More than two decades ago, I opened Woody’s Library Restaurant in the historic Carnegie Library on Main Street, and a few short weeks later, the surrounding roads and sidewalks were torn up for a city improvement project. I was mad because of the inconvenience to my customers, and I was panicked that my investment would be ruined. I was so wrong!
During those early days as road improvements began, Mayor Jim Brainard stopped by the restaurant to see if he could share his ideas and long-term plan in an attempt to gain my understanding. I was very confrontational with him at first as he tried to explain his plan for the area. I calmed down as we walked the area and discussed the public private partnership projects that he thought would bring life back to Main Street, which had been neglected over the years.
After I understood what the plan was, I began to see the wisdom of improving the streets, storm drains, sidewalks, lighting and other amenities in order to attract more investment. It was even more clear as the city made parcels ready for redevelopment and private investment followed, bringing more residential, commercial and retail options with galleries, artists and designers to the area.
As the transformation began, I became more passionate about making sure that other small businesses understood what I had failed to grasp in the beginning: that investment in our community to attract economic development is good for small business. I ran for office back then to ensure that small businesses had a voice in city government.
This year, Woody’s will celebrate its 21st year on Main Street, and we have seen an increase in sales for each of those 21 years. It is clear to me, this would not have happened if Main Street had stayed the same as it was back then.
Every new business, whether it locates in the district or along the Meridian Street Corridor, brings new customers for my restaurants and every other small business in town.
Mayor Brainard cared enough to reach out to me as a small business owner 21 years ago, and he remains committed to the success of all the businesses in Carmel, no matter the size.
Kevin “Woody” Rider, incumbent candidate for Carmel City Council at-large