The Downtown Business Association members reviewed 2013 events and discussed possible plans for the future, including forming committees for each event, as well as ways to increase DBA membership, Sunday evening during the group’s annual retreat held at Walker’s Soda Fountain in Downtown Mount Airy.
Board members in attendance were DBA President Phil Marsh, Treasurer Jennie Lowry Caudill, Secretary and Downtown Coordinator Lizzie Morrison, and board members Ann Vaughn, Marty Adams, Jenna Claxton Puckett, Marty Adams, Lora Jones, and newly appointed board member Dock Merritt.
During a discussion about how to increase membership, board members decided it would be more effective for DBA members to pay at the same time each year, with new members who decide to join later on, such as a new business that opens in downtown, receiving a pro-rated membership fee.
Vaughn said she thought the DBA should work to “get the word out on the membership benefits” such as “free advertising all year long,” and suggested that even nonprofit DBA members make some type of contribution.
Caudill mentioned that many businesses that offer services, such as hair salons, do not join the DBA: “We have always been missing those type of businesses, and once upon a time those were people who were heavily involved.” The fee for DBA membership is $125 per year.
Morrison said she would set up an online Paypal account for the DBA, which would make it more convenient for DBA members to pay their dues by using a credit or debit card instead of sending in a check. She added that a membership committee should be formed to discuss the most efficient and effective way of increasing membership and ensuring members pay their dues on time.
Downtown Bridal Fair and Spring/Fall Fashion Show
The bridal fair, which was moved from March to January this year, was described by Caudill as a “great event” and other board members agreed. Morrison said that the brides and others in attendance enjoyed the day, and they “got a lot of great traffic” in Old North State Winery, where the event was held.
Vaughn added that she would like to see feedback forms submitted from each vendor.”The sooner you can get feedback when it is still fresh on their minds, the better. Handing out feedback forms that day would be a good thing to do next year.”
Caudill said she would like to see more specific plans formed for vendor locations, and Morrison added that she planned to draw a vendor location map, complete with staggered prices depending on vendor location, which would make bridal fair set-up easier next year.
The DBA’s spring fashion show will be held on March 22 at Old North State Winery. The fall fashion show is set for Aug. 2.
Morrison said she would love to have participating businesses plan their fashions prior to the show, in order to promote the looks on social media outlets. Each participating business typically has four to five looks in the fashion show, which lasts around 30 or 45 minutes.
Board members discussed charging a minimal fee for participation in the show, to cover DBA expenses, possibly $25 for DBA members who have paid dues and $50 for those who have not paid. A potential discount for event participation for all members was also discussed by the board, which was an idea brought up by new board member Dock Merritt of Mayberry Cyclery.
Fiddle Crawl and Sidewalk Sale during Budbreak Wine Festival
Morrison told the board that the Fiddle Crawl reveal would take place on the Friday before the Budbreak Wine Festival.
The Budbreak Wine Festival will be held on May 3 this year, from 12 to 6 p.m.
Fiddles will be installed prior to the festival, and Fiddle Crawl artists will stand with their “6-foot-tall, brightly colored fiddle sculptures” along with tables containing other art work created by the artists, Morrison shared. Fiddles will be on every block throughout the downtown area, spread out evenly, which the board hopes will attract more people to walk through downtown.
DBA businesses will also hold a sidewalk sale during the wine festival.
Caudill suggested that a “specials page” be added to the Budbreak website, with special sales and deals listed for downtown businesses.
Farm Fest and Tractor Parade
Caudill said that Farm Fest was successful last year, even though it did not have an attraction like pony rides. The Tractor Parade will be held on May 16 this year, with the Farm Fest on May 17.
There is no fee to participate in the tractor parade, Caudill said, and mentioned that at the end of the parade, kids can ride down the street on pedal tractors and bikes. After the parade, vendors begin setting up for the Farm Fest. Last year’s fees for Farm Fest were $100 for a 10x10 space and $175 for a 10x20 space, with no charge for nonprofit vendors, unless they sell food; all food sales are charged 20 percent of sales. The contracts would be reviewed for this year’s event, board members agreed.
A Farm Fest committee would meet on Friday morning, Morrison said, to review the contracts and discuss plans.
Marsh said he wanted the committee to start finding a “main attraction,” such as pony rides or a petting zoo.
Christmas parade and Fourth of July parade
The DBA hosts two major parades each year — the Christmas parade and the Fourth of July parade. Caudill said the Christmas parade brings in the most profit for the DBA.
Board members discussed the possibility of changing the time of the Christmas parade to later in the afternoon, in an effort to increase the number of people who attend. Marsh said he would have to check on float availability before the parade start time could be changed.
Mayor Deborah Cochran wrote a letter to the board, suggesting that the parade start at 11 a.m. Board members agreed that a change is needed. Morrison said that if the parade started at 11 a.m., many of those who attend may shop downtown prior to the parade, and eat lunch after the parade.
The DBA sponsored two Christmas-related activities after the parade last year, including the free movie “Elf” at the Historic Earle Theatre and free milk and cookies with Santa Claus at the museum, which “less than 20 attended,” according to Morrison. Board members discussed possibly changing the Santa event to before the parade starts, if a later start time is agreed upon.
The Fourth of July parade was discussed as a great opportunity to sell “America’s hometown” shirts in red, white, and blue colors, which could be sold all year long by the DBA.
Marsh said the cruise-ins are always a big hit, and he already had sponsors who were committed to donating door prizes. In addition, the Mount Airy Visitors Center had agreed to sponsor two cruise-ins this year.
Puckett said she would love to see the DBA “creating experiences at every event” and Caudill said she wanted to encourage all DBA members to keep their businesses open until at least 6 p.m. on days of the cruise-in, in an effort to increase downtown business.
Several cruise-in ideas were discussed by the board, including potentially holding decade-themed cruise ins, with costumes and decade-related outfits encouraged, with a possible prize for best-dressed.
Board members agreed that a cruise-in committee would be formed.
Other discussion included:
- Board members agreed that they would love to see the street closed during the Downtown Mount Airy trick-or-treat, and several said they would like to see a Halloween carnival with games and a haunted house.
- A potential new map for the Downtown Mount Airy Art Walk, held in the spring and prior to Christmas.
- Ideas on how to attract locals to downtown Mount Airy.
- A discussion about encouraging businesses to stay open later in the evening.
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.