One-woman cheerleading squad for Dayton
By Jim Bucher
Come on, I know you hear it all the time from young and old, “I can’t wait to get out of Dayton, nothing to do here, no jobs, no opportunities, etc. etc.” Very rarely do you hear, ”Hey guess what, I’m moving my wife, kids and the dog to Dayton.”
Come on, you admit it. We get a bad rap here sometimes.
Some of it is true, but most is false. Most times, the news media – which I was part of for quite some time – dwells on negative aspects of the area. No wonder most of us are on anti-depression medication.
Alas, sometimes we need a little reality check; someone to put it all in perspective; someone from the outside looking in, so we can have a fair and balanced view of our city, instead of TV news or the newspaper telling us what they think we should hear.
Enough, I say!
I’m mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. OK, not really. But there’s a certain someone who’s been a friend of mine for quite a long time that is qualified to speak on this topic. Our own transplanted cheerleader for the region, my buddy, Lisa Grigsby.
Lisa grew up in Washington, D.C., moved to Chicago with her family and attended college in Oklahoma before ending up working in the food and beverage industry. From there, Lisa earned a living in the “laugh business” working for the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Chicago. Running the club became her forte; she had the golden touch. So much so that Lisa would travel the country using her magic on other clubs.
“I would move to a city, hire and train the staff, open the club and move on to the next one,” Grigsby said.
That’s right, coast-to-coast comedy.
“In 1991, I was hired by the owner of Jokers Comedy Café here in town as a consultant to help make his business profitable; it was supposed to be a 90-day gig,” she added. “Normally I’d turn a club around in 60 days, then hire and train a manager in the last 30 and move on.” But the owner had a different idea.
“He wanted to hire me for a year, have a profitable year, then sell the club,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not interested in staying in Dayton.’ He said, ‘Name your price,’ and I did – thinking no way he’d agree to the deal – but he did. I had this sinking feeling, I was going to be staying here for a while,” she said with a hearty laugh.
Fast forward now and Lisa ends up buying the club, which had a very successful run, but closed its doors a few years back.
“Now what do I do?” she asked. “So I thought, ‘Well I’ve been here a few years, it is home now, I might as well stay.’” But the naysayers sounded off. “My Chicago friends expected me to move back,” said Grigsby. “But I surprised them and decided Dayton was home.”
And we’re all better off for that decision.
Before Jokers closed, several of Grigsby’s friends suggested she attend a Leadership Dayton meeting, she ended up joining and said it’s one of the best things she ever did.
“It really opened my eyes to the gems in Dayton. The arts, media, schools and so much more. It made me realize that Dayton was much richer culturally than I ever imagined,” she said. “It was the monthly commitment of doing business during the day that taught me as an entrepreneur that I had to learn to trust my staff to handle the business without me there. I found time to volunteer in the community (Lisa helped found the Clothes That Work organization), meet a wider circle of friends and truly enjoy what Dayton has to offer,” she added. (No, I’m not paying her to say that.)
Lisa is finding out what most of us already know – though we continue to dwell on the negative, our town and region have a lot to offer.
“I like being able to be anywhere in 20 minutes, not commuting an hour to work or fighting crowds of hundreds at festivals,” Grigsby said. “Enjoying a concert at the Fraze, parking nearby, seeing national talent and being home by 11 p.m. is a wonderful thing.”
So what will it take to break out of this slump?
“Dayton needs to scream loud and proud and stop with the inferiority complex and learn to brag,” she said. “Press made the Zagat Top 10 Coolest Coffee Shops list, (Press is located on Wayne Avenue near Fifth Street) we’re the number two ranked city in the country as an arts destination, we have the longest sellout streak in in professional sports (Go Dragons!) and we have a wonderful airport you can get to in 20 minutes.” (You know, easy to and through.) “We have Emmy- and Oscar-nominated filmmakers in town, award winning chefs and musicians that garner national attention. This is what we need the news to cover and Buch, you know you’re one of Dayton’s biggest cheerleaders. You turned the spotlight on so many things; we need to keep doing that,” Lisa continued. (OK, I did pay her to say that. Not really.)
“We have a great community here with wonderful people that’s small enough where you can network with four or five people and get things done. It’s a place I’m proud to call home,” she concluded.
So, there you have it – a transplant from the big city that loves it here and cheerleads every chance she gets. Now, if we can just convince the people with roots here to do the same.
*LIFE AFTER LAUGHS*
Lisa Grigsby currently is working for the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, producing fundraisers. She also runs a regional online magazine.
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.