Merchants discuss ways to promote the downtown

"We need to start communicating and work together to do things to make a better downtown; on ways we can make our town more attractive and make our businesses grow."
  
-- John Bunn The Coffee Company

By Rozella Hardin
STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com

   Several Elizabethton merchants met Friday morning in an effort to reorganize as a group to promote the historic downtown and to communicate ways to the City and to the Chamber of Commerce in how they can help the downtown.
   John Bunn of The Coffee Company, who presided at the meeting, said, "We need to start communicating and work together to do things to make a better downtown; on ways we can make our town more attractive and make our businesses grow."
   Rebecca White, marketing director for Carter County Bank, and a member of the Chamber's Covered Bridge Festival Committee, said the committee is looking for ways to extend the festival to the downtown area and to involve downtown businesses.
   White said among new things the Committee is trying this year is a Saturday morning breakfast downtown the weekend of the Covered Bridge Festival as a way to promote the restaurants. "Each eating place downtown is invited to participate by serving breakfast," she said.
   At 9:30 a.m., a memorial service will be held at the Veterans War Memorial in the downtown. Also, a prayer breakfast is being planned for the festival.
   In addressing the merchants, White said, "We want your involvement and we want your input. We want the people who come to the festival to come downtown."
   Sheryl Garland inquired about downtown music. She was told by David Pinckard that the wiring for the downtown music system was located on top of the canopies, and "needs to be completely redone."
   Pinckard said he would approach the City about the re-wiring as well as cutting the Bradford Pear trees on Elk Avenue and replacing them with smaller trees. Most of the merchants in attendance at the meeting agreed that the trees needed to come down and be replaced with smaller trees. Also, Pinckard suggested putting flower boxes around the trees, and perhaps hanging ferns on the downtown utility poles, an idea he borrowed from Abingdon, Va.
   "We perhaps can replace the lights on the canopy with a fixture that more resembles the lights in the Veterans Memorial Park," he said.
   Also, the idea was discussed to have more live music uptown during the Covered Bridge Festival with groups performing at the two walkways.
   Joe Alexander briefly discussed the now defunct Main Street Program, which was active from about 1986 to 1997. "The structure of the organization is still there; we're still a non-profit organization; and we still have money in the bank. It is a great program and we can make it active again, but it takes a lot of work and it takes money," he said.
   "If the downtown is striving, it helps all of us. We have a lot to offer, and we need to promote it," said Alexander.
   The group will meet again May 2 at 8:30 a.m. at The Coffee Company.