A walk through downtown Cincinnati is like taking a trip down a historic memory lane. From sculpture, to murals, to historic plaques, Cincinnatians – including Jewish Cincinnatians – are proud of their history. The buildings of the city are no exception to this sense of pride. It is within one of these buildings that Miriam and Jake Hodesh have created their event space, The Columns.
Built in 1874 by Jewish entrepreneur Moses Goldsmith in Findlay Market, The Columns was once the tallest building on the block. Originally built as a department store for toys and other sundries, it is now under the ownership and creative vision of Jake and Miriam Hodesh who have transformed it into a modern and eclectic event space.
“Jake and I have always loved renovating buildings, even when we lived in Savannah, Georgia,” Miriam said. “The charm and the history of the city speaks to us, and when an opportunity came in 2018 to buy a building in Findlay Market, we jumped on it. It was a building that everyone walked past and we saw potential.”
After exploring the area of Findlay Market, and talking with local vendors and shop owners, the couple realized that an event space was the missing piece to the market area.
Cincinnati was not immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as shops and businesses felt the squeeze from fewer patrons and supply chain issues. But for ventures like The Columns, it was a time of opportunity.
“We were mid to early construction when the pandemic hit and it was touch-and-go whether or not construction was going to be allowed to continue,” Jake said. “We remember mornings wondering if job sites would be shut down. But that wasn’t the case…there was a sense of community in the construction crews and the businesses that remained open.”
That sense of community has continued to define the area, and The Columns’ partnerships with other institutions.
“Some of our strongest connections with other individuals and businesses in the Findlay Market neighborhood are in part because…[of] this crazy time,” said Jake. “You get to know your immediate neighbors, you get to know the other people that are struggling to run businesses…you’re experiencing [this] together.”
Originally the thought was that most of their business would come from the corporate world. But as time went on, Miriam and Jake have been pleasantly surprised at the number of weddings and rehearsal dinners that have taken place in the space.
Reflecting on the clients they’ve had since opening, Miriam said, “when I think about who I’ve talked to this week…someone called about a bridal shower, we are hosting a Sweet Sixteen this weekend, we just hosted a Bat Mitzvah, and I spoke to someone wanting to do a corporate networking event…Knowing that even as a smaller event space, many people are looking for intimate locations for their wedding or rehearsal dinner, has been a pleasant surprise.”
Now the space is seeing events from major companies like Nike, who did a partnership with a local shoe store, and has also become involved in big time Cincinnati engagement events like BLINK.
“We had people who spent the night [outside] before this shoe launch in order to get into the venue to get a pair of shoes,” Miriam said about the Nike event, a pop up in The Columns.
For BLINK, one of Cincinnati’s premiere multi-media events, The Columns was transformed into what they called “The Bounty House,” by the Bounty Paper Towels division at Proctor & Gamble. “There was so much creativity and thought put into transforming the space and that was really fun and cool to see,” Miriam said.
When asked what has been the most surprising about operating the event space, Jake said “the LGBTQ+ couples who are going to have a party or a wedding feeling comfortable in our space, and/or asking if we as a space are okay with this…the answer is 100% yes! This space is for everyone!”
For the Hodeshes, their Jewish heritage also influenced how they built and operate The Columns.
“We made sure that when we designed the kitchen…we built one that could be Kosher- friendly,” Jake said. “We spent time thinking about a space that would be safe, warm, and welcoming for anyone and everyone. And I know that we wanted a space where Jewish people could come and enjoy the food.”
Added Miriam: “Life is based on your own experience and those around you…We actually lowered our floors so it was ADA compliant, and in the restrooms we have changing tables and lots of outlets for mothers who are pumping. Once you’ve lived through some of those experiences…nursing, changing a baby, or being in a wheelchair and navigating around, you want those things to be taken care of.”