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Necessity is the Mother of Invention … and Exploration

Smart retailers leaned in to creating safe and memorable experiences for shoppers in non-traditional formats.




WHEN RESOURCES ARE limited and times are challenging, businesses are pushed to work harder and think outside of the box in order to survive. It’s no secret to anyone that brick-and-mortar retailers took a hard hit due to Covid. However, what may come as a surprise to some is how certain businesses quickly reacted and responded to the pandemic to highlight the sense of community and safely bring people together.

One company that stood out as a strong leader during these challenging times is real estate and development firm Steiner + Associates. Sensing an urgent need to present new and innovative strategies to keep stores thriving at Easton Town Center – an indoor and outdoor, mixed-use retail, dining and entertainment complex located in Columbus, Ohio. In recovering from a brief shutdown of many stores (essential supplies and restaurants continued to serve the public through carryout and delivery), they knew they needed to react quickly.

Utilizing one of Easton Town Center’s vacant parking lots, a drive-in movie theater concept was set in motion. In less than two weeks, Steiner + Associates, in partnership with vendors, created a marketing plan, designed the space layout, installed electricity and sourced equipment and signage to bring the drive-in theater concept to life.

The Easton Sunset Drive-In Series was a huge commercial achievement, and tickets sold out each day within the first 10 minutes of opening. All proceeds went to the Easton Community Foundation, which supports non-profits throughout the region, promoting a safe and fun evening event with a purpose. If guests were interested in grabbing food during the movie, they could order food from select Easton restaurants that would deliver food right to their car, providing a layer of unexpected convenience.

In addition to incorporating the drive-in theater, Steiner + Associates identified areas where visual and art installations could be incorporated throughout Easton Town Center and then connected with local artists, inviting them to express themselves and share their talents with the community. Though art galleries, museums and studios closed during the COVID-19 lockdown, Steiner + Associates recognized the positive impact local and public art can have in a community. Guests were invited to visit Easton Town Center and discover these one-of-a-kind art installations, including murals, chalk art, architectural installations, colorful ribbon installations and captivating digital elements.

During these challenging times, smart retailers pivoted to create a strong foundation for guests based on the four pillars of authenticity, localization, expected convenience and security. Easton Town Center won the hearts of many for bringing community and convenience together to curate safe, wonderful experiences in the midst of a pandemic. As the popular saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”


Jalpa is a Senior Visual Merchandiser and Interior Architect at ZenGenius Inc. A creative thinker, she has designed various retail solutions for brands like Kellogg’s, 3M, Cadbury, Knorr and Unilever. She is extremely passionate about art and craft, loves to explore, seeks inspirations, handcrafts, memories and delivers everlasting experiences. She perseveres in growing, learning and developing her skills and techniques each day.



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