Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. (ECDI) is a North Carolina and National “Main Street Program”. However, Elizabeth City Downtown is not just about a program, it is also about the people.
The people of downtown Elizabeth City care about our community. Our downtown business owners are often active volunteers who give back to our community in many ways. ECDI’s volunteers, downtown customers, employees, and so many others who support our “Main Street Community” help create our unique culture. The people, not only the beautiful historic buildings, are what make us who we are.
According to Todd Barman from the National Main Street Center, “Main Streets as places are worth saving, not as models, not in glass cases, but as organically evolving settings for human exchange ... exchanges between neighbors meeting by chance, or by plan … exchanges between entrepreneurs and their customers who have a good chance of being neighbors too. …”
Barman also noted, “Main Streets need to be experienced to be understood. It is at that point that they become part of our personal history. Looking back on my 16-plus years within Main Street, I forget the numbers, I forget the projects, but I don’t forget the people.”
Barman goes on to explain in his article, entitled “Main Street: by the People, for the People”, that the intangible power of Main Street as a movement was an important focus of the 2010 National Main Street Trends Survey. The results of that survey offer qualitative evidence of the importance of people. Main Street develops leaders and empowers everyday citizens. Main Street builds individual and community pride, confidence, and hope. Main Street strengthens ties to community and unites. Main Street raises spirits, uplifts, and inspires. Main Street changes lives.
The words shared by a respondent to the 2010 survey tell the story best: “Being part of the Main Street program in my community has given me the opportunity to be with people from literally all walks of life — to be able to see their struggles, their strengths, and their aspirations. Being aware of the diversity of all people and their situations is nothing until one interacts with them. I have had that opportunity since I began working in our program. We have so much in common and really care about each other and our community family. Seeing the pride people have as things improve in our town is so inspiring.”
“Some might argue that success for Main Street as a place depends on special economic circumstances,” says Barman. “I would argue that success depends on people — people with a passion for Main Street, as a place and as a movement, united behind a shared mission and vision and willing to step up and lead. I would further argue that every city and town has the potential to find or create its own special economic circumstances by engaging these people.”
I am thankful for our people. We would love to have you involved as a part of our exciting and important local Main Street community. There are many ways you can become involved. Join an ECDI committee: Promotion, Organization, Design or Economic Restructuring. Eat, shop and do business with our downtown entrepreneurs. Hang out downtown and meet our people. Please call 252-338-4104, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can be inspired by our Main Street community, or how you can contribute to our Main Street’s continued pride, confidence, and hope.
Rebecca Cross is executive director of Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc.