CINCINNATI — This summer, a new program in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati was working to fill empty storefronts by offering flexible and shorter lease terms. Now, three months later, the first tenants have moved in. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Main Street Pop-Up Program had over 130 applicants through September

  • Five businesses are already open through the program including, Thee Makeup Room and Selfie Cincy

  • The program allows businesses to have more flexible leasing options

  • The hope is to fill empty storefronts and increase walkability in the area

Inside Thee Makeup Room on Main Street, it’s all owner and CEO Rachel Wynn ever wanted.

“Specifically Main Street because downtown is definitely where it’s at," Wynn said about her new business location.

Rachel Wynn applies makeup at her new business, Thee Makeup Room (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

The makeup artist has been in the industry for 18 years. And when she was ready to open up her own concept, she was encouraged to apply to the Main Street Pop-Up Program.

“I was like yes, let’s do it!” Wynn said. 

Wynn is one of five open businesses in the program, which gives business owners shorter lease options hoping to fill up empty storefronts on Main Street. For Cincinnati Center City Development Corp, or 3CDC, as one of the managing companies of many of the buildings, they’ve seen great interest in the program that allows business owners flexibility.

“That allows them to really test out the concept, figure out if having a storefront makes sense for them, if that’s their long-term plan or if they are better suited for a different type of model or even a different neighborhood," said Lindzie Gunnels the commercial leasing manager for 3CDC. "So this allows them to come in, figure things out on a short-term basis, and then figure out their long-term plan.”

According to 3CDC, there were 137 applicants for the program through September. With 36 storefronts in mind to start, five are already filled with 22 in the process of opening.

The types of businesses are a mix between 35% of applicants being retail, 25% food and beverage, and about 27% service-based. And to add to the diversity of the area, 75% of applicants are Black-owned businesses and 72% are women.

One of them is Amari Samya, the CEO of Selfie Cincy, an interactive museum that promotes the art of the selfie.

“Everybody wants something creative and eye-catching for their business, so what better than a selfie?" Samya said.

Selfie Cincy has several selfie booths to bring a new experience to OTR (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

For Samya, it was about bringing her idea to life, but with some flexibility, too.

“We were talking to 3CDC about this concept since 2021," she said. "Around that time they had their standard leasing agreement, so it was around four to five years, and at the time, I’m a young professional, I wasn’t able to commit to that time frame and when the ops-up program came about I was super excited because this is exactly the flexibility that I need.”

While it was a scary leap of faith to open a brick-and-mortar, Samya and Wynn share their advice to go for it.

“You’re always going to feel unready, you’re always going to feel uncertain," Samya said. "But honestly, if you have that support and you have the idea, take that leap of faith, you won’t regret it.”

“Make sure your idea is unique," Wynn said. "Try to become as unique as possible. Like I said, the beauty industry is super, super saturated, so having something unique is where your strength is going to be.”