Downtown merchants appoint committees; will participate in Breakfast at Betsy

By Rozella Hardin

   Elizabethton downtown merchants have united in an effort to make the downtown a more attractive place as well as a shopping mecca for both tourists and local people.
   C. Keith Young, who is the director of the Elizabethton campus of Northeast State Technical Community College, said, "Downtown is the bedrock of the community." Active in the local Chamber of Commerce and co-director of this year's Covered Bridge Festival, Young noted on a recent walk downtown, he counted over 120 businesses on Elk Avenue and adjoining streets.
   John Huber, who works in the downtown, agreed with Young, noting that Elizabethton is a "diamond in the rough."
   Some 23 persons attended a meeting Friday morning at The Coffee Company downtown. It was the second meeting of the group, and three committees were named -- a Beautification, Promotions and Fundraising.
   Members who volunteered to serve on the Beautification Committee were Jon and Pam Huber, Rebecca White, Pat Green, Lisa Bare, David Pinckard and Cleo Reed. Also named to the committee was Johnny Mills of Mills Greenhouse, who is working with the committee on planting new trees in the business district.
   David Pinckard noted it would take about $5,000 to take down the old trees, build new boxes, in which smaller trees will be planted, and perhaps add some flowers.
   Also, the committee was asked to look into the possibility of a different style of light to replace the globes on the downtown street awning that would better match the light fixtures at the Veterans War Memorial Park.
   Volunteering to serve on the Promotions Committee were John Bunn, Hobie Hyder, Louie O'Bourke, Pat Green, Rebecca White and Lisa Bare.
   The Fundraising Committee is composed of Joe Alexander, David Pinckard, David Ornduff, Cleo Reed and Chris Vulgamore.
   Joe Alexander, who was active in the old Main Street organization, said, "We have a good downtown. I have seen downtown change, but there is a need to promote it. One of the things we need to do is re-educate the people in Carter County about what is downtown."
   Pat Green of Duck Crossing Antiques noted that 75 to 80 percent of her business comes from outside Carter County.
   John Bunn, who has spearheaded the organization of the downtown merchants, said, "We have been successful building businesses individually, and it would be great to build business together. And, this is what this organization is all about."
   Rebecca White, who is actively involved in the Chamber, noted that a page of the Covered Bridge brochure this year will be designated for downtown events. Among the events will be Breakfast at Betsy on Saturday morning, June 7. Downtown restaurants have been asked to be open and serve breakfast from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. "We will have a 5K race and 3k walk early that morning, and at 9 a.m. there will be a Salute to the 776th Maintenance Co. at the War Memorial," said Young.
   "There will be people in the downtown, and the breakfast is a good way to capitalize on that," Bunn noted.
   Also, the Covered Bridge committee plans live music in the downtown on Saturday and Friday afternoon to complement the music on the Bridge.
   Business owners also discussed opening on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. with a Sunday Sidewalk Sale when the Carter County Car Club will have a downtown cruise-in. Lisa Bare, owner of two downtown businesses, emphasized the need for all businesses to participate. "It will not be successful if only one or two businesses open," she said.
   She also asked the group to consider one Sunday afternoon open house during the holidays with all businesses participating rather than each business having their own separate open house.
   Also, block captains were named for the downtown area. Captains will be responsible for notifying businesses on their blocks of meeting dates.
   The group will meet again on June 13.