Komen Columbus looks beyond breast cancer to solve racial divides

The equation is simple: the more money and education you have, the more likely you are to be in good health.

The equation for reversing this trend, however, is a bit more complex.

Impoverished and minority populations have long suffered the burdens that stem from health inequity, such as higher rates of infant mortality, diabetes and heart disease and lower total life expectancy. The story of breast cancer has been no different.

Over the past five years in the U.S., the breast cancer mortality rate has gone down among white women, yet remained relatively stable among African-American women, according to a recent report from by Susan G. Komen Columbus on breast health disparities. The resulting inequality is significant.

Nationally, the breast cancer mortality rate is 40 percent higher for African-American women compared to white women, and 41 percent higher for African-American women in Franklin County, according to data from the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: Susan G. Komen Columbus

Faced with this clear divide, Susan G. Komen, the parent nonprofit that oversees about 100 affiliates, saw the opportunity to dramatically improve breast health. Last summer, the foundation set an ambitious goal: to cut U.S. breast cancer deaths in half — from 40,000 to 20,000 per year — by 2026, said Julie McMahon, director of mission for Komen Columbus.

To make such a powerful improvement will mean taking extensive action to reduce breast cancer disparities. And with Komen already investing around $200 million into ongoing breast-cancer research and clinical trials across the country, Komen Columbus thinks the real platform for change will be found at the community level.

“Health care doesn’t happen in a vacuum; people can only make as healthy choices as the ones available to them,” McMahon said.

For African-American women, risk factors include a history of lower access to and engagement with the healthcare system, delays in follow-up care, lower-quality screening and treatment options and biological predispositions to aggressive breast cancers such as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), McMahon said.

According to the Komen Columbus report, nearly half of African-American breast cancer deaths in the Columbus region occur in just five ZIP codes — North Linden, Whitehall, Northeast Columbus, Forest Park East and Southeast Columbus. Because these ZIP codes pop up for a lot of different issues, such as lack of education, employment and access to health insurance and care, those problems have also come under the lens, McMahon said.

“None of us can fix any of this alone,” McMahon said. “We’re figuring out how we can place all of these organizations and resources that we have — some of which have never worked together but do great work separately — together so that we can start making an impact.”

Down the road, McMahon and others at Komen envision a world where public services ranging from food and housing to early-childhood development and breast-cancer prevention become streamlined, so that when a woman is getting employment help or going to a diabetes consultation, she is also referred to screening or genetic testing for breast cancer, McMahon said.

“Over time this could become a paradigm change for communities where preventative health has never been a priority,” she said.

And it’s not just vulnerable populations among which there is room for improvement. Higher income women with private insurance could benefit from employers allowing work time to be used for appointments or increased availability of before- and after-hours appointments, as noted in the report.

Despite challenges ahead, such as a lack of available local data on health and ethnicity and potential future setbacks to the Affordable Care Act, Komen will keep working toward its goal of fostering communities “in which the color of your skin, your income and where you live doesn’t impact your chance of survival when someone tells you that you have breast cancer,” McMahon said.

Smart Columbus: Oh, the places we’ll go

In small government offices and crowded boardrooms, the future of urban transportation is transpiring right here in Columbus — the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first Smart City.

The wheels started turning for Smart Columbus last summer, when the city won the USDOT’s Smart City challenge over cities such as Austin, Portland and San Francisco. The roughly $415-million venture, supported by federal and private funds, has several focus areas, including transportation access, smart logistics and sustainable transportation.

From real-time traffic/parking data to charging stations for electric cars to driverless shuttles around Easton, the city hopes to become a model for communities around the nation, said Brandi Braun, assistant director for the Columbus Department of Public Service.

“How people want to move — and the way people should move — is changing, and the Smart Columbus grants are allowing us to prepare for that future,” Braun said, adding that the city’s initial proposals to the USDOT must be implemented by 2020.

The movement aims to both attract new jobs and sectors to the city as well as provide better access to existing ones, Braun said. For example, six autonomous vehicles will make routes within Easton Town Center “to address first- and last-mile challenges in one of the city’s largest job centers” by dropping individuals off directly in front of where they work, according to the city.

Another issue that Smart Columbus hopes to address is the lack of mobility in communities like Linden.

“Mobility options are not equitable — not everyone lives within walking distance of their nearest bus stop; not everyone can afford a car,” Braun said. “The one-car-one-person model doesn’t work for everyone.”

If there were better access to transportation, more people could be empowered to connect themselves to jobs, education, health care and more.
This is the thought behind the bus rapid transit — a transit system designed to be more efficient than a traditional bus service but less pricey than a light rail or metro system — that COTA will implement along a 15.6-mile stretch of Cleveland Avenue between downtown and Polaris Parkway, said Marty Stutz, vice president of communications, marketing and customer service at COTA.

The new transit line, called CMAX, will operate in mixed traffic along with regular COTA service, but traffic-signal priority technology will allow CMAX buses that are behind schedule to shorten the length of a red light or keep a light green longer, Stutz said. CMAX was in the works well before the Smart City grant was announced, but because it will serve transit-dependent areas like Linden the project became “a great platform to collaborate with Smart Columbus,” said COTA spokeswoman Lisa Myers, adding that CMAX is on track to launch in January 2018.

COTA is also working with Smart Columbus on designing a smart pass payment system that would work for COTA buses, car2go cars, CoGo bikes, taxis, Uber, Lyft and others, Stutz said. This would allow those without access to smart phones or bank accounts to use services like Uber by loading the smart pass with cash at a neighborhood kiosk.

The other challenge facing Columbus is traffic and parking congestion — an issue that will certainly need to be addressed if the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s population-increase estimate of 1 million new residents by 2050 holds true.

“Neighborhoods that are crowded with people and cars can suffer because it’s too difficult for people to come visit, shop or even live in a community where parking is tight,” Stutz said. “The more options you provide to people, the more opportunities they have to enjoy your town.”

The solution here is to provide real-time parking, traffic and event information through an information portal so people can find available parking before they travel, Braun said. The system could also aid commercial truck drivers making deliveries in the downtown area by allowing them to schedule routes and deliveries when traffic and space are optimal.

Smart Columbus also aims to incorporate more electric vehicles into public and private fleets, encourage electric vehicle adoption by installing charging stations across the city and more, Braun said.

Along with furthering mobility and sustainability goals, COTA believes that increased use of alternate and public transportation will make Columbus more appealing in general.

“When people are outside of their cars walking, riding a bike or using transit — that’s the kind of sidewalk activity that energizes neighborhoods and makes communities more attractive,” Stutz said.

Although there’s a ways to go, Smart Columbus “really has the ability to transform the lives of our residents,” Braun said.

This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch on April 26, 2017 in the special print section Careers in Transportation.

As addiction rises, so does need for specialized doctors

Opioid overdose claimed the lives of more than 33,000 people in the U.S. in 2015, according to a report released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

That’s more than double the fatal opioid overdoses that occurred in 2005, found the report, which analyzed and compiled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System.

Over that same time period in Ohio, opioid-related deaths — including deaths from prescription opioids (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl) and heroin — rose 430 percent, from 489 in 2005 to 2,590 in 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The nation has taken multiple steps to curb opioid addiction in recent years, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which passed in 2016 and allots $181 million per year to fighting the opioid epidemic. CARA was the first major federal addiction legislation in 40 years.

On March 30, Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced a measure that limits the maximum length of narcotic painkiller prescriptions from 90 days to seven days (five days for minors). The law would not apply in certain situations such as hospice/palliative care. While these are steps in the right direction, there are still areas of improvement that need to be addressed, according to addiction medicine doctors.

“No. 1, there aren’t enough quality treatment programs, especially for younger patients,” said Dr. Steven Matson, chief of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Division of Adolescent Medicine and medical director at Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center.

The patients Matson sees in Nationwide Children’s Medication Assisted Treatment for Addiction program typically began dabbling in drugs at around age 11 and gradually transitioned to using heroin, he said.

“When we see these youth, they’re in pretty bad shape, injecting eight to 10 times a day,” Matson said, adding that only around 9 percent of drug-addicted adolescents ever receive treatment.

Coupled with the lack of treatment options is a lack of public care for addiction, said Brittany Hovden, admissions and intake coordinator for Get Real Recovery, a detox and substance abuse treatment center in Orange County, Calif.

This is reflected in the high cost of addiction treatment for all ages, said Dr. Shawn Ryan, president of the Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati.

“Insurance companies have somewhat begrudgingly started paying something, but there’s still not a robust reimbursement structure for addiction treatment, or mental health in general,” Ryan said.

Treatment costs associated with opioid addiction can add up fast, as the most successful approach involves a combination of medication — like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone — and psychosocial intervention, Hovden said.

“The incredible craving and withdrawal are so great that if you don’t quiet that [with medication], it’s really hard for patients to actually participate in any sort of behavioral treatment, which they need to get better,” Matson said.

Yet not enough doctors are educated in addiction medicine to successfully expand availability of quality treatment, Matson said. “Although most doctors can recognize addiction, I think most are pretty limited in knowing how to respond to it.”

The field of addiction medicine — which encompasses internal medicine, psychology, mental-health counseling and public health, among others — has been around for decades, but wasn’t recognized as an official medical subspecialty by the American Board for Medical Specialties until 2015.

“We have to look at the entire patient in the complex bio-psycho-social disease state,” Ryan said. “I spend my time trying to figure out how in the world we are going to train more physicians to do this.”

Many primary-care physicians lack the time or energy to go through 2,000-plus hours of training in addiction medicine, as most are expected to see 30 patients a day in order to maintain a viable practice, Ryan added. Even if they had the skills, “it’s not feasible to see a patient in 12 minutes and address their complex medical and psychological issues,” he said. “There’s a general failure of American medicine involved in this.”

Along with increasing accessibility of quality addiction treatment, Matson hopes to see more effort go toward prevention.

“There isn’t a lot of science that shows what works best to prevent addiction, and we need to keep searching to find that,” he said.

Where transportation is headed in 2017

Nearly every single product you own or interact with was transported via air, rail, sea or road so that it could be shipped directly to you or the store where you purchased it.

While most don’t often ponder the ins and outs of transportation, it is a key facet of our everyday lives. Transportation enables us to move goods, trade goods and travel from place to place — three essential features of civilization. Without it, economies around the world would crumble.

The U.S. freight transportation system moved an average of 49.5 million tons of goods valued at $52.7 billion per day in 2015, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Trucks carried more than 60 percent of that weight and value.

From drivers and dispatchers, logisticians and techies and mechanics and engineers, hundreds of thousands of individuals are required to make sure the transportation industry keeps running smoothly. And as the global population increases, so will the amount of goods that need to be produced and transported. In meeting that need, some big realities face the industry that never stops moving, including:

Autonomous trucking
Amid ongoing research and testing of self-driving trucks, questions remain for when and how the technology will be implemented. Some industry experts — including cofounder of leading autonomous-truck company Otto Lior Ron — said it could become mainstream in as little as 10 years, if safety and regulations challenges can be solved. Otto had its first success in Colorado in late 2016, when one of its trucks successfully made it from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs without a driver to deliver 50,000 beer cans.

Locally, the work has begun to transform a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 between Dublin and East Liberty into a Smart Mobility Corridor — a testing ground for autonomous driving technologies, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. This will include tests with self-driving trucks and truck platoons, or two electronically connected trucks operating in tandem, which could also reduce the need for drivers.

“Truck platooning technology could bring less potential for human error and make the roads more efficient,” said Michael Ferrando, recruiting and training manager for ODW Logistics, a Columbus-based, third-party logistics company that provides transportation, warehousing and supply-chain support.

Curbing air pollution
Since 2010, new trucks come equipped with a system to accommodate diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), a solution sprayed into the exhaust stream of diesel vehicles to break down air-polluting nitrogen oxides into nontoxic nitrogen and water, Ferrando said.

“There’s also discussion of transitioning to a 30 or 40 percent electrical unit in trucks, which would help us greatly reduce emissions and get us further away from fossil fuels,” he added.

Changing consumer behavior
It’s no secret that the internet has rapidly changed the way that people buy, sell and physically obtain products. Today, long-standing retailers such as Macy’s and Sears have closed storefronts nationwide while Amazon is set to hire 100,000 new full-time and 30,000 new part-time employees over the next year or so.

In central Ohio alone, Amazon has opened two distribution centers and three data centers since 2015, providing roughly 2,120 new jobs to the region.

When products made by thousands of different manufacturers have to be shipped to millions of people’s doorsteps on an on-demand basis, tracking shipments and planning transportation becomes far more complex.

“In many cases we’re working with guaranteed delivery times, which makes it even more imperative to get the product where it needs to be,” Ferrando said.

Dynamic business models
The increasing complexity and fracturing of supply-chains means that carriers want more transparency in tracking their shipments and companies that can provide that will likely have the upper hand.

It also means that new, nontraditional transportation business models are emerging — like companies that use software to match deliveries with local available shippers, such as Convoy and Cargomatic.

There will undoubtedly be more industry transitions to address, such as constantly changing government regulations and technologies, but in the meantime, the transportation industry will keep on moving.

Original article

Keeping women’s health at heart: Closing gender gap in heart-disease awareness, health care

Cardiovascular disease has long been the No. 1 killer of both men and women older than 20, claiming more lives per year than all forms of cancer combined, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Yet decades of gender disparity in research, prevention and health care have left women at a disadvantage.

Compared to men, women are less likely to recognize cardiovascular disease as their leading cause of death, know the symptoms of a heart attack or receive aggressive diagnosis and treatment, according to the American Heart Association.

Heart disease and stroke took the lives of nearly 400,000 U.S. women in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent available data. That’s one in three female deaths — breast cancer causes one in 31.

But the AHA has made notable progress toward reversing these trends since launching its Go Red For Women initiative in 2004.

Go Red For Women not only raises awareness about cardiovascular disease in the female population, but also in the medical community, by providing women-specific treatment guidelines, pushing for equal gender representation in clinical trials and much more, said Brianne Harman, communications director of the AHA’s central Ohio division.

“Through outreach directly from Go Red For Women, roughly 293 fewer women die each day from heart disease and stroke,” Harman said, adding that since 1997, awareness among women that cardiovascular disease is their No. 1 health threat has increased from 26 percent to 56 percent.

Awareness among African-American and Hispanic women is significantly lower, according to the AHA.

And since 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable through education and lifestyle change, Harman said, awareness is key.

“As an African-American female, it is a badge of honor to lead the charge toward heart disease research and preventive care,” said Kimberly Blackwell, CEO of PMM Agency and chair of the 2017 Go Red For Women in Columbus.

One way Go Red raises awareness is through National Wear Red Day, which is held the first Friday in February, falling this year on Feb. 3. More than 2,000 U.S. landmarks will light up red, including Columbus City Hall.

Columbus will host its 13th Go Red For Women luncheon on Feb. 23 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus, as one of 180 Go Red luncheons across the country, Harman said.

The top risk factors for cardiovascular disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, according to the CDC. Other risks include poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol use.

“Your family history is another thing that should definitely be discussed because that’s a big risk factor, and one that you can’t control,” she added.

Another issue is that women are more likely than men to experience nontraditional heart-attack symptoms, such as jaw pain, neck/back pain, pain down one side of the arm, nausea and fatigue, among others.

Misunderstanding these signals can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, Harman said. Fewer women survive their first heart attack than men, according to the CDC.

But advances are on the horizon.

The AHA has set a goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes in Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020.

The organization is on track to meeting the goal, with a decrease in deaths and disabilities every year since 2010, with the exception of 2016, Harman said.

And after a push for more gender-specific research, the FDA is now required to report on how many clinical trial results are documented by gender. The AHA has given more than $3.3 billion to cardiovascular-disease research — second only to the U.S. government.

Get involved in Go Red For Women by registering with the initiative at goredforwomen.org.

This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch’s Go Red For Women special section on Feb. 1, 2017.

Architects, design students team up to showcase leading home trends

A campfire crackles underneath a glowing crescent moon — or right in the middle of your living room.

While more and more homeowners have been extending their living space by covering and/or furnishing their porches, patios, decks and backyards, there is a new trend to look ‘out’ for in 2017, said Earl Lee, director of environmental design at Columbus-based architecture firm Moody Nolan.

That trend is to mix outdoor elements directly into the home— a concept that lies at the heart of an exhibit created by designers from Moody Nolan, as well as students from The Ohio State University and Columbus College of Art and Design.

“So you may find more natural materials like stone, grass and water,” Lee said. “Really the trend centers on making the walls of the house more transparent, so that the inside-outside transition is lessened.”

The exhibit includes four showrooms — a kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom —all of which infuse elements of nature within their design or decor.

The most obvious outdoor-indoor fusion — and what will likely be a visitor favorite — is the bedroom, which doubles as a treehouse that stands four feet off the ground. Other features include an outdoor shower, a half-inside, half-outside dining area, and an indoor fire pit.

It can be very simple, such as having a few potted plants in select locations,” said Chris Humphrey, a fourth-year architecture and construction-systems management student at Ohio State who helped create the exhibit.

On the other end of the spectrum, some homeowners opt to install a “green wall,” or a wall that has a growing medium on the surface, which allows plant life such as mosses and vines to grow and survive indoors, Humphrey said.

“We go outside a lot when we’re children, but we don’t necessarily think that our interior design or living spaces can reflect that,” said Toby Katz, a fourth-year interior design student at CCAD who worked on the project. “But we hope that this show tells people that you can be inspired by plant life and animal shapes and things like that, and that you can show it in your home in a tasteful way.”

An additional area features custom wall coverings designed by each of the six students who worked on the exhibit.

Similar to how vinyl tiles mimic hardwood or stone through modern printing technology, wall coverings can also be made to resemble various textures and patterns.

“It was a way to showcase and explore our interests, while also showing people that you’re not bound to the options that you have in stores,” Humphrey said.

While the exhibit is certainly fun to look at, its core purpose is to demonstrate to homeowners the new and trendy ways that they can enhance their atmosphere.

“A lot of the things we’re doing are definitely doable. It’s just about putting them together in the right combination to make the space what you want it to be,” Lee said. “Sometimes where people fall short is simply having the idea to do it.”

This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch’s Spring Home & Garden Show special section on Feb. 17, 2017.

Ohio’s growing web of entrepreneurs

Small businesses supporting hundreds of local artisans


The inside of Glean, a small business in Columbus, Ohio, that sells items handmade by local artists from recycled and repurposed materials.

Some small businesses have taken entrepreneurship a step further by sourcing all of their products from local artisans, creating a robust network that celebrates local commerce.

With their diverse array of handmade and novelty items, these stores are essentially a one-stop shop for holiday gift buying and for supporting dozens of local merchants on Small Business Saturday, which is on Nov. 26.

One such retailer is Glean, a tiny, basement-level shop that’s flourishing with one-of-a-kind trinkets made from recycled and repurposed materials, all fashioned by local handcrafters, including jewelry, decor, trinkets and small furniture.

Dawn McCombs opened Glean on the corner of West First Avenue and North High Street in 2013. Following a 17-year teaching career, owning a small business was new territory for her.

“I just had this calling to go back to my creative roots,” McCombs said. “When you’ve been working for a long time, you sometimes become desensitized to what your passions really are, so I did some unearthing to find that.”

She initially stocked Glean with her own handmade goods as well as items made by about 10 of her friends. To procure additional merchandise she went to various craft shows to find interested local artists, such as Daisy Mae, who designs wine stoppers, bottle openers and other accessories with snippets of vintage maps.

Today, Glean sells handmade goods from 80 local crafters, said McCombs, who makes about 30 percent of the merchandise in the store. And because she personally selects her vendors, she knows details about each product, as well as the history of the maker.

“I think that helps, because in our society today we’ve lost that element a little bit,” she said. “It’s a bit of nostalgia that we don’t get anymore, like back in the olden days when you’d go to the baker or the butcher.”

A similar store practically shouts its business philosophy through its name — Celebrate Local, which transitioned from a farmer’s market in the parking lot of Easton Town Center into a year-round storefront at the mall in 2011.

Celebrate Local represents more than 300 Ohio farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs, said Lynn Stan, co-owner of the store, which opened a second location in Cincinnati in 2015. The shop sells everything from apparel and accessories to health and beauty products to food and wine.

“Small businesses are so important to the well-being of a community — economically, socially, culturally — but sometimes they’re not as loud as other companies,” Stan said, describing Celebrate Local as an “entree for small business.”

The value in buying local is that it keeps more money in Ohio’s economy, Stan said.

“It’s important for people with big purchasing power to buy local, to keep money from leaving the community,” Stan said. “A community begins with small business, and Celebrate Local is about remembering the little folks.”

Simply Vague, another retailer that sells Ohio-made products, began weaving a web of local artisans in Delaware in 2012. The small business has since opened two stores in Tuttle Mall and Polaris Shopping Center, said Andrea Archibald, who owns the store with her husband, Nate Archibald.

The store sells Ohio-themed products from roughly 250 local artisans, including apparel, home decor and jewelry.

The two lived in Ostrander before starting the business.

“There’s not many places to shop from out there, and we have always liked shopping locally, so we were driving really far to get everything,” Andrea Archibald said. “So we decided to house everything under one roof and make it more accessible to shop local.”

When the couple opened the original Simply Vague in Delaware (now closed), they were working in real estate and had no visions of the store becoming their full-time job. “We had no retail background,” Archibald said.

Now the two are managing five stores throughout Ohio, three of which are spin-off stores called The Direction.

McCombs, Stan and Archibald each expressed a high regard for their vendors.

“It’s become more than just a store they sell in; it’s become a network of people who are there to help each other,” said Archibald, who started a community-based organization in 2015 called Ohio Creative Collective, which connects Ohio-based small business owners, artists, authors and entrepreneurs through monthly events. She also runs the Made Local Marketplace Show, which takes place four times a year in Columbus and features more than 100 local artisans.

“A lot of the people that I’ve talked to think that it must cost so much money to start your own business, but there are ways around that if you’re creative enough,” McCombs added. “Find what your passion is and start off in little markets. You can’t fail if you’re doing something that you love.”

This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch’s 2016 Big Book of Savings on Nov. 20, 2016. 

The holidays: Big business for small business

Local gift shops gearing up for the end of the year

While most large retailers look forward to and rely on extra profits from the holiday season, the end of the year can make or break a small business.

In 2010, American Express recognized a need to counter the huge sales going to retail chains on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and created Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to buying from small businesses. This year, Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 26.

Whereas big-box retailers hire extra employees for the holidays, many small business owners pick up the increased workload on their own, including Mike Renner and Heather Ziegler, who own What The Rock?!, a 250-square-foot gift boutique in the Short North with an eccentric array of rock-and-roll-themed novelty items.

“Store hours are 1 to 7 p.m., but we’re usually working around the clock,” Renner said.

The story is the same for Josh and Niki Quinn, who own Tigertree, an apparel and gift shop in the Short North.

“At this point we’re always working, and even during any meal out with my wife and I, 99 percent of the conversation is work related,” Josh Quinn said.

Despite obstacles, What The Rock?! and Tigertree have both successfully sustained their stores for 10 years.

“We’ve seen a decade of consistent but slow growth, which I think serves us well because sometimes going slow is the best thing that you can do for your business,” Quinn said. “And I think Niki and I are both pretty resourceful. We’re good at learning on the fly.”

What The Rock?! brings in more than 25 percent of its business revenue from mid November through December, making it crucial to the business’ survival, Renner said. To make up for the dip in revenue during the remainder of the year, he and Ziegler sell their products and promote their store at various craft shows, music festivals and street fairs.

For Wholly Craft, a gift shop in Clintonville that sells handmade items from more than 400 vendors, the holidays constitute 35-40 percent of annual sales, said owner Olivera Bratich.

“We carry things all year round that are great to get for loved ones, but the holidays are the one time of year that you have to shop for 25 of your loved ones all at one time,” Bratich said. “So we spend a lot of time and energy making sure that we have a terrific selection from our crafters and designers.”

Wholly Crafts’ best-selling item is an Ohio-shaped cutting board, Bratich said, but the store is filled with miscellaneous merchandise, much of which is meant to be comical, like grenade-shaped hand soap and a coffee mug that reads, “Britney survived 2007. You can handle today.”

Similar off-the-wall items can be found at Tigertree, including unicorn or squirrel-shaped cookie cutters, paint-your-own-phone-case kits and earrings in the shape of tiny sriracha hot sauce bottles.

One of What The Rock?!’s best sellers is its line of whimsical baby onesies, Renner said. The onesies feature bands such as The Ramones, The Rolling Stones and Guns and Roses, and others have comical phrases such as ‘I still live with my parents.’

Also popular is the jewelry that Ziegler handcrafts, including guitar-pick earrings and “rock and rollsaries” (rosaries) picturing assorted music icons, such as John Lennon and Bob Marley.

Handcrafted guitar-pick earrings are just one of the unique gift items shoppers can find at Columbus, Ohio-based What The Rock?! Other fun products include onesies for babies with catchy phrases as well as “rock and rollsaries,” rosaries featuring pictures of iconic musicians.

Handcrafted guitar-pick earrings are just one of the unique gift items shoppers can find at Columbus, Ohio-based What The Rock?! Other fun products include onesies for babies with catchy phrases as well as “rock and rollsaries,” rosaries featuring pictures of iconic musicians.

“We find that at least 50 percent of people who come in during the holidays buying a gift also get something for themselves,” Renner said.

Regardless of the hard work, Renner, Bratich and Quinn all said they love what they do.

“We get to be our own bosses, and I get to deal with what I love — rock and roll,” Renner said.

“It’s a spread of ideas, a spread of aesthetics that I’m happy to be a part of,” Bratich said. “It’s been a great experience to sort of be invested in a community for so long and to see the growth and change in our customers.“

This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch’s 2016 Big Book of Savings on Nov. 20, 2016.