Love Letters: Columbus

A Love Letter To Columbus
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Jeni Britton Bauer first discovered her love for dessert in Columbus while working at La Chatelaine and studying art at The Ohio State University. She opened Scream Ice Cream in 1996, which closed after four years. In 2002, she opened Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus' North Market, and now operates 16 scoop shops in Ohio, Chicago, Nashville, and Atlanta. She's the author of The New York Times best selling Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. When Jeni isn't developing new flavors or art directing new campaigns, she devotes time to Local Matters (the fresh-food-for-all non-profit she co-founded in Columbus), serves on the boards of the Wexner Center for the Arts and Columbus College of Art & Design, and gets into trouble with her husband and two children at their home in Columbus.

Dear Columbus,

As I spend more and more time away from you, I find myself missing you dearly. I'm always so glad to come home to you. You were my jumping off point, you gave me massive lift, and you support me every day. No words can express how grateful I am to you for that.

You know, we've been together a long time now, and I've seen you grow and change so much, especially during the past decade. As many other cities seem to be growing older, stodgier, and even more set in their ways, you, my dear, are getting more youthful. That's some kind of magic. Age on you is beautiful. You still have great bones.

No one ever razed your beautiful Victorian neighborhoods near downtown, and in your neighborhoods near High Street (your main artery), your original neighborhoods remain for the most part intact. Merion Village, the Brewery District, German Village, the Market District, the Short North, the Ohio State campus area, Clintonville, Beechwold, Worthington--they are living history and yet they're always progressing with the times.

Gosh, when I think back, I can't imagine my life unfolding anywhere else. Remember in 2000, before we opened Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, when Charly almost took the job at the Mellon Foundation and we almost moved to New York? Even if I could have found the cash to start Jeni's in New York City, the climb would have been too much for me. We decided instead to start here with nothing--no cash, no business acumen, nothing. We put our hearts and souls into our business for years and still do.

Starting and growing a business takes an incredible amount of stamina along with an open-minded audience. Back then, nobody, it seemed, wanted the kind of ice creams we were making. It took a lot of time and samples to persuade people to buy Salty Caramel or our spicy milk chocolate number Queen City Cayenne. If we'd have tried that elsewhere, I don't think we could have sustained our business while building a market for it. From the leased space to the ingredients we used, it would have been too expensive and exhausting.

Columbus, that's why I really love you: You allow your people to take big creative risks without the pressures that exist in some other big-name places. You help to insulate our mistakes and failures from the rest of the world. And while we go unnoticed we have the time to hone our craft, build our Dream Team, and cultivate our supply networks. That says more about my city than just about anything.

I also love you for the people who call you home. The people I work with every day are great at being part of a team and constantly driving forward. We can come across as plain perhaps and we don't have big outward personalities. We just try to let our actions do the speaking. Countless total badasses at my company do the work without fanfare. They're great at what they do and they just do it.

Oh, yes, right. We Columbusites are nice, sure, but that doesn't mean we let niceness keep us from getting things done or saying what we mean. We're used to working with many personalities to keep the train going forward, and moving forward is your trademark, Columbus.

For what it's worth--and I'm sorry if this embarrasses you, but it's true: I think you're the most important city in America. I love where you are on the map there at the crossroads of North, South, East, and West. Drive 20 minutes in any direction and the accents reflect the regions. Fly less than two hours and you're in New York, Chicago, Atlanta. When you and I need a break from each other, it's easy to make it happen and return recharged and ready to go.

Seriously, Columbus, you rule. You're a good friend. A supporter. A safety net. A co-conspirator. And you've got guts. I just wanted to let you know: I got your back.


I love ya, man.



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