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Jennifer Davis cares for 10 children in her home, which doubles as Little Steps Big Dreams Daycare and Learning Center.
McKenzie Robinson | SBJ
Jennifer Davis cares for 10 children in her home, which doubles as Little Steps Big Dreams Daycare and Learning Center.

Slippery Slope? Springfield acupuncturist’s request sparks conversation on home-based businesses

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For many with home-based businesses, it’s a no-brainer: Working out of the home is economical and convenient.

For some on Springfield City Council, it’s a slippery slope toward changing the character of residential neighborhoods.

Acupuncturist Abba Anderson attended the Jan. 10 council meeting with what she believed was a small request for council to add acupuncturists to the list of businesses the city permits to operate from a business owner’s home.

This would bring acupuncture in line with a growing list of approved home businesses, including artists, computer programmers, dressmakers and tailors, craftspeople, tutors, food preparers and cosmetologists.

Like home cosmetologists, acupuncturists would be limited to operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and only one customer would be allowed in the home at a time, according to the bill up for a council vote on Jan. 24.

Anderson, who has been practicing in Springfield since 2010, told Springfield Business Journal she had been renting space in a business across from Sequiota Park, but it shuttered permanently because of the pandemic. Since then, she said she has been practicing at the home of a friend outside the city.

In the past, she said she was paying $761 per month for a single treatment room at a spa she referred to as “very high end.” She’s also rented a four-room space for $600 per month before, but she said spaces like that are rare.

Operating out of her University Heights home would be a tremendous savings, she said.

However, the council representative in her neighborhood, Abe McGull, expressed opposition to making acupuncture a permitted home-based business at the Jan. 10 meeting.

“We have, I think, started to slide down this road where neighborhoods are starting to become business districts, and I’ve voiced my opinion about this many times: I’m not very comfortable with it,” McGull said.

He added these things have a tendency to grow on their own.

“One day, we wake up and say, ‘How did that happen?’” McGull said. “Today, it was acupuncture; tomorrow, it’s going to be something else.”

He said the city should come up with a comprehensive plan for home-based businesses.

Councilperson Mike Schilling, who agreed to sponsor the bill for Anderson, did not see a problem.

“It gives people an opportunity to do things like this in a private setting and create their own business hours,” he said. “There’s a lot of things much worse going on in homes that we don’t regulate, so I’m supportive of this, that’s for sure.”

Anderson said there are only 10 acupuncturists in Greene County, and 130 operating in the state.

“When they don’t allow these things, they force people to go under the radar,” she said. “I’m not comfortable with that. I want things to be on the up and up.”

Home-sweet business
On the north side of town, at 2405 W. Kearney St., Jennifer Davis operates a day care out of her home. Little Steps Big Dreams Daycare and Learning Center LLC is state licensed to care for 10 children ages 2-4.

Davis combines child care with outdoor education and takes pride in the fact that most of the children in her care know the difference between moss and lichen, the names of trees and which plants are poisonous. Photos on her Facebook page show children building gross motor skills by scaling dirt piles and playing in the woods, as well as in her home.

“I’ve learned to tell people when they call that, hey, kids do get dirty, they do climb trees, we will go into the woods and they will have bumps and bruises,” she said. “I’m fine when they pass on it. That means they weren’t a good fit for the group.”

Davis said she particularly enjoys caring for children with developmental or behavioral needs, including kids who are on the autism spectrum.

“I don’t believe that all kids fit in a set box that people think they should belong in,” she said.

Davis started in child care after her daughter’s kindergarten teacher pulled her aside and expressed the worry that her daughter, a perfectionist who liked to take her time with tasks, might fall through the cracks with conventional education. A single parent at the time, she promptly gave up her food service job and began to homeschool her daughter.

Today, her daughter is 13 and in ninth grade, and owning a home-based business works perfectly for them and Davis’ new husband.

“It’s exhausting because it’s 60 hours a week, but the biggest benefit is my daughter’s education,” she said.

She said she lost half of her business in 2020 because of COVID-19 – some families lost their jobs or began working from home and did not need child care, and some had to move from the area to find work. Things are picking up, though, she said.

For a while, Davis tried to run a 20-child day care in an outside location with a staff of three.

“After a year, I realized I was sinking with it,” she said.

She invested $10,000 to bring her house up to code, and she hasn’t looked back.

Sounds of change
Greg Frazier has a newer home-based business, NoiseJoy Music and Entertainment LLC, which he operates at 1041 W. Walnut St. A musician for 40-plus years, he now teaches music in his own neighborhood.

“It’s not lost on me how incredibly lucky I am,” he said. “I love it. It’s very convenient, working for yourself. You have a lot of challenges, but the overhead isn’t high, and thankfully I owned my own music gear.”

Frazier formerly taught at the School of Rock, which closed during the pandemic, so he began doing remote lessons, and now he operates out of a cottage on his friend’s property.

“We do have neighbors, and we’re very close to downtown,” he said.

But noise is not an issue, he said.  Loud amplification is not needed, even for the recording he does on-site. He said he could see where certain businesses might be a problem.

“Traffic isn’t a big deal for me,” he said. “I work by appointment, and I’m kind of lucky to have the space that I have because we have ample parking back here behind the house. There’s a certain amount of lag time, so there’s not a pile of cars. I can see how that would be an issue.”

Councilperson Craig Hosmer recognizes the concern with the trend.

“It does seem like we keep doing more and more things where people can do business in their home,” he said.

“We want to keep neighborhoods together, and when you allow more and more business activity to go into a residential neighborhood, I think that’s not always good for neighborhoods.”

However, Councilperson Andrew Lear supports the right of people to have home-based businesses.

“Certainly, we need to protect our neighborhoods and I think mitigate, like the one customer at a time, but with the cost of child care, with the difficulties of transportation, I think the ability for someone to supplement their income or even to have some sort of an occupation at home, we need to do more of that, certainly, as we look at the evolution of our neighborhoods,” he said.

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