Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams: Credit Buddy Nelms for doing it against the wind

Have you ever spent a day riding a bicycle against the wind?

It’s miserable.

The entire day, you labor, stroke after painful stroke, just to push the bike forward a few feet at a time. It’s unlike climbing a large hill or even a mountain because the push back never seems to end. At least when you reach the top of a mountain, you can take a deep breath, hold on tight, and enjoy the downhill rush.

Give me a mountain any day over a prevailing head wind.

But a funny thing happens after a day of cycling against the wind. There is a great sense of accomplishment when the chore is done. The beer taste better, and the legs are a wonderful kind of tired.

And you will be stronger in the saddle for weeks to come.

Thursday afternoon as I sat in the Convention & Trade Center for the Uptown Columbus Inc. annual meeting, biking against the wind was on my mind.

Uptown Columbus Inc. honored entrepreneur Buddy Nelms for his work in making downtown what it is today. I know Buddy well, for I have been drinking in his bars and eating in his restaurants for more than 20 years. I have bought bicycles and merchandise many times over from his bike shop. I have listened to music in his club and studio.

Over the years, I have watched him operate. Many of those days he has worked against the wind, never giving up, just pushing forward the best he could.

It took him seven years to open The Loft, the place a lot of people go for original music. A fire marshal once assured Nelms — using the handle “young man” to make his point — there would never be a business on the second floor where The Loft is today. City officials threw up road blocks, many times just because they could.

He just pushed back against the wind, finding a way to clear building codes and make it happen.

His restaurant under The Loft has been everything from fine dining to pizza to Korean food. He just kept pushing against the wind to find a combination that was successful.

When he couldn’t get others to open a downtown bike shop, Nelms and a partner opened one. It started small but has grown over the last 10 years.

When the economy collapsed in 2008, the banks called Nelms’ loans. He found a way to keep the collection of businesses and buildings afloat. He put a music studio on the third floor of a downtown building. Most people have no clue it is there — and has been there for eight years. Willie Nelson knows it’s there. He has recorded in the studio. The Heavy, a British rock band, spent weeks in Nelms’ recording studio. They left Columbus and appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Uptown, Inc. got it right last week. Mat Swift, president of the W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate Division, pointed out that while investing in downtown, Nelms had risked more of his worth than most others. They gave him the Rozier Dedwylder Leadership Award.

Nelms does not have the pedigree or three-piece suits that many of the lifetime achievement award winners in Columbus have.He’s just an Army brat, who landed downtown in 1985 and started pedalling against the wind.