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In the News

Main Street explores economic vitality

Monday, August 6, 2018

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

Economic vitality is one of four points that Main Street El Dorado uses to promote growth, revitalization and historic preservation in the city’s award-winning downtown.

The local and state Main Street programs follow the comprehensive strategy and four-point approach that is laid out by Main Street America to help breathe life into and maintain the economic health of neighborhoods and traditional business districts.

Along with economic vitality, the strategy also focuses on promotion, design and organization.

Within the past two years, MSE has shifted its previously promotion-heavy center to a more balanced focus that fleshes out the other three points.

While working through financial challenges in late 2016/early 2017, MSE agreed to allow the burgeoning Murphy Arts District to take the lead in bringing large entertainment events to El Dorado.

To continue a reliable revenue stream that is based on events, Main Street El Dorado has partnered with MAD to present events, such as MusicFest, MSE’s flagship fundraiser.

Meanwhile, activity has picked up in the economic vitality, design and organization categories.

When Beth Brumley, MSE executive director, presented her monthly report during a regular MSE board meeting in July, she noted that the economic vitality update is typically the shortest item on the agenda.

That was not the case last month, as Brumley reported that the city’s Central Business District is undergoing several changes that lend themselves to the economic growth of downtown El Dorado.

She pointed to a change in ownership of Olde Towne Store, which has been a downtown staple for nearly three decades, offering a mix of gourmet and organic foods, baked goods, natural dietary supplements and gifts.

In June, new owners Greg and Kelli Harrison settled in, taking the reins from Tammy and Richard Ballard.

Specialty bake shop Sweet Treats and More opened up in July at 221 N. Jackson and has filled its menu with a variety of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, breakfast items and beverages.

Specialty orders are also available.

Another new store, Underground Sound, at 209 E. Main (formerly Artattack Graphic Design) is combining vintage and new by selling vinyl records, artwork and coffee — all in an atmospheric lounge space.

Underground Sound held its grand opening last month. The business joins Mr. Mike’s Music and Artwork as the only other store in town to specialize in music and artwork.

Cole’s Jewelers is also expanding and opening a second location at the corner of South Washington and Cedar, the former location of the state revenue office.

“That’s going to happen soon, within the next two months or so,” said Buddy McAdams, MSE board member and co-owner of the property.

The building is being restored to accommodate multiple tenants, and McAdams said he has received several inquiries about the space from prospective businesses.

Brumley also reported the closing of one downtown business, Nix Antiques at 104 E. Elm, in June and the relocation of another, Larry’s AllCare Pharmacy, from 102 E. Elm to 710 N. West Ave. in July.

A new restaurant is expected to open in the building that was formerly occupied by Elm Street Bakery and Rascal’s at the corner of Jefferson and Elm.

MSE board members discussed ideas to improve the aesthetics of the few vacant commercial spaces that are scattered about downtown until new businesses move in.

“We’re looking at something to make that will make them look nicer so when people walk by, they’ll see something other than a vacant building,” Brumley said.

To help permanently “fill in” the vacant spaces, particularly within the 100 block of Elm, Brumley said MSE has consulted with Main Street Arkansas about the possibility of conducting a feasibility study to see what type of businesses would enhance the downtown business culture.

“We’ve talked to them about what needs to be added downtown, what can be added to the mix,” she said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@eldoradonews.com .