In hopes of encouraging and stimulating foot traffic, the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority will set aside one evening a month for businesses to keep their doors open a little later. In tonight’s first run of First Friday, 19 downtown businesses, in addition to restaurants, will be staying open until 8 p.m.
“We thought it would allow a wonderful opportunity for our downtown merchants to create a new shopping opportunity downtown,” said DDA Manager Tara Currier. “A lot of times, people can’t come on the weekend and if they work it can be hard sometimes to get in and shop. So this is a great opportunity, even for those that work out of town and want to come experience all that downtown has to offer.
“With it being new, if we had half a dozen I would have been thrilled, so I’m just thrilled with how many businesses we have wanting to participate and hope that it will entice others that will not be able to participate this time to do so in the future.”
The idea for a First Friday shopping event came from the success seen in other downtown areas with similar efforts, including Rome and Woodstock.
A variety of shops are participating in tonight’s First Friday, including Asbury Station, B&B Antiques, Bartow History Museum, Blue Sky Outfitters, Downtown Gallery, Evolution, Cohutta Fishing Co., Fancy This, Findley’s Butcher Shop, Jordan Scott Salon, Kissing Frog’s, Lulu Boutique, Main Street Salon, Meg Pie, Periwinkle, Psycho Sisters, Spring Place Pottery and Artists’ Gallery, Southern Guitars and The King’s Knit Wit.
“We think it’s great,” said Meg Pie owner Deborah Ballew, speaking also for business partner Nancy Childs. “I have been to them at other cities. We would go to dinner at other cities and the stores were never open, so this gives an opportunity to go in and look around and see the things they have and you see a lot of people you know too. I think it’s a fun event.”
In addition to extended hours, First Friday will attempt to build, over time, a festive atmosphere during the downtown event.
“We want to really create a festive atmosphere,” Currier said. “We’re really encouraging businesses to have maybe an artist demonstration outside or someone doing cotton candy or funnel cakes or a musician playing outside their store just to create something fun that’s visual.
“Hopefully as people are driving through downtown, they’ll be enticed to stop and see what’s going on. As they’re going around and seeing things outside, they’ll go by the storefronts and hopefully they’ll be encouraged to go inside and patronize to see what that particular store has to offer.”
Even downtown Cartersville’s newest stores, Fancy This and Southern Guitars, will be participating, including a possible musical offering on the sidewalk in front of Southern Guitars’ 14 W. Main St. location. Meg Pie, located under the Church Street bridge, is currently in talks with arts and crafts demonstrators trying to arrange a live art performance as well.
Downtown shops will be able to host street-side demonstrations and vendors every First Friday due to a resolution from the city council. Currier just asks that food vendors not serve entree-style meals that would interfere with a guest dining downtown or that goods be sold that compete with other downtown merchants.
Like Meg Pie, Psycho Sisters and other merchants typically stay open until 7 p.m. on Fridays, but will stay open an extra hour for First Friday events. Psycho Sisters owner Holly Delaney looks forward to any event downtown that brings in guests and reminds residents of the locally-owned businesses in historic downtown Cartersville.
“I really just want to see more festivals down here and see more of a draw for local folks to come check out local businesses. I think with all the big-box stores that have moved into Cartersville the last few years, people sort of forget to support their downtown merchants,” Delaney said. “We’re open later for that reason, because for a lot of people, if you’re only open from 10-5 or 10-6, it’s hard for people that work to come shop during the week. Then when people have families, their weekends get booked up. So it can be hard to come shop under those hours.”
Wrapping up the First Friday weekend for downtown Cartersville will be the 2013 Summer Concert Series. Saturday, May 4, from 7 to 9 p.m., The Rockingbirds will take the stage in Friendship Plaza.
For more information, call the DDA at 770-607-3480.