Major changes come to downtown Columbus
Sharrow's owners retiring, Capri closes
COLUMBUS, Wis. — Columbus has a historic downtown, with some businesses that have been there for decades, but with recent closings and retirements, the face of downtown is changing.
According to JD Milburn, vice president of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., Columbus is in a transition phase.
“It all just seemed to happen at the same time,” Milburn said. “We call it the three Cs.”
He said a number of businesses have recently closed or have retiring owners, and that includes Caldwell Lumber, Cardinal Comics and Collectibles and the Capri Steak House.
According to Capri owner Jeff Campbell, after the death of his father, who owned the building, keeping the restaurant open wasn’t financially viable.
Down the street from the Capri on the corner of Ludington and James streets, Sharrow’s Downtown is facing change as well.
“Being a solid business downtown was always exciting and at some point that had to change,” owner Nick Sharrow said.
Inside the shop, a lot has stayed the same, including the family name behind the store. As a third-generation family business owner, Sharrow continues what his grandfather started in the 1920s.
“That’s absolutely what I enjoyed the most, was plain taking care of people,” Sharrow said.
In recent years, change has started to creep in. Sharrow’s originally was a drugstore, but when Shopko came to town, Sharrow and his wife turned it into a gift and coffee shop.
But now he’s preparing for the biggest change yet.
“Now I guess you might say it’s time to move on,” Sharrow said, adding that while James Street construction improved infrastructure, it hurt his business, and he’s looking forward to retirement.
“We did try to keep it open and fight through it,” Sharrow said. “It was tough to make that decision … to make the decision that I was gonna be the third and last generation here.”
“We’ve had some road construction that’s affected some pieces and various businesses,” Milburn said. He believes it’s time to create some new downtown icons, adding that social media needs to play a bigger role to create a niche destination for potential customers.
“It’s just time to modernize, do some different things, use new marketing tools to capture part of the market we’re missing,” Milburn said, adding that there are a number of new businesses either recently opened or on their way, including a pizza restaurant and tattoo shops.
“We have the uniqueness. We just need to find our niche, capture that and continue with it,” he said.
Sharrow is running a retirement sale. He will be limiting his stores hours come Jan. 1 and reducing his inventory as he searches for a buyer who can continue the legacy, whether it carries on his family name or not.
“I’d love to see it work,” he said.
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