The Elizabethton Downtown Business Association is continuing its efforts to make changes to E Street, which overall will bring it more in line with the looks of East Elk Avenue as well as make it more attractive. One street planter has already been added at the parking lot beside Farm Supply and a second planter will be added near the intersection of E Street and Pine Street. Benches have been added and trees have been planted across from the Wall of Honor, making it a very attractive place.
The downtown business owners at a meeting this month discussed adding more park benches to the sidewalks on Elk Avenue as well as garbage cans for the use of the public.
The business owners are to be applauded for their efforts to improve the downtown and to make it more attractive to those who visit the shops on Elk Avenue and E Street. Merchants are continually re-inventing the town as it takes on a new personality due to the demise of local retail diversity. Through the years we have seen downtown take on a varied and different personality as the five and ten-cent stores such as Kress and F.W. Woolworth closed their doors, followed by department store giants as JC Penney and Belk, who moved to malls in larger shopping districts.
Occasionally, we hear local residents bemoan the fact that downtown “has nothing to offer,” or that the city and county should do more to entice local businesses to locate in the downtown.
Let’s face it, government can’t do much about what some view as progress or signs of the time or about consumer preference. The habits of local shoppers must take some of the blame. Nobody sells records, typewriters or film cameras anymore, and sometimes we have to accept that things are just as they are. The younger generation buys a song at a time for its iPods and cell phones, making record stores as obsolete as a rotary dial phone.
We live in an era in which people buy “mall” merchandise or order online, making it very difficult for small independent and “mom and pop” stores to survive.
Technological advances and the global economy are taking a toll on the world that many of us grew up in. It has also taken a toll on small business and downtowns like Elizabethton. We are no longer an industrial town, where NAR and Bemberg silk reigned. Instead, we are a “Wal-Mart” town and most of our jobs have become service-related.
Just like downtown, we at the newspaper have felt the changes as well. We are an industry that’s having to adjust to technological changes and new reader habits, because much of our revenue has traditionally come from small-business advertising. Like everyone else, we are continually re-inventing ourselves while seeking to stay true to our roots of being a local newspaper.
Change is inevitable. It’s often been said, “Nothing stays the same.” That’s why it’s important that we have leaders in government and business, who have a vision, who see challenges as opportunities to grasp and move forward, and who are willing to invest their time and talents to make things happen. Gratefully, we have some of those people in the Downtown Business Association.
Like them, we’ve come to accept that in reality we can’t stop progress, we can’t go back to the days of S.H. Kress and F.W. Woolworth. Another old saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.