The newly reorganized Elizabeth City Downtown Business and Professional Association decided at its first meeting in nearly two years on Tuesday that its immediate focus on promoting downtown businesses will start at home.
Over a dozen people associated with different businesses in downtown met at the offices of Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc., to reorganize the long-standing group that went inactive after being a fixture in the city for almost three decades.
MMT Printers co-owner Cindy Williams said now is a perfect time to bring the group back to life. Williams and Page After Page bookstore owner Susan Hinkle are leading the reorganization effort.
“There have been valleys and hills, but it is time to light a fire,” Williams said. “We have enough merchants and property owners to sort of bring it back alive. We need membership and participation.”
To grow participation, the DBPA plans to focus its initial marketing efforts on ending myths that there is nothing to do downtown and that the area isn’t a safe place at night.
DBPA members agreed that even some residents in Pasquotank County and surrounding counties buy into those misconceptions, with one attendee saying the “perception is heartbreaking.”
“People in the county have myths about downtown,” said Will Raucci, co-owner of the Virginia Dare Arcade. “They say there is no parking, (that it is) dangerous, low class. All kind of crap that is not true. It is nonsense.
“You have parking, you have the waterfront, you have walkability, you have places to go. It is safe,” he said.
DBPA member and Visit Elizabeth City Director Corrina Ferguson encouraged the group to not duplicate the efforts of other groups promoting the region.
“We need to be smart about our resources and the limited money that we do have,” Ferguson said. “Will said it, people in the county don’t come downtown. I have met so many people who have not heard of Ghost Harbor Brewing. Maybe our goal for DBPA is to get people who live in Pasquotank County and Elizabeth City to come downtown.’’
Hinkle said the DBPA will be a good way for downtown businesses to stay informed about what each business is doing while collaborating on events.
“It’s a great organization that promotes downtown for the businesses downtown, the whole of downtown,” Hinkle said. “This was the once-a-month meeting where I would find out what was happening downtown outside of my little store. Not having it for that long was a real deficit for me as an information person. We have enough businesses to make it viable.’’
Williams said the time is right for reorganizing the DBPA.
“A prosperous downtown is a prosperous town,” she said. “I am a firm believer (that) with everything that is happening downtown, we will see downtown change from what is was five, 10, 15 years ago. It’s happening and it doesn’t happen overnight.”