Illustration by Mario Noche.
It’s no secret that Central Ohio suburbs—from sprawling Dublin to quaint Canal Winchester—have their strengths and weaknesses. No doubt a team of conscientious journalists could analyze each according to various criteria—green space, accessibility, schools, cultural amenities, home prices—and put together a thoughtful service piece that identifies the best and worst of the lot.
This is not that article.
Instead, we’ve crunched a bunch of numbers to answer the kind of questions that inquiring suburbanites really want to know: Which suburb is the smartest? Which drinks the most beer? Which is going to the dogs? Where are all the 40-year-old virgins?
We can tell you the suburb with the highest percentage of married couples, and the one with the kinkiest population. (It’s the same.) We can tell you which community rocks the hardest, which loves classical music and which enjoys a good Tim McGraw concert. (The answer to the last one might surprise you.) We’ve even scoured court records to determine Central Ohio’s most “indecent” burb.
To be sure, no one should take our quirky dossier of Columbus suburbia too seriously. All these communities—even the indecent ones—have something to offer, and we’ve come to no broad conclusions about any of them. Rather, think of this as the journalistic equivalent of the Royal Rumble, the professional wrestling mainstay. We’ve let 17 Central Ohio suburbs duke it out in a statistical steel cage match and determined winners—or losers, depending on your point of view—in nearly 25 categories.
Except our contest isn’t fixed. We’ve gathered data from a wide variety of sources—state, county and federal agencies, the National Register of Historic Places, even the Columbus-based Simon Kenton Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Most of our information came from marketing surveys conducted over three years by the Media Audit, a Texas company that does demographic research for magazines, newspapers and radio and television stations. (All statistics are from the Media Audit unless otherwise noted.)
The company’s Central Ohio data—broken down according to ZIP code—covers topics ranging from educational attainment to artistic interests to family life. (Two communities, Obetz and Minerva Park, weren’t included in our calculations because their corresponding ZIP codes also included disproportionately large swaths of the city of Columbus.)
Still, some folks probably will question our research. And that’s OK. We’ll be happy to chat with anyone with a complaint. All we ask is please refrain from hitting us over the head with a folding chair.
Granted, this is no Kinsey report. We can report nothing definitive about suburban sexual activity. That said, the evidence suggests that Whitehall might be a good place to find the Central Ohio version of Andy Stitzer, the chaste, middle-aged hermit played by Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Foremost, there’s this statistic: 38 percent of Whitehall has never been married, the highest rate in the burbs. Plus, Whitehall residents aren’t likely to wow folks with their physiques (last in gym attendance), tend to avoid inhibition-lowering rock concerts (at the bottom in that category, too) and are the least likely suburbanites to own dogs, the most effective hookup device known to man. If the chastity belt fits. . . .
Upper Arlington is Central Ohio’s smartest suburb, with the second biggest share of residents with advanced college degrees (30 percent, barely behind Dublin) and the highest mean ACT scores for its students (25.1, according to the Ohio Department of Education), just ahead of Grandview.
Country music fans
With its fabulous wealth, spectacular mansions and high society parties, Les Wexner’s New Albany isn’t exactly the “Hee Haw” demographic. So it was surprising to discover that more New Albany residents (21 percent of those surveyed) attended a country music concert than any other suburb. Expect Toby Keith to star in a Victoria’s Secret commercial soon.
Beer and birdies
Plenty of duffers can attest that nothing goes better with golf than booze. Canal Winchester appears to confirm that notion. The southeastern suburb boasts the most active golfers (played the game three times or more in the past year) and the most voracious lager lovers (drank beer six plus times in the past two weeks). But all those greens fees and Bud Lights do add up: Canal Winchester has the highest percentage of two-income families.
Looking for a modern-day June Cleaver? Head to Powell. The Delaware County community has more “homemakers” (14 percent) than any other burb.
It must be easy for old ladies to cross the street in Worthington. The north-side community has the most Boy Scouts per capita—Boy Scout troops, Cub Scout packs and Venturing crews (coed groups of college-aged adults)—according to the Simon Kenton Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Columbus. Overall, there are 16 Worthington residents for every Boy Scout in the community. Runner-up Pickerington has 26 residents per Boy Scout.
Clotheshorses are in abundance in Grandview and Dublin. The former buys more men’s duds than any other suburb while the latter is tops in purchasing women’s clothing.
New Albany, the land of Range Rovers and BMWs, is tops in foreign vehicle ownership. Canal Winchester residents buy the most domestic vehicles.
Oenophiles are plentiful in Bexley, which drinks more wine than any other suburb. Heck, residents even can sip chardonnay while watching the latest art-house fare at the east-side enclave’s neighborhood movie theater, the Drexel East.
Books and movies
Bibliophiles abound in Grandview, where 56 percent of residents surveyed bought 12 or more books from bookstores in the past year, more than any other suburbanites. And when those books get made into films, Grandview folks appear to follow along. The west-side suburb is tops in going to the movies, too.
Upper Arlington, perhaps because of its close proximity to Ohio State, attends more college and professional sports events than any other community. New Albany is a close second.
New Albany conjures up an image of fox hunts, country estates and equestrian shows. Turns out the suburb likes the nightlife, too. Its residents go to bars and nightclubs more than any other suburban dwellers—a bit odd considering that there are few, if any, such businesses in the village. Meanwhile, New Albany also tops Central Ohio suburbs in health club attendance. Clearly, its residents want to look good when they hit the dance floor.
Grove City has the most (23 percent of those surveyed), just ahead of runner-up Hilliard (22 percent). Meanwhile, Worthington and Dublin have the fewest.
When Canal Winchester residents ask neighbors for advice on home-repair projects, they’re more likely to get knowledgeable answers. The southeastern burb is tops in DIYers, with 72 percent of those surveyed saying they had shopped at a hardware or building-supply store in the month before they were polled.
Is there something on the southeast side making suburbanites chubby? Two neighboring communities in that part of town—Pickerington and Canal Winchester—diet more than any other suburb.
Powell is the feline capital of Central Ohio suburbia, with 39 percent of residents surveyed identifying themselves as cat owners.
No one can hold a Bic lighter to Grandview, whose residents frequent more rock concerts than any other Central Ohio burb. Worthington, however, prefers more dignified performances. Its residents are the most likely to go to the symphony, opera or theater.
Groveport eats the most fast food. Surprisingly, the lowest fast-food consumer is Dublin, the hometown of Wendy’s.
Sex, food and marriage
Marital bliss seems to be thriving in Westerville, which boasts the highest marriage rate (81 percent) and the fewest number of divorced folks (5 percent). So what’s Westerville’s secret? It’s not home cooking. The community dines at sit-down restaurants more than any other suburb. (Interestingly, Worthington, which has the highest percentage of divorcees—17 percent—eats out the least.) Perhaps The Other Paper, a sister publication of Columbus Monthly, has figured out the answer to Westerville’s happy family life. The weekly paper revealed in September that there are more couples from Westerville than any other Columbus suburb registered on SwingLifeStyle.com, a website that promotes group sex, partner-swapping and other kinky fetishes.
Man’s best friend is thriving in New Albany. With its walking trails, open spaces and horse-and-hound culture, the northeast-side suburb is an ideal spot for posh pooches, something dog license data seems to confirm. According to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office, there are more dogs per capita in New Albany—one for every 8.5 residents—than in any other Central Ohio burb. “New Albany really has the atmosphere of outdoor living,” says village resident Mark Jeremias, a former Limited Brands executive who owns nine dogs.
Jeremias’s story underscores the community’s unique canine culture. After retiring, Jeremias opened Kennel Club USA just outside New Albany in 2006. His new business is part kennel, part animal resort. The 45-acre complex offers pet grooming, doggie daycare, training (both private instruction and classes), unique pet products (some designed by Jeremias) and accommodations that are hard to beat. Animals can stay in suites with stereos and flat-screen TVs or spacious kennels with covered outdoor patios. And when they need to stretch their legs, dogs can run free on grassy fields and swim in a pond. “I really, really love dogs,” Jeremias says.
He’s not the only one in New Albany. Most of his clients, he says, live in the village, though he attracts customers from as far away as Holmes County. He says “business has been great” since opening two years ago, and he now wants to add fencing so he can turn his entire property into a private dog park. Among Jeremias’s circle of New Albany friends, all have dogs, he says. “Most have two.”
The great outdoors
If you’re fond of blaze orange, Pataskala is the place for you. The east-side community has more per-capita hunting licenses—one permit per 22 residents—than any other Central Ohio suburb. Though growing fast, the city, still surrounded by farms and open spaces, retains its rural culture. Joan Love, who’s lived in the area her entire life, hunts with both a shotgun and bow and arrow on 50 acres she and her husband, Bill, own just outside the city. “I like to get out there in the quiet, away from people,” says Joan, 65. The couple has passed on the tradition to both their sons and expect their grandkids to follow suit as well. “They are too young now,” she says. “But they will hunt.”
Pataskala also boasts plenty of fishing enthusiasts—one license per 12 residents, the top rate among Central Ohio suburbs. The statistic doesn’t surprise Pataskala resident Ron Chapman, a 67-year-old retired Columbus Metro Parks employee who fishes a couple of times a week. Pataskala has plenty of small creeks and ponds, he says, and is close to larger bodies of water, such as Hoover Reservoir and Buckeye Lake. Chapman also has passed on his love of fishing—first to his daughter and now to his 16-year-old grandson. “He still fishes with me,” Chapman says.
The motorcycle has undergone an image makeover in recent years. The vehicle of choice of outlaws and traffic cops is now a favorite of affluent middle-aged professionals. Case in point: Ritzy New Albany is the top suburb in motorcycle ownership. “It has caught on more as a recreational pastime as opposed to a means of transportation and a way of life,” says New Albany motorcyclist Rich Robinowitz.
With its location on the edge of suburbia, New Albany offers close proximity to safe country roads—ideal for bikers. Robinowitz, who started riding motorcycles during his childhood in Oklahoma and returned to it three years ago, enjoys riding by himself. “I sometimes take off, point the bike north, south, east or west until I’m done, turn around and find my way back,” says the 37-year-old, who owns a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. “It’s good alone time. It’s good time in your own head.”
Still, Robinowitz, who’s a custom-home builder, has bonded with fellow New Albany motorcycle enthusiasts, a contingent that includes bankers, lawyers and doctors. He and several friends rode to the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota a couple of years ago, and—look out Hell’s Angels—he’s even thought about forming a New Albany biker club. “I’ve always thought it would be pretty cool to start one,” he says.
How do you determine if a place is indecent? You could count the number of strip clubs and adult bookstores. You could examine trench coat sales. You could dig through people’s art collections for Robert Mapplethorpe photographs. You could find out if Larry Flynt ever lived there (quit blushing, Bexley). All are good options, but none is quite right. As is so often the case, the best arbitrator is the criminal justice system, which charges dozens of Central Ohio men—and a handful of women—with public indecency every year.
And it turns out the pervert patrols in two suburban communities, Grove City and Gahanna, are far busier than their counterparts. Court records reveal that the two cities tied for the most public indecency cases (17) among Columbus suburbs from January 2004 to July of this year. (The third-place finisher, Westerville, had 11.) Grove City appears to have a minor problem with public urination along Stringtown Road, the community’s main commercial corridor and the home of several bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, Gahanna has a more varied list of offenses: a handful of public urination cases, but also folks exposing themselves and masturbating in front of windows, in public bathrooms and at parks, especially Pizzuro Park. Gahanna takes home the crown by virtue of a tie-breaker. In 2003 (not part of our original sample), Gahanna filed 12 public indecency cases in Franklin County Municipal Court compared with just one by Grove City.
It also should be noted that both Gahanna and Grove City attract their share of out-of-town-offenders. For some reason, even visitors have a tough time keeping their pants on in those cities.
When people call a place historic, what they often mean is quaint, a judgment based as much on aesthetics as it is on age and significance. So that’s why Dublin, known for its modern subdivisions and corporate campuses, isn’t the first place that jumps to mind when you think of historic Central Ohio communities. Yet a review of the National Register of Historic Places tells a different story. Dublin has 50 landmarks on the list, far more than any other Columbus suburb. (Canal Winchester, which easily tops Dublin in the charm factor, is second with 31.)
Herb Jones, the president of the Dublin Historical Society, lives in a 128-year-old frame home on South Riverview Street in the old village center of Dublin. He says when preservationists formed the society about 25 years ago, they lobbied to get important Dublin buildings and places on the register. “That just mushroomed,” says Jones, whose home is on the list. “It even carried over into Washington Township, which is the township that Dublin is in.”
Landmarks with Dublin addresses include an ancient Indian mound, a former blacksmith shop (now the home of a veterinary clinic), an old one-room schoolhouse and stone, brick and wood residences that once belonged to prominent Dublin citizens, including the family of John Sells, who founded Dublin nearly 200 years ago. Jones’s home is amid a cluster of historic houses along Riverview, which Sells laid out in 1810. Before that, the street was a major Indian path and frontier trail along the Scioto River from Portsmouth to Upper Sandusky. “There’s a lot of history here,” Jones says.
Dave Ghose is an associate editor for Columbus Monthly. Eric Lyttle is the editor of The Other Paper.
This story appeared in the December 2008 issue of Columbus Monthly.