Downtown dialogue

[cleeng_content id="599535210" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]After Sip-and-Shop success, merchants asked to partner with Discover Downtown 

CHARLES TOWN – Kathy Skinner is praising a group of fellow downtown business leaders after a pre-Valentine’s Day event brought crowds of shoppers into downtown for carriage rides, bonfires, s’mores, drinks, snacks, store specials and more.

She’s also hoping to entice the merchants to work with Discover Downtown Charles Town, an established nonprofit organized to promote the district.

“DDCT is not interested in stopping or slowing down any momentum that you have generated,” Skinner wrote in a weekend email. “We are interested in providing a means to get things accomplished. As a 501(c)3 organization we will be able to give you the support structure of a formal organization.”

Skinner – owner of Skipper’s Downtown Dips and Deli at 114 W. Washington St. – is a member of the board for Discover Downtown Charles Town, best known for warm-weather “Third Thursday” events with live music, contests and other special happenings.

Discover Downtown Charles Town “is here to support your efforts,” Skinner wrote. “As a merchants group, you have done some great things in a short period of time. As a community member as well as a merchant, I am excited to feel the energy coming from downtown.”

In December, three Washington Street merchants – Stephanie Pierson Smith’s et cetera, Christy Jaeger’s Fans of Southern Charm and Alfredo’s Ristorante & Mediterranean Grill owned by Alfredo Amaya-Diaz – along with Anna Sokel’s Sokel MakeUp and Skin Care on North Charles Street quickly organized a Sunday evening “Sip-and-Shop” with appetizers, drink samples from Bloomery Plantation Distillery and Black Dog Coffee, the chance to win a gift basket, special deals and more.

The success of that event brought on board 16 downtown merchants for a second Sip-and-Shop event held Feb. 9, this one labeled “Cupid’s Crawl.”

In her email, Skinner praises the business owners’ efforts and encourages merchants to become involved with Discover Downtown, which is in the pipeline to become part of the West Virginia Main Street program that’s in place under the leadership of Randy Lewis in Martinsburg and in several other cities around the state.

“In order to sustain your progress, you will need a support system,” she writes. “This is where DDCT comes in. With this support structure, we will be able to have board oversight, insurance and the ability to apply for grants and ask the city and donors/sponsors for funding.

“Eventually it is our goal to have a full-time staff person to do some of the logistical things for us. This way, as merchants, we can dedicate our time and resources on our own businesses.”

Merchants in the past have expressed concern that Discover Downtown has been more focused on meetings than action, resulting in too few special events to entice shoppers and other visitors to spend time in downtown.

In her email, Skinner seems to

acknowledges some merchants’ frustrations. “I know this has been a long process for those of you who have been in business for many years,” she said. “We have had our ups and our downs … but we too as an organization have grown and are seeing progress.”

Skinner’s email wraps up with a formal invitation to merchants to attend a Feb. 28 meeting of Discover Downtown. “We would like to explain our mission and goals to you at the next merchants meeting,” she writes.

“In order for downtown to survive and maintain viability and achieve growth, more than just events will need to take place,” she said. “We need the organization to work on design projects such as streetscape projects and economic projects such as building inventories. These are things that as merchants we either are not interested in dedicating our time or resources or just cannot.

“We need DDCT to keep the big picture moving, just as DDCT needs to the merchants to keep promotions going.”

The Feb. 28 meeting begins at 9 a.m. at Blackwell Properties at 115 W. Washington St.[/cleeng_content]

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