As we approach our 10 year anniversary being in downtown Harrisonburg I am thinking about my love affair with downtown Harrisonburg. Can you believe we have been here for 10 years already! We started out with me and a wood desk above OASIS Fine Art & Craft, Harrisonburg VA.
We slowly grew our local reputation and added an employee causing us to need more space. We moved to 57 South Main St. on Court Square. That space allowed us to grow, develop our local voice, and build our capacity.
Then three years ago on July 4th we moved into my favorite building in Harrisonburg, the Depot. I am thinking about how much things have changed in downtown over that same time period. The downtown district has expanded in footprint and in the number of businesses. Downtown has grown in events and energy level. Downtown has become a place for family, friends, locals, and students to all hang out and enjoy each other. Downtown has become the heart of Harrisonburg.
This could not have been made possible without trailblazers that opened shops in an almost desolate area of town many years before I arrived. It took vision and passion to start something that seemed impossible, revitalizing downtown. It also could not have been possible without the businesses that never left and continue to thrive like Gitchell’s Photography and R.S. Monger & Sons. It would not be done today without innovative developers and entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on “build it and they will come.”
Downtown revitalization is not just the work done by one organization or a small group of people. It is the work done by all those that use downtown. The shop owners, local professionals, tourists visiting, residents, entrepreneurs, economic developers, city council, event organizers and more. The reason I love downtown is because of the diversity, people, food, events, and energy. Downtown success relies on people shopping and eating in downtown. It needs developers with vision to renovate historic buildings like Keith May did on South Main Street.
As the Friendly City Fourth celebration comes around this week I am reminded about all the good Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance does for our Downtown. Their efforts to build business, offer training to retailers, help improve local marketing, and even enhance streetscapes is all evident in what is here now compared to 10 years ago. If you want a fun way to support their work and the downtown you should make sure to purchase one of the last few tickets to the Friendly City Fortune.Or if that is not your speed you can volunteer for an event, donate cold hard cash to the organization, or just attend events and support the local businesses in Downtown. I am so thankful for the ground work that Brian Shull, Harrisonburg City Economic Developer and Eddie Bumbaugh laid for this Downtown’s success. I am also very thankful for the work that Andrea, Lauren, Erin, and Jeslyn are doing each day to continue to grow and improve Downtown Harrisonburg.