February 28, 2013
Main Street Easley. Main Street Pickens. Main Street USA.
They are the iconic image and representation of small towns even today.
Long-time resident of Pickens and Easley will recall the days of the 1950s and 60s when mobs of shoppers and crowds looking for activity congregated on Main Street and busy side.
Whether it was Easley’s railroad divided business hub or Pickens’ courthouse centered district, downtown became the destination for people – particularly on Friday night and Saturday – to see neighbors, shop and get involved in a community fray. It was the adventure of the week.
Then came the advent of improved roads and travel to Greenville and fun things to do in Greenville. Then came the desire to spend a Saturday night in the stir of what was happening in Greenville. The goal became having a fun night in Greenville because – in part – Greenville was not Pickens or Easley. It had unique things to do.
Now we are left with struggling downtown that are seeking to define who they are and what they do.
Rightly both Pickens and Easley city governments are investing in downtown enhancements. Ok, Easley has invested also in Old Town Center east of downtown. To date the total amounts to $1.7 million investment in infrastructure. “Build it and they will come” was the idea. So Easley did build the infrastructure and they came.
But the City of Easley boasts of investing $1.4 million in downtown Easley, an amphitheater, Old Market Square, attractive entrances, pocket parks, signage. The notion is that such amenities will attract people to visit and stay. The city invests in organizing events downtown through Dunburk’s Premiere Events. The City of Easley is actively pursuing retention of area people and attraction of out-of-towners.
The City of Pickens also is clamoring for downtown improvements that will secure the downtown business district as the identity of the city – the emblem of what it is and who its people are. Pickens is improving its water system but maintaining the old water tank that looms over downtown as another symbol of the city. The city is investing in attractive lighting, sidewalks and an amphitheater that can be a center for activity.
The Pickens Revitalization Association is stirring the economic development pot to determine what flavor of commercial soup it should cook up.
We live in a different world from the 1950s and 60s. Downtown businesses will need to seek uniqueness and service characteristics to overcome the outflow of local people to find commercial Nirvana in Greenville.
Businesses can build on those unique characteristics to reverse the flow of travel and bring money from Greenville here.
Likely the solution lies both in not allowing local people to get away and in bringing Greenville and Charlotte and Atlanta money here.
We support these efforts and believe they are critical to the success of businesses and downtown.