I had been drinking, a question I answered truthfully. And then he said he was sorry I had been tricked, that he was proud of my instinct to help and that I did the right thing…. even if I ended up looking like a fool. And I believed him.

It didn’t take the sting of embarrassment away, but it reinforced that compass they had worked so long to calibrate in me.

These aren’t new lessons. They aren’t tied to any specific faith. They are very basic ground rules for operating in a world with other humans. And it is high time they make a comeback.

I come from footballers… “But that’s European football, dear” as Mrs. Doubtfire once said. This whole mess with the Crew has had me a little worked up.

As I drove down 71 south on my way into work Monday morning, at the inevitable slowdown of the curve passing Mapfre stadium, I saw a giant rear-window sticker on a hatchback in front of me. It said #SAVETHECREW and it reminded me of the seriously passionate fans this city has played home to for some 20 years. I am a lightweight comparatively, but a soccer lover nonetheless. And since I moved here I’ve had many a summer and fall evening dressing in black and covertly sipping booze on the walk down North 4th. Hopping the train tracks and crossing the parking lot towards the big lights of the stadium.

Having the pioneering MLS team and stadium in this city is important to me. My husband and I ranked it strangely high on our list of reasons to stay in Columbus (neither of us is from here). And since moving to Columbus I’ve never lived in a neighborhood where I couldn’t hear the announcers from my yard.

This has been a rough couple weeks to be a Hooligan.

Even with a vibrant rally on the steps of City Hall, the fate of the Columbus Crew MLS team doesn’t look bright. While I’m misty-eyed about the news, I can’t imagine what the real, die-hard fans are feeling. So I decided to ask.

Jon Winland is the VP of the Hudson Street Hooligans since their founding in 2006 and GM of Hendoc’s pub the official home pub of the Hooligans. I caught him as he prepped the bar before a recent game to ask him some questions.

Jon and his fellow founders started the club because they “would see other teams come to town with large support.” And the Crew’s cheering section just didn’t feel up to snuff at that time. So they started the Hudson Street Hooligans “to try to get more people out and to make it more interesting.”

The club grew quickly, starting with 10-15 members in their first year and then growing to 1400 paying members at the club’s peak. Mostly Jon says the growth was because they “had a lot of fun and knew how to have a good time.”

What Was it Like at the Beginning?

The short answer seems to be: rowdy. Jon said that it wasn’t what you see now, “everyone is in the Nordecke now, there’s not as much division between the club and the general supporters.” But he also notes that the increased general support is better than just having a small group of rabid fans. The Hooligans didn’t just support their Crew at home either, “we were the ones that started traveling to away games.”

The club popped up around the same time that Chicago and DC were forming their own clubs and before that, Jon says, “there wasn’t that European style of support” but “that style of support was a matter of time.”

The initial Hooligans were definitely less tame than their current Nordecke representation would have you believe. Games were different back then, “You throw things on the field, you could do a lot, they were not as conscious about what we did in the earlier days.”

Why Here?

I said that Columbus seemed like an unlikely place for soccer to succeed, just as a casual intro to another question, but Jon stopped me in my tracks. He was surprised by this. It was as though it had never occurred to him that Columbus was anything but the perfect home for MLS.  “Didn’t surprise me at all” he said. “Central and Northern Ohio have turned out lots of MLS talent and club soccer in Ohio has always been huge.” Plus, “Columbus didn’t have the Jackets at that time, no major league teams.”

What about cities with larger populations from soccer-loving nations, I ask, like the Latino population in Miami… Jon thinks that it is mostly a “misconception from owners that cities with more cultural diversity are better” for soccer teams. His Hooligans are living proof that Columbus is as good a place as any.

What’s Next for the Hooligans?

I opened my call with an apology, noting that it was a hard time to be a fan at Jon’s level. Precourt’s announcement blindsided everyone (including players). By the time we’ve talked through all the kickass memories of starting the club and Jon’s paused at least once to yell to eager patrons that the bar isn’t open yet, we have to get around to the hard topic.

Jon doesn’t beat around the bush: “There is a large soccer population. To take the Crew would be a travesty… displace all those youth programs… it wouldn’t be good.”

I say that the rally was a good sign of large scale support from community members and wonder what is the next best move. He says “Bringing awareness to the public and bringing awareness to the league. Columbus is a staple in the league.” He stresses the historic aspect of the Crew and the “importance Columbus plays in US soccer history” closing with an analogy that hits hard:

“Would NHL move the Detroit Redwings? I don’t think so.Any club that was a founding 4 or 6 of league shouldnt’ be able to move.”

Overall, Jon was very humble about his role in the Hooligans and about the club in general. But when I ask about what the Hooligans have meant to the Crew and to MLS in general, he’s clear about one thing for sure “Creating the soccer movement, we certainly did that. Anybody who watched the MLS the last 20 years… there’s a direct relation to Hooligans as a club. We were out there being boisterous, being loud, doing things.”

All photos courtesy Hudson Street Hooligan's Facebook Page

Apparently it is National Sandwich Day, which we absolutely did not know was a thing until this morning. But now that we know, we have lots of opinions on the matter.  Here’s our roundup of outstanding sandwiches, or “outstandwiches” if you will, in Columbus.

The Chickens

Challah Crispy Chicken  There is no conversation about sandwiches in Columbus that doesn’t start (and sometimes just end right there) with Catie Randazzo’s chicken perfection. Chicken, onions, house made pickles, Challah bun, no bullshit.

Deli Boys Chicken Philly The bread makes these bad boys top notch, chicken is a nice twist on a traditional philly, plus there’s jalapeños for a little kick. Nothing to not like.

Rockmill Tavern’s Chicken Sandwich This is a spicy chicken chicken sandwich made with Gerber chicken and topped with some sort of bewitching spicy honey butter. It ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it.

The Beefs

Tip Top’s Blue Ribbon Pot Roast Sandwich A Columbus classic. This one follows the “keep it simple, stupid” rule. Pretzel bun, savory slow-cooked pot roast, Swiss cheese.

The Sycamore’s Ohio Beef Cheeks This is barely a sandwich. But holy lord… It’s like if the classic blueplate diner special open-faced roast beef and some fancy poutine had a baby. Bread, fries, beef cheeks, gravy, cheese curds. Overwhelming. 

Little Palace Slider This is a delicious little unpretentious slider. It is greasy, there are pickles. Do you need more information? (Look, this isn’t a contest about the best burger in the city. This is a nice beef sandwich.)

The Others

Cafe Brioso’s Veggie Delight (with modifications) Since we’re talking about opinions, I’m gonna stick some of mine in here. Get this bad boy with 2 modifications: 1. ask for foccacia instead of wheat. 2. make mozz your cheese. You will have to unhinge your jaw to take a bite, but it will be worth it.

Philco Breakfast Biscuit  There’s something about the chorizo on this bad boy that makes it unforgettable. Plus it has “shallot preserves.” Fancy.

Press Grill Salmon Sandwich This is a simple go-to. Great grill flavor on yer salmon filet, mixed greens, buttery toasted bread. If you’re big league, then get it with the balsamic, blue cheese and strawberry salad as the side and then put some of that right on top.

Photo by Diego Duarte Cereceda on Unsplash

When you think about your Christmas list, odds are it has just one or two tech or fashion items that are a little too extravagant to justify buying for yourself. There may be some useful things that you get each year, like underwear or socks, or maybe gift cards to pamper yourself… But when Besa’s Adopt-A-Senior holiday list came out on Wednesday, the items requested told a larger story about Columbus’ needy senior community.

Besa’s Executive Director Matthew Goldstein said “without these Secret Santas, many seniors would not receive holiday gifts. Their requests are humbling and beautiful—as is this entire program.”

  • Sondra is requesting a phone charger. She lives in an apartment by herself and enjoys talking with friends/family over her cell phone. Her charger is short and doesn’t reach her chair. Would be helpful to have a long charger so she can sit and talk more freely.
  • Phyllis has a dog named Conrad and he is her pride and joy. Phyllis and Conrad support each other everyday. She would like Conrad to have enough food and a dog bed to sleep on. Phyllis would also like a fuzzy blanket to cozy up next to Conrad.
  • Mary’s husband of 62 years passed away earlier this year and she has been looking for a hobby to keep her busy during the day. She likes to watch Bob Ross and is looking forward to painting along with him. She’s requesting a beginner’s paint set.
  • Opal would like a Bible and a cake pan to bake a cake for her grandson. But the Bible is first priority.
  • Wyoma loves doing puzzles and prefers them to be over 1000 pieces. She doesn’t have a preference for what the picture is, but she loves a challenge!

Many seniors on the list need help purchasing very basic items like toilet paper and dish soap, which most of us would never consider a holiday gift so much as a daily necessity.

It took all of 24 hours for every single senior on the list to be adopted and the local participants will spend more than $60,000 fulfilling the wishes of the seniors this year.  But there is still time to be involved by purchasing some of the “stocking stuffer” essentials. Check out the Amazon Wish List here or get involved at

Photo from Besa’s Facebook page.

First, you might be asking “why Vancouver?”

Vancouver is a city that spent a lot of time, thought, and money to make their downtown livable and appealing to diverse array of residents. David Roberts, a reporter for Vox, extensively interviewed Brent Toderian about the city’s progress to its current “urbanist” success (I encourage to read all of these pieces they’re really intriguing). “Toderian was the Vancouver’s Chief Planner from 2006 to 2012, a time of furious change for the city that saw the 2010 Olympics along with a broad range of programs to increase density, non-auto mobility, and livability. He’s now a consultant to cities that want to move in the same direction.

Generally speaking, urbanism is defined the same way as city planning: forward thinking about the things (structures, infrastructure, resources, luxuries) people need to live in a certain city. This is all sounds like long term and high-level thought, right? Not always. As Toderian’s interview revealed, part of Vancouver’s success has come as much from the individual, small decisions as it does from the larger planning initiatives.

So what can Columbus learn from Vancouver as we get ready to level-up into “big city” status?

Here are 5 lessons:

A few ground rules go a long way

Why is Ohio so ugly? This isn’t the punchline of a coast-dweller’s joke… this is a sincere question. And I believe the answer is because we allow the free market to run wild without any unifying vision for how things fit together. Viola: strip malls as far as the eye can see. Unlike here, “in Vancouver, like few other North American cities, nothing is simply left to chance, or developers, or the market. There is a deliberative regulatory framework in place, and every decision within it is made consciously, working backward from a clear vision of the city residents want.”

“No Blank Walls”

Toderian talks about the importance of there always being something interesting at the eye-level as you walk through the city. Right now, in Columbus that means “mixed-use retail” on the ground level and then a high rise condo plopped on top. But what about street-level housing? Vancouver uses a street by street approach to this: some streets are primarily residential at eye-level and some are primarily commercial at eye-level. This mix is a key to functional neighborhoods, especially since there is only so much retail that an area can successfully support. But what about privacy?

 Toderian talks about smart ways that designers keep privacy for street-level urban residential properties. One common mistake is to put front doors and windows right on the sidewalks. But then “you can see into the windows. So people don’t use the amenities space and they close the blinds on the windows. And what you get is a de facto blank 


wall. Whereas, if you elevate [entrances], just a few steps — three or four steps — and design a semi-private amenities space, people will use it. They’ll keep their windows open.

Take the brownstones on Gay St. as a nice example of this design principle (minus the submerged units). Those tall staircases allow people to live with direct street access, but have a significant privacy barrier between their front doors and passing traffic.

Stop talking about the cost of houses, talk about the cost of cities

This is a great point that we might be a little guarded from in Central Ohio at the current moment. The affordability of city is too often determined by the cost of purchasing a single-family home. As cities scale up in size and density, that quickly becomes an inaccurate measurement of the cost of living there. We’d never think about cost of living in Manhattan by how much a freestanding home costs there… Toderian says we should “look beyond the price of buying a home, to the price of having a home.” This means everything that comes along with living in the area– rent, transportation, etc.– as a measure of whether an area is affordable or not.

Deliberate Integration Instead of Displacement

This is one of the biggest problems that fast-developing cities face and is best stated in Toderian’s own words:  

For decades, we’ve been requiring that 20 percent of space in all major housing projects be set aside for social housing [what Americans call “public housing”]. That requirement has been a powerful tool — finding and acquiring land or airspace can be the toughest part of a social housing project.

Part of the success of the program is that social housing is now built into all major projects around the city, in an integrated and often almost invisible way, with management programs to help that integration succeed.”


Stop Suburban Flee

How many people do you know that used to live in Short North, Vic Village, GV or downtown and then bought a house in UA, Bexley, or New Albany “for the school district.” This is the San Fransisco problem and we’re going to see lots and lots more of it. Why can’t families with kids live downtown?  They can in Vancouver.

Here are Toderian’s basic steps for making a family-friendly downtown

Want families & kids downtown?

1) ensure family-sized housing;

2) ensure daycare, schools & supports;

3) design the #publicrealm for kids.


Where do you see Columbus’ biggest challenges emerging as we develop? Tell us on Twitter.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I am a lover of some controversial candy. Sign me right up for all things black licorice flavored– Good N’ Plenty, black jelly beans…I’ll take them all.  I love me a Bit O Honey and I’ll gladly accept those Smarties if you’re not down. But there are some candies that just don’t deserve the title and have no place in the sacred ritual of beggar’s night.

Here they are, along with photos that accurately display the sadness they induce:

5. Dots

You just don’t want teeth anymore if you eat these.

Here’s a photo of someone who is ready to get rid of all their teeth tonight:

Instagram @mnkloe

4. Tootsie Pops

What. A. Pain. In. The. Ass.

Look at this sad lineup:

Spoon University

3. Anything from the Brach’s Bulk Section

You know those gummies that aren’t gummy bears or gummy worms, and they’re not sour…? They are often covered in visible sugar, they have a color but are lacking any discernible flavor. 

Oh god they call them “fruit jellies” (no joke)

2. Raisins and/or Raisinets

C’mon man. You clearly hate Halloween, just turn the porch light off and shut the door for the night. There’s a whole new season of stranger things you could be watching.

Instagram @Amby_500

1. Boston Baked Beans

Several questions: Couldn’t you have at least picked a name that made them sound remotely appealing?  How are they still in business? Why are they so hard? Is it because the factory has actually closed and they’re just selling up what’s left?

Instagram @_jojo73_


Cover photo  by Sarah Takforyan on Unsplash

The parking garage at Resource/Ammirati says IBM iX now. It’s official. You’ll see a stream of “so and so got a new job, congratulate them” notifications on LinkedIn as some of the 10,000 or so employees start to update and adjust to their new group identity.

And then there’s the party.

You know an organization is huge when they have to rent out the entire Columbus Commons to host a party for their current and former employees, as Resource did earlier this month.

All of this has us wondering… who’s next?

Our Experts

We asked two local agency founders for their best bets on the next breakout agency in town. Alaina Shearer is the founder of both Cement Marketing and Women in Digital. Robert Abbott is the Senior Partner and Founder of Context Digital, his former agency Shift Global was acquired by Moxie (A Publicis company).

What are the ingredients?

In order to cast our predictions, we must first understand what the basic ingredients are for an agency to have that breakout potential. The ingredients that make an agency successful, edgy, and irresistible to a much larger organization.

Alaina: “Right time. Right place. And a hell of a lot of work until that moment to make sure you’re prepared to seize the opportunity. It’s not as sexy as you would think because behind the scenes of any amazing start up or agency is a pile of failures and losses that teach you lessons on how to make yourself better and ultimately more prepared for the moment when that huge account shows up.”

Robert: “I think the landscape is changing. The factors that made agencies successful in the past have much less relevance today. Simply put, it comes down to results. Brilliant thinking that clearly understands and motivates its audience. Actual and measurable business metrics. Smart is the new Creative.”

Does size really matter?

I think of some really small operations,  even one-woman shows, that have a groundbreaking approach  and put out world-class work… But it feels unlikely that they’ll be scooped up any time soon, mainly because they are so small. So, what about scale? Is there an ideal size for an agency to be acquired?

Alaina: “My understanding, without expertise or formal training, is that a successful acquisition depends not on an agency’s size or even revenue, but on the agency’s health. Those acquiring agencies are looking to ultimately buy the agency’s processes, its book of clients, past case studies and its top senior level talent.”

Robert: “It’s really about the numbers and how the acquisition enables the acquirer. Roughly speaking, I think critical mass starts at 5 or 10 million.”

The times, they are a changin’

I worked for an agency only a few years ago and even since then it seems that the landscape has changed quite a bit for those “full service” shops. If you’re not hyper specialized at this point it seems nearly impossible to differentiate and the business is changing almost too fast to keep up with. What about the landscape of agency world in general?  What do you think the future of agencies looks like?

Alaina: “This is an excellent question and one we discuss a lot internally at Cement and within the Women in Digital organization. It appears that clients will continue building in-house agencies for years to come. However, these in-house teams are better suited for production of larger creative and strategic visions laid forth by outside agencies. Ultimately, the in-house agency is here to stay, but that means agencies will be hired far less for production services. Ultimately, that’s a huge blow to larger agencies but a huge win for smaller more strategic agencies like Cement.”

Robert:  “I think it looks very different, so much so that we may want to revisit what the term “agency” means and whether that is even relevant in this transforming business climate. The firms having the largest impact are those that are focused on substantive results, evaluated purely on the customer’s terms, not the creative director’s clever late night vision.”

Fortune telling: part of the business

So the Mad Men era of brilliant, tear-jerking campaigns delivered by whiskey-breathed dudes is officially closing. Brands across the spectrum are pulling their heavy creative lifting in-house. Can agencies still play the role of advisor? Where are your clients most often seeking your counsel and thought leadership? (Well, lets be realistic here, the really smart clients might be actively seeking it… the others just need to be convinced that they need it!)

Alaina“Not much has changed since our founding in 2009. The clients have grown, of course, but it’s funny because no matter what the size of the company their number one question for Cement is always, ‘how can we make a mark with our digital presence?’. Ultimately, they’re trying to authentically deliver their brand message within the digital space. The challenge for us as an agency is to sort out their existing presence and then reorganize the content, how their audience sees it, how it should be seen and then build and execute upon a strategy and plan to make it happen.

Robert: “They are seeking Experience Strategy and Design. They need help sorting through the myriad complexities of their business stakeholders, audiences, channels, data, etc.. They want help figuring out how all of it fits together and adds up to differentiating outcomes.”

There are some great buzzwords in those answers that I have been speculating on: audience and experience being the two main ones that pop out to me. I guess we’ll just have to see where the perfect convergence of data-driven, audience-targeted, and experiential shows up next. Our contributors were far too modest to reveal their top contenders for local agencies that fit the “recipe” (😉). … But we want to know if you’ve got any local agencies that come to mind? Place your bet in the comments.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

About “New to This”:

I’m having a baby. So now there are all these new questions popping up that I have to answer. Or at least pretend to have answers for… or just try to calm myself down enough to sleep at night. I figured since I’ve got this new local publication, I might as well use it as a platform for asking those questions to people who might really have some answers. So here we go, welcome to New to This: A Parenting Series

Must Have Baby Registry Items

Because you don’t know what you don’t know…  I asked all the recent parents I know what their number one baby registry item was. Here are the results:

1. Waterproof your nights with mattress covers.

“Multiple waterproof crib mattress covers- they get soaked through in middle of the night and much easier to put Humpty Dumpty back together again when you have a backup.”


2. Protect ya neck… (from spit up) with burp cloths and bibs.

“Silicone bibs!! Super easy to clean once they start solid foods.”

“Burp cloths, so so many”


3. Avoid crawling on the floor by investing in a white noise machine.

“Also white noise machine so you don’t have to creep through your house when your baby sleeps. I recommend Dohm’s. Works great.”

“I second Molly. I’d recommend a white noise machine. Our Dohms one is great.”

*An alternative pro-tip I got from several parents was to just download a white noise app and play it on an iPad in the room.


4. Everyone. Said. Boppy Pillow.

“Boppy infant lounger pillow. A life saver!”

“The Boppy pillow is amazing!”

Boppy Pillow with a few covers! Best thing ever!!

Boppy pillow with two covers


5. And some more things to hold your baby for you.

“Baby K’tan was the easiest to use for Baby carrying!”

“Ergo baby carrier”


6. And some things to put your baby to sleep…or at least try.  

“We didn’t use a bassinet; subbed for the Rock-N-Play.”

“A Rock and play. Liam slept in one for the first 3 months.”

“Swaddles, sleep sacks, sound machine…everything associated with good sleeping.”


7. Sweet outfits. 

“Baby pjs is something I could never get enough of!”

“Ask for clothes beyond 6 months…everyone will get newborn outfits.”


8. Various tools for keeping noses cleared out 

“Cool mist humidifier. Stuffed baby noses are the devil”

“Speaking in stuffy noses, the nose freida is amazing!”


All photos from Awkward Family Photos. Header image by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash.