On Monday night I attended the Annual Meeting for Main Street Roanoke Rapids. Director Christina Caudle, her board and volunteers have done amazing work this year, which they proudly shared with a packed crowd.
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I celebrated my two-year anniversary with the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, July 15. The time seems to have flown by, yet it seems like I’ve been here forever. I’d like to reflect on what brought me here, growth I have seen, and progress I want to continue to pursue.
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How many of you are like me that when you travel, you seek out and explore main street areas? I truly believe that a main street is the heart and soul of a town and communicates a sense of place and history. I will also say that because a town’s main street tells its story, the state of the main street business district can be a town’s biggest advocate or worst enemy if the main street appears neglected or unsafe.
“Main Streets are the traditional center for social, cultural, and economic activity for their communities. They are the big stage, the core of the community. Our Main Streets tell us who we are and who we were, and how the past has shaped us,” according to Preservation Nation.org.
You may ask, what are the benefits of adaptive reuse and revitalization? According to Illinois.gov, regarding Illinois’ Main Street efforts,
• “Revitalization generates reinvestment. Private investment in businesses and commercial properties, and public investment in infrastructure create economic benefits for the entire district.
• Revitalization supports business growth and job creation. Viable commercial districts provide places for entrepreneurs to succeed, increasing the viability and vitality of the commercial area.
• Revitalization supports economic growth throughout the community. Downtowns and local districts project the community’s image to visitors and potential investors. Healthy commercial districts reflect a community that cares.
• Revitalization provides local focus and stability. Economically strong commercial districts serve as an anchor for the community and represent consistent economic growth.”
Several of our Chamber members and other new businesses in the area, and I won’t be able to mention them all, are starting their businesses on main streets in towns around the Lake Gaston region and breathing life back into small town America.
Warren FoodWorks, 108 S Main Street in Warrenton, has not only revitalized and reused an architecturally and historically significant main street business (look for the beautiful turquoise and white building with the arched 2nd floor windows), preserving that history and sense of place, but also is continuing that story by creating a fresh gathering space, serving locally sourced foods, encouraging local artists, and offering fun events like karaoke and trivia night.
The Backdoor Bistro & Bakery, 135 E South Main Street in Littleton, with owners Katelyn Wright and Chef Christian Brown has brought a flair for ambience and creative dining to the Lake Gaston region. You literally enter the restaurant through the back door, hence the name, and enter a space of soft lighting, creative seating (like the bar constructed from recycled pallet material with rustic bar stools), and a hand-painted mural of Lake Gaston. The food is an art form unto itself, as lovely as it is delicious.
The Bay Sire Winery, Bistro & Ale House, 128 W Jefferson Street in Jackson, has been a signature restaurant in Jackson for many years under different names and for quite some time bore the banner Sir Archie, named for the famous racehorse from Northampton County who sired countless racing legends. The Bay Sire also pays homage to this history. New owner Jemma Cox came to Jackson looking at historic homes and fell in love with the town. She has brought beauty and style to both the décor and the food.
The Hen & the Hog is a new restaurant to the Lake Gaston region, so new that it hasn’t even opened yet, but the anticipation is amazing. The restaurant is located in the one block business district at 16 S King Street in historic Halifax, NC, and owner Patterson Wilson, Halifax native, purchased an old antique store and has transformed it into what will surely become one of Eastern North Carolina’s premier restaurants. The Hen & the Hog is a “farm to table restaurant, specializing in edgy Southern comfort food,” according to the restaurant Facebook page. I had the good fortune of attending a small dinner to sample Chef Chelsi Hogue’s cuisine, and her use of North Carolina ingredients in inspired ways was amazing. Stay tuned for official restaurant opening information via Facebook.
Support these businesses that are helping preserve and bring life back to our main streets!
Last Tuesday I spent the morning at an Industry Roundtable Breakfast, sponsored by the Warren County Economic Development Commission and hosted by Glen Raven in Norlina, NC. Two of my board members accompanied me at this event.
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“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…into the future” is a poignant lyric from “Fly Like an Eagle” by one of my favorite groups The Steve Miller Band that rings more true for me the older I get. Here we are just a few days before July 4th, and it seems I just blinked after Memorial Day and here I am.
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