Last updated: April 02. 2014 5:09PM - 1703 Views
By Jessica Johnson jessicajohnson@civitasmedia.com

Downtown Business Association members discuss upcoming events at April's DBA meeting, which took place at Walker's Soda Fountain in downtown Mount Airy.
Downtown Business Association members discuss upcoming events at April's DBA meeting, which took place at Walker's Soda Fountain in downtown Mount Airy.
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Event planning for the peak tourism season in Mount Airy is well under way with Downtown Business Association members, as indicated at the recent DBA meeting, held at Walker’s Soda Fountain in downtown Mount Airy.

In fact, DBA President Phil Marsh shared that he had a phone call last week from a lady who lives in the Mount Tabor, S.C., area, who said her town greatly admired what Mount Airy and the downtown area is doing to encourage visitation and entertain locals. Marsh said she had many questions about events like cruise-ins, parades, and said she had been on local social media outlets such as Facebook, and several people had been to the area to visit.

“They are wanting to get things going like we’ve already got going here on Main Street, and I think that’s great. People are really noticing us,” Marsh said.

In terms of long-range planning, DBA Treasurer Jennie Lowry Caudill said that everyone was welcome to send information about the downtown area to visitors center staff, who would have a booth at Tourism Day, held at the Interstate 77 Welcome Center at the North Carolina state line on May 7.

DBA members discussed the value of curb appeal and adding visual appeal to the downtown area. Marsh said one complaint he hears, especially during the summer months, is that the trash cans fill up quickly, which attracts yellow jackets and bees. He also added that some have shared that trash can areas need pressure washing.

Caudill said the Mount Airy Downtown Inc. group had received a report from the recent N.C. Main Street Resource Team visit. The team would be back in town on April 28 to present the in-depth report on their findings.

The downtown Spring Art Walk will take place on April 12, and Marsh shared that if any downtown businesses want an artist to set up inside or outside of their store, to fill out the form and an artist would be assigned. Caudill said free shuttle service would be provided up and down N. Main Street on the day of the Fiddle Crawl, from the Gertrude Smith House to Andy Griffith Playhouse and points in between.

A Big Green Egg cook-off will be held on April 19 behind Old North State Winery and Brannock and Hiatt, with multiple teams competing, as well as family-friendly entertainment.

A reminder also was mentioned about the Budbreak Wine Festival, which is coming up on May 3, as well as the Downtown Fiddle Crawl and reveal, which will take place on May 2 at the Historic Earle Theatre from 5 to 7 p.m.

The DBA will set up a booth during Budbreak, selling wine lanyards, t-shirts, and hats. In addition, downtown businesses will hold a sidewalk sale on that day, and Fiddle Crawl artists will be with their fiddles on display throughout the downtown area.

Farm Fest is set for May 17, with the popular tractor parade set for May 16, and the DBA is looking for Farm Fest vendors and parade participants.

Caudill said as part of the DBA’s effort to encourage businesses to stay open later, the group will have an official “Saturday Stay Late Downtown” campaign for the first cruise-in, which takes place on the third Saturday in June, with cruise-ins the third Saturday of each month through October, from 4 to 8 p.m.

In old business, Marsh said the Downtown Rock the Runway Spring Fashion Show was a great success, with a large turn-out. Food and donations for the Hungry Bears Backpack Program were delivered to J.J. Jones Intermediate School, Mount Airy Middle School, and Tharrington Elementary School. In total, Marsh shared they collected around 400 pounds of non-perishable food as well as around $100 in donations.

Director of Tourism and Marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center Jessica Roberts added that the DBA “really had a lot of good momentum going” and praised the group for its efforts.

Roberts also shared details about retail strategies the DBA could utilize, strategies she learned at the recent North Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Raleigh. The strategies come from Roger Brooks, who is an international expert on downtown areas, which Brooks says are the “heart and soul of the community.”

“You have to offer the consumer what they cannot get at home or closer to home,” Roberts said. “Plus, if you are not hanging around downtown, then neither will your visitors.”

Additional strategies included promoting what you sell before you promote the name of your business, enhancing curb appeal which can account for 70 percent of first-time sales, and appealing to baby boomers as well as women, who account for 80 percent of travel spending in North Carolina.

Roberts also said the visitor’s center would be happy to help out with signs directing visitors and locals to the restrooms at the visitor’s center, and suggested that would work better than simply having a sign that says “no public restrooms available.”

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.

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