Downtown promotions set for weekend

Nov. 28, 2012 @ 07:27 PM

Local businesses expressed mixed reactions to recent downtown Monroe promotions and other efforts to encourage people to shop and dine downtown.

Various business owners pointed out that Monroe's Downtown department does work hard to bring more attention to and people to the downtown area but while some businesses have noticed an increase in foot traffic and customers in and around their businesses, others have not.

Around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday some downtown businesses such as The Renn's Nest and M-Bellish saw an increase in their usual amount of customers while others did not. For some businesses downtown, things have been slow for a while. Some events and promotions offered in the downtown area have helped but depending on the business, certain events and promotions have been more helpful than others.

"We've been slow since Veterans Day," Jahson Oshita, owner of Bibi in downtown Monroe, said.

A recent event encouraging local residents to shop local as well as the art walks often held in downtown Monroe have been helpful when it comes to helping bring in new customers. Other events and promotions haven't been as helpful for his restaurant and a lot of times more people are found walking along Main Street in downtown Monroe to shop and dine instead of along Franklin Street where his restaurant is located. The Downtown Monroe department does do a lot of work to help downtown businesses with various events and promotions but a lot of people are more focused on shopping and dining at the bigger and more well-known chain stores and restaurants than visiting some of the downtown area's shops and restaurants.

"I really want to circumvent people from driving to Charlotte," Oshita said.

Instead of having to drive to Charlotte or other areas to dine and shop, he would rather see people save both time and money by shopping and dining locally.

Rick Pann, who owns The Bus Stop Soda Shop, felt similarly about the amount of people usually found on Franklin Street. 

Business was pretty good when school let out for the recent holiday and his business was able to get some customers by handing out fliers during the Union County parade. 

"We have to go get them," Pann said in reference to encouraging people to visit his business on Franklin Street.

Handing out fliers helped a lot during the parade, he said.

Owners of O'Grady's Tavern at the corner of Franklin and Main streets and The Sea Hut in the middle of Five Points also said business have been slow.

"I see a lot of potential (for downtown Monroe) but without participation from the public, I don't know," Anthony Irby, who owns The Sea Hut, said.

Despite the many promotions and events held downtown, people are rarely attracted to his business as a result of them.  A lot of his business comes from referrals. He would like to see more of a diversity in the type of events held downtown, which could help bringing people out to more of local businesses, he said.

Darlene McGurdy, who owns Magnolia House Antiques, says her business has had both good and bad days but is still doing well. Recently she had a good turn out of customers on Small Business Saturday, McGurdy said.

"I think they're really trying hard, " Candy Collins, who owns Reflections Salon and Spa, said in reference to efforts of Monroe Downtown Department.

In her opinion there has been an increase of foot traffic during various downtown events lately but a problem she sees is when the city blocks of parts of Main Street for certain events and a lack of parking.  People sometimes have to drive around a long time to find a parking spot or sometimes get a parking ticket when they park in front of her's and other nearby businesses if they are in the parking space more than two hours. Lately her business has been busy with many people scheduling appointments around the holidays but she hasn't had a lot of new clients, Collins said.

Other downtown business owners and employees also said that though promotions and downtown events are helpful and that they understand the reasoning for blocking off some streets, but in some cases closing the parts of streets leads to some businesses being cut off from the main part of the event, which results in few people stopping by certain businesses.

Brian Borne, Monroe's Downtown Director, said he has had heard good feedback from the events and promotions he and others in the Downtown Department have worked on.

It helps when everyone buys into the event and helps to promote it, he said.

He  encourage people to visit downtown businesses and participate in the various promotions offered during Monroe's Christmas Tree Lighting event Saturday from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.