Melanie Guzzo

Melanie Guzzo
Virtue Salon

I walk into Virtue Salon armed with three cans to donate to their August food drive.  I sit down and notice a basket of tomatoes, “Are those from your garden out back?”

“They are.  Help yourself!” the receptionist cheerfully offers.

Melanie is finishing up a haircut as I look around.  I think about how I would describe the interior – the colors, the eclectic furniture that began from Melanie’s great-grandfather’s barber chair, the stand that houses local items for purchase, the Pattycake Bakery cookies, the cheeerfulness of the employees and customers alike.  Vibrant.  It all feels so vibrant.

We sit down in salon chairs at the back of the store.  Her husband TJ, who oversees the operations and scheduling for the salon, joins us.

I start by asking Melanie if there was a salon she looked to for inspiration when conceptualizing Virtue Salon.

“No, there wasn’t much out there then.  I knew, to start, I wanted to open a salon.  Not necessarily vegan – I wasn’t sure if that was even a possibility.  But, as I started researching products I wanted to use, I came across some vegan offerings.  It got me thinking – maybe it’s possible to use all vegan products in my salon.  In 2010, I had to really search to find products that met my standards.  It’s amazing what demand has done in just the last five years.”

The explosion of vegan, sulfate-free, paraben-free labeling requires a  watchful eye though.  “Unfortunately, we’ve realized that claims are not always accurate.  We don’t take them at face value.  Plus, we research the company’s values and philosophy, too.  We want to support other businesses that share a similar vision to our own.”

I should point out that Virtue Salon isn’t “just” a vegan salon.  They are equally passionate about being eco-conscious, from composting hair scraps, to using only cloth towels instead of paper, to their urban garden watered from their rain barrel.  They sell local goods in their front lobby to support other local businesses.  They are passionate about having an engaged, skilled, and dedicated team.  And they support local charities and are active in the community.

If I may, their tagline could also be:

Virtue Salon

A vegan-eco-friendly-minimal-waste-while-supporting-other-small-businesses-and-caring-for-employees-and-community-concept salon.

I digress.

I ask, with all these aspirations, “Is there anything you wish you could ‘cheat’ on?”

Both her and TJ  look at each other, “Not really.  You get used to your routines.  Like not using paper towels, our solution works great for us, so you don’t miss paper towels.  I will say the light bulbs are expensive though – an up-front investment.  So maybe the light bulbs.  Really, though, our practices that are so ingrained, you don’t even consider the alternatives.”

I am reminded of the wisdom:

Good habits are hard to establish but easy to live with.  Bad habits are easy to establish but hard to live with.

I also make a mental note that I need to apply this to my on-going attempts to meditate regularly.

I then ask, “In your opinion, how has Columbus’ environmental consciousness evolved over the years?”

“Mayor Coleman has done a really great job with his GreenSpot initiative and the city’s recycling program.  He’s really pushed Columbus to be on the leading edge of environmental awareness.  Businsses and households can apply for membership by pledging to meet certain criteria like ‘buying supplies made of recycled materials’ or ‘tracking your monthly waste.’  The program has experienced incredible growth, which is great to see.”

With Virtue Salon’s green initiatives, it should come as no surprise that they received the 2012 City of Columbus Small Business GreenSpot Award.

What are some other Columbus businesses that stand out to you?

Wholly Craft is excellent.  They feature handmade goods from local crafters and artists.  The team at Lucky 13 is great.  Their employees love working there, and I think that’s so important.  We love Compost Columbus, who collect compostable waste (like hair scraps) to turn into soil.  We head over to Northstar and Whole World Natural Restaurant for their incredible vegan options.”

If you could snap your fingers and have something solved for you, what would it be?

“After world peace and everyone becoming vegan, I would want a free-standing building in Clintonville for Virtue Salon.  It would have solar panels and be entirely sustainable.  And it’d have a parking lot.”

What do you enjoy doing outside of the salon?

“We love riding our bikes along High Street and stopping at different bars and restaurants.  It’s fun experiencing the energy of places.  The other week, we biked to German Village and walked around.  It was wonderful to explore the area.”

“When we travel, we love trying out new restaurants – New York, Ashville, and Chicago have great options.  The Chicago Diner is a must.”

In creating a business entirely congruent to your values and passion, have there been any surprises?

“Overall, really positive surprises.  The community is enthusiastic; they want us to flourish and that’s such a great feeling to know we’re supported.  This place feels good.  It has a positive energy.  We feel embraced.  You can’t ask for more than that.”

Seeing the high bar that Melanie sets for herself and her business, I’m excited to see who she selects when I ask, “Who do you think makes Columbus great?”

Liz Lessner

“I think she’s incredibly brave.  She’s opened so many amazing restaurants, each of them original, each of them fantastic in such a relatively short period of time.  And her employees love working for her.”

Rae Reed

“She’s a great women’s advocate and really passionate about local matters.  She works tirelessly to help small businesses succeed through her writing talents.  The work she does is inspirational.”

Thanks, Melanie, for making Columbus great!



Judy Robinson

Judy RobinsonJudy Robinson
Adena Brook Community
Shaklee Independent Distributor

When I told Judy she had been recognized for making Columbus great, she replied, “I am surprised and honored to have been suggested.”  As far as picking a meeting place, she selected Crimson Cup saying, “I love to support local, especially local who give back so much to our community.”

From her nomination to this first interaction, she struck me as a kind soul.  Having met her, I can confirm she’s an uplifting burst of compassion and generosity.

Judy grew up in Clintonville skipping rocks and hiking in the ravines.  In sixth grade, attending Glenmont Elementary School, she met her future husband Bob.  They relocated north near the ravines by the Josephinum where they lived for nearly thirty years.  Finally, in 2001, they bought her mother’s home and returned to Clintonville.  “The house is full of fond memories.”  She smiles, “Now my grandchildren trek along the same paths I canvassed as a child.”

The beloved property did require some attention.  “We had several large ash trees that needed removed.  It was heartbreaking; I couldn’t be there that day they.  Afterwards, we created a privacy wall out of plants native to the area and planted a wonderful garden.  My mom loved to garden, too. I must get it from her.”

Her passion for plants made her a great candidate when her neighbor Susan Barrett rallied a group interested in maintaining the beauty of the ravines.  Together, the group formed the Adena Brook Community in 2002.  “We started cleaning the ravine behind Glenmont School.  There was so much abuse and neglect – wooden pallets, wheel barrows.  We ended up with a huge pile of trash and then had to pay to get it picked up and properly disposed.  We were astonished and thought, what does the rest of the ravine look like?”

The group hosts a monthly clean-up where volunteers gather and help clearing invasive species and trash out the of ravines.  “We’ve cleared out a lot of honeysuckle.  We were so excited when the blue bells were able to return.”  She adds, “And the clean-ups are a really great way to meet your neighbors.”

They also focus on educating the community.  “People see birds eating red berries on the honeysuckle and recognize it as a food source.  However, those berries provide very little nutrition for the bird.  If they don’t get the right nutrition, and enough of it, they may not be able to survive through winter.”

All this must be overwhelming, I think.  She points out, “If everyone took responsibility for a small section that they maintained when it was convenient for them, it would make such a difference and wouldn’t overwhelm any one person.”  She points to “Carter Corner” on Indianola and Cooke.  The Carter family regularly keeps the corner clear of debris.  “They do a fantastic job.”

I ask Judy what would be her top recommendation for people wanting to take a greater role in protecting our ecosystem.  She advises, “Removing toxins from the home is a great start.”

Her personal pursuit of doing just that lead her to become a Shaklee Independent Distributor.  Shaklee creates natural nutrition supplements, weight-management products, beauty products, and household products.  It should be of no surprise Shaklee has a climate neutral certification and completely offsets its CO2 emissions.  It’s also on a mission to plant one million trees.  Sounds like just the right fit for Judy.

Like gardening and a love for plants, Judy’s passion for the Clintonville Woman’s Club also began with her mom.  “In her days, there was a waitlist to get in.  Some people assume with just eat lunch and play cards, but, oh, it’s so much more.”

“We have so many philanthropic projects for the community and beyond.  The Club was formed to promote wholesome community life and welfare work in Clintonville.   We support organizations such as the Community Resource Center, Operation Buckeye, Veteran’s Hospitals, and we’ve formed another group – Women Helping Women – focused on helping homeless women.”

Judy describes the drawstring bags that are hand-made and filled with toiletries.  “We will fill over two hundred bags and take to different facilities.  For many homeless, this bag may be the only permanence they have.  It’s a reminder to them that people care.”

“The Club is amazing because these women become close friends.  We support each other through all phases of life and span such a broad age range.  When my dad passed, the Club was like a second home for my mom.  There were women who had been through the same experience.  Women supporting women is incredibly powerful.  The Clintonville Woman’s Club provides that.”

I ask Judy who she thinks makes Columbus great.  She’s left a bit overwhelmed, “There are so many wonderful people I could name!  Could I think about this?”

Of course.

She picks:

Julie Smiley

“Julie is relentless, constantly working behind the scenes overseeing the health of all of Clintonville’s ravines, protecting them from new invasive construction to cutting of invasive plants to re-planting native trees.  She is a mother of young children for whom she is also an advocate.”

Scott Smith, Weir Arend Funeral Home

“Scott initiated revival and growth of our Fourth of July Festivities from the breakfast (served over 2,000 this year), the whole day events, to the fireworks, safety, clean up and funding.  Now, all the restaurant and food vendors in Clintonville are also marvelous to give of time and gifts, but Scott has brought energy back into the entire day attracting so many young families who have moved into our area and even other from surrounding communities that do not have such.”

Cliff Wiltshire, Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center

“Cliff is a huge advocate and active in the community to support nominations for “The Booster Volunteer of the Year.”  He’s an advocate for our working poor and our senior population needing assistance, who are a very important part of our community and culture.  He does all this very humbly and sincerely.”

Thanks, Judy, for making Columbus great!

Mary McClory Rodgers

Mary McClory Rodgers
Moxie’s Gifts, Candy, and Party Room
Clintonville Historical Society

“Sorry, I got held up at Union Cemetery.  I’m working there now, too,” Mary says as she greets me with an ear-to-ear smile.  “They just had to show me the archival room, and I accepted. There’s a book there from 1806!”

And with this latest endeavor, Mary can support every milestone in a person’s life.

Since 2010, she’s helped plan and hold showers for new parents and beautiful brides at her store Moxie’s Gifts, Candy, and Party Room.

I must also mention she’s the President of the Clintonville Historical Society.

In other words, Mary can help you create memories for all your major life events.  She makes it personal and seamless to you.  The goal is to have a day filled with joy and surrounded by loved ones.

And if she lived forever, she would continue to tell your story – who you were, what you did, why you were special.  We’re shaping history in each moment we exist.  Mary tells the stories of those who lived.

She creates, celebrates, immortalizes.

Asking about her own history, she surprises me by saying she started in accounting.  “I wanted to study history or social sciences but was ‘encouraged’ to study something more practical.”  Over the next twenty-some years, she rose through the corporate ranks doing accounts payable, tax accounting, retiring as a CFO, then working as a strategic office manager.  Finally, she decided, “You know, I still want to have a retail store.”  With her husband and son inspiring and influencing, she opened Moxie’s.

In preparation to meet with Mary, I looked through Moxie’s Facebook page.  Enamored with the creativity, I make a point to ask her where she draws her inspiration.  “I like to ask the host to tell me about the guest of honor.  I’ll sketch as I listen.  We’ll refine and revise until we get to this ‘that feels great’ moment.  Our customer service is what differentiates Moxie’s – we want you to have it how you want it.  And with flexible options and at a reasonable price.”candy jars

Connecting Moxie’s with Mary’s passion for celebrating the past, rows of penny candy jars hold pastime favorites such as Bit-O-Honey, SkyBar, and Charleston Chews.  These originally came out in the 1920’s and 30’s, which still isn’t as old as one of her favorite historical figures of Clintonville.  After giving it some thought, “there are so many” she landed on Gottlieb Schreyer.

“I find people who were pioneers in their time to be enchanting.”  Holding several patents, Gottlieb was an inventor of heating systems in the mid to late 1800’s, for whom Schreyer Road is named.  “They had to make everything then.”

Reflecting on pioneers, she adds, “These people put their entire life on a covered wagon and crossed the Alleghany.  Part of me wants to ask them, ‘What were you thinking?!'”  She laughs.  Courageous souls, certainly.

I ask her if it’s possible to pick her favorite historical building.  “That’s easy.  My favorite is the Clinton Theater, but it was torn down in 2010.”

I think, in so many walks from my rental on Como in 2006 to North Broadway, it makes me wish I had known more about the historical building, to appreciate the life it had.

We talk more about buildings in Clintonville.  I comment on how I love old architecture and, with bias, modern buildings just don’t have the same charm.  She points out that there’s a lot of mid-century modern in Clintonville and how much she appreciates seeing how style changes over time.  “And if there isn’t one I like right away, I remind myself that it could just be an idea before its time – like Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations.”  She commends the Columbus Landmarks Foundation as they’ve “done a fantastic job connecting architecture and having an appreciation for all styles.”

This leads me to ask how, under her guidance, the Clintonville Historical Society has evolved over time.  “We’ve really shifted our mindset from being a resource where people come to us with questions to an organization focused on outreach.  We go out and find the people who want to learn and celebrate our history.”  This includes a pop-up museum that showcases their archive items.  Members are there to answer questions and share their knowledge.   They’ve held workshops on such topics like “How to Research the History of your Home.”  Mary’s even narrated trolley tours during the community’s Holidayville.sunwall moonwall

While she’s passionate about history, she isn’t resistant to change.  “I just believe we should give something back anytime we take.”  She points to an old Indian Mound that existed just south of Cooke Road that was leveled in the 1950’s.  The new Sunwall-Moonwall mural at the railroad underpass on Cooke Road is a way to “remember our past.”  Initiated and created by Danielle Poling, the mural honors the American Indians who lived on this land before us.

I notice as we talk, she often refers to timelines.  “At Moxie’s, for example, we think in terms of these shorter timelines.  Days, months, years.  Studying history reveals the longer, visionary timelines that shape our experiences in ways we often don’t realize.”  She points to OSU’s campus.  “Those buildings, the landscape, the walkways all create an experience for you today.  That carefully crafted moment was, in part, designed by people a century ago.”

All this makes me wonder how the history books will reflect on Columbus in one hundred years from now.  Favorably, I hope.  I am optimistic, especially with people like Mary among us.

I ask Mary who she thinks makes Columbus great, she points to:

Ed Lentz, Columbus Landmarks Foundation

In short, “Ed is a miracle.  A historical legend.”

Melanie Guzzo, Virtue Salon

“She’s a dynamic personality with a clear vision.  She has a pioneer mindset – combining two seemingly separate passions and creating a business that is a complete representation of herself.  There should be more of that in the world.”

Thanks, Mary, for making Columbus great!

Jessica Kehn

Courtesy of radesigner

Jessica Kehn
Artisan Dance Studio

I meet Jessica at Pete’s Coffee in Clintonville. She gets excited when the barista asks whether she wants a cup or a mug. “Ohh, a mug, please,” she answers. As I learn, Jessica finds an experience even in the minutiae of the day.

She’s the owner of Artisan Dance Studio in Clintonville, which concluded its second season in June of this year with a recital at Whetstone High School. “I love Clintonville. It’s incredibly family friendly. And the residents here make a point to support the businesses here,” she affirms. She is honored, too, that her studio plays a role in connecting neighbors. “Two ladies became friends through my ballet class and realized they lived across the street from each other. Now they walk to class together.” She frequently runs into her students throughout town, “I love seeing familiar faces,” she smiles.

Being located in Clintonville has also molded Jessica’s original vision for Artisan Dance Studio. “Adult classes. At first, I didn’t think I wanted to teach adults. One early email from a lady asking me about adult classes made me decide to put a couple on the original schedule. When those filled up, I added more. Now, we teach all different levels and types of adult classes and offer workshops for ‘absolute beginners’ to give them a comfortable environment to learn. Dance truly is for all ages.”

In starting up, I asked who her invaluable resources were. In addition to family and friends, she pointed to:

* Shout Out Studio for “reading my mind” and building the website she wanted all along
*The women of Clintonville Chamber of Commerce who greeted her with enthusiasm and smiles when she announced her plans for a dance studio. They tapped into their wealth of resources and experience whenever she needed support or wanted feedback. They gave her confidence to persevere.
*Beechwold Hardware for helping her ‘unlearn’ the hours of YouTube videos that failed to teach her how to properly drywall. She took endless notes while the staff patiently walked her through the process. The drywall is still proudly standing today.

Her low wasn’t dry-walling, though. “I was incredibly optimistic for opening day.” Only one person showed up. An adult lady who took a tap class. “I put so much heart and hard work getting to opening day. Then I realized I’d still have to work part-time waitressing at a pizza joint. It was so discouraging that this business that everyone kept congratulating me on couldn’t cover all the bills at first.”

Fortunately, enrollment grew. And by a lot. Her first feeling of success came after the studio’s first recital.

“After the show, people had such kind and wonderful things to say. I had set out to positively impact the community, to be a place where people could connect with their neighbor, dance and have fun, and learn a new skill. I felt I had accomplished that.”

And, from the dry-walling, to opening day, to that first recital, I asked Jessica if she had any advice she leaned on, “Yes! I remember taking a yoga class and the instructor had a mantra she said to herself when she needed to push through a challenging pose:

Shut the heck up, cutie pie.

When times were tough, I couldn’t give in to self-pity. This reminded me to push forward in a stern and positive way. I actually ran into that instructor at a coffee shop and told her that I borrowed her phrase. She laughed.”

Now that she has two seasons under her belt, I asked her how she likes to enjoy her days when not at the studio. Her eyes light up, “Tandem Tandem Pancake Rides.” This will need some explanation, I think to myself. Four people plus two tandem bikes riding from Clintonville to Worthington for a five dollar pancake breakfast at the Hills Market on Sunday mornings. “And coffee, too!” she grins. Afterwards, they may stop at Antrim Park to rest and watch dogs swimming in the lake.

Newly added to her Sundays, too, is giving tours at the Kelton House. “I love keeping history alive. This place is amazing. It’s not just a historical building, but it also has eighty percent of its original furnishings. Plus, I get to wear a hoop skirt,” she laughs. Selfishly, I ask if it is haunted, “Some people say so, but I hope not!” It would add to the experience, certainly.

She sips the last of the coffee in her mug. I conclude by asking her who she thinks makes Columbus great and why:

Mary McClory Rodgers

“Mary owns this great shop called Moxie’s Gifts, Candy and Party Room. Even more, she is on the leadership team of the Clintonville Historical Society. Clintonville has a fun, colorful history and Mary works hard to preserve it and tell its story. You’ll see her on the home and garden tour telling stories to guests riding the trolley. She also coordinates doing mural projects around the community.”

Judy Robinson

“Judy is an Adena Brook Community team leader. This is an amazing group committed to protecting the water supply and preserving the plants and animals in Adena Brook and Overbrook Ravine. Judy and the rest of the team lead trash pick-ups and take on huge tasks to clean and plant and preserve the natural biodiversity in that area.”

Thanks, Jessica, for making Columbus great!