Newport's Monmouth Street continues to make progress

Before the development of Newport on the Levee, Newport was more often than not known more for its seedy past.  Over the past two decades, however, the Northern Kentucky river city has made tremendous progress that extends far beyond the informal boundaries of the Levee.

Monmouth Street is the historic main street of the community and provides the business services for much of the surrounding residential neighborhoods.  The commercial component of the street is thriving with an estimated 90 percent occupancy rate following a slew of new businesses opening over the next few weeks.

Robert Yoder, Main Street Coordinator for the City of Newport, says the district is competing with many  nearby retail districts.  "We’ve got a fitness niche going on here with Wiefit, Fusion Studio, Bicycle Outfitters, Meters & Miles and Galaxy Skate Shop, to name a few.”

Yoder, who also worked in Over-the-Rhine as part of the Digital Rhine efforts in the '90s, has also seen a significant number of small internet companies opening on the second floors of buildings along Monmouth such as Purple Trout and Red Hawk.

Yoder’s work with the Main Street Program is focused in the area south of Third Street and up to Eleventh Street bounded by York and Washington streets.  He notes that there are about 80 Main Street programs in Kentucky that Monmouth Street is competing against for state grants to help with facade improvements.

“We’re always trying to upgrade the facades of buildings.  We’re really focused on the 800 block of Monmouth Street right now and are working with developers and code enforcement officers to clean up the area,” says Yoder.  In the past two years, Yoder notes that he has applied for 14 or 15 facade grants, some of which are still being considered and can result in up to $30,000 for improvement work.

Another key area that the Main Street Program is working on is marketing of the district.  One of those efforts has resulted in the Go2Newport weekly e-newsletter, but Yoder emphasizes that the best sale is word of mouth.

“It’s no coincidence that we have six new businesses opening soon down here. Existing businesses are talking to those looking at spaces and are drawing them into the neighborhood,” says Yoder.

Wiefit is an exercise and body building studio at 846 Monmouth, just two doors down from where Rick Lohre Photography recently opened at 842.  In between, Fan Mail Marketing is a “direct-to-fan” marketing internet platform for the music industry opening at 844 Monmouth.  A new 'green' grocer called Peluso's Produce & Plants will specialize in all local products at 627 Monmouth.  Purple Trout is a search engine optimization company at 336 Monmouth, and Knit On! Is a retailer for knitting supplies at 735 Monmouth Street.

“Even though it’s a down economy, I’m working with a lot of people who have been downsized and they are looking at new business ideas.  Home-based businesses like Purple Trout have been growing and are looking at permanent spaces.”  All in all, Yoder says that the district is doing pretty well given the state of the economy and is planning on adding more new businesses in the near future.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Amber Kersley
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