Pumping up the heart of the city
Jay Meisel | Highlands TodaySEBRING - For downtown business owner Kathy Doherty, who has also lived in the central business district, a conversation with a clerk at a department store on U.S. 27 several years ago was startling.
Published: January 8, 2013
Published: January 8, 2013
"She didn't even know we had a downtown," Doherty, owner of Kathy's Consignment Boutique, said Monday.
That's one reason why Doherty believes Destination Downtown Sebring is an important program for the central business area.
"I definitely believe it helps, and we need to promote more activities downtown," Doherty said.
Destination Downtown Sebring, which holds monthly, themed events to bring people to downtown, is an outgrowth of what used to be called the Gallery Walk, said Linda Tucker, who owns Linda's Books and Such.
By expanding the focus about a year and a half ago, Tucker said, she and other business owners wanted to increase the number of people interested in coming to the event.
One of the main focuses of the program is a variety of monthly, themed events, which draws different people to visit various downtown businesses that expand their hours. They also have a sidewalk sale the third Saturday of the month from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and provide an opportunity for people to buy a Buy Downtown Sebring card that offers discounts.
This month's Friday downtown event will mesh with the annual U.S. Sports Aviation Expo, which will take place from Jan. 17 to 20 at the Sebring Regional Airport.
Friday's downtown event, from 5-8 p.m., will serve as a kickoff for the expo, said Lora Todd, owner of Plan B Promotions.
Todd said expo officials contacted Destination Downtown Sebring and suggested the joint event. It will include displays of light aircraft, a flying car, demonstrations of model aircraft and music from the band Free4m, .
The event is designed to make people more aware of the expo, as well as the downtown area, she said.
A lot of people, when attending the Second Friday event, walk around the downtown area and discover businesses that they didn't know existed, Todd said.
When asked if she believes that exposure results in people coming back again to the downtown area, she said, "I know that for a fact."
Todd said she knows of people who come when the event has a motorcycle or bike theme and then return in their cars to do more shopping.
And shopping opportunities are expanding.
Only a handful of vacant buildings remain, Tucker said.
Molly's Treats recently moved in at110 N. Ridgewood Drive, opening Monday, selling cupcakes, ice cream and other goodies.
Kristen Knowles, the owner, said her mother, Michele Council, owns another location in Lake Placid, and they believed downtown Sebring would be a "great place" to open a second venue.
Also seeing the value of downtown as a location for new businesses is Doherty, who is renovating a building that used to be a pharmacy.
She said within the next month, she hopes the building, Galleria 301, located at 301 Circle Park Drive, will be ready for use with a ladies' consignment store — Still Chic Boutique — as the anchor business, with resident artist Beverly Branam.
She said the Community Redevelopment Agency was helpful providing money for a façade and a business incentive grant.
Although her business at 659 S. Commerce Ave. is closer to the edge of downtown, Doherty believes the monthly events have helped her, providing the opportunity to put her name out to the public.