The downtown is a special place that belongs to all of us

Published 12:44 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

When I was growing up, Saturday was the day that people dressed up and went to town. Even as youngsters we looked forward to going to Kress and getting a bag of peanuts or some kind of chocolate candy. My mom would often go to Watson’s, Parks-Belk or JC Penney to buy fabric to make into dresses for me and my sisters. If we didn’t have money to buy anything, it still was a treat to go to town and walk up and down Elk Avenue and visit the stores. Sometimes we would stop in at one of the drug stores and get a small dish of ice cream and a coke or a glass of water filled with tiny ice chips.
Town is still a special place. People get attached to doing things, whether it’s shopping, eating out on a Friday evening or Saturday, enjoying music at the Covered Bridge Park, or walking up and down Elk Avenue to see vehicles in a car show, or window shopping.
Recently, there has been a spat going on between some of the downtown businesses and the Saturday evening car show people. We must remember when there wasn’t anything to draw people downtown, there was the car show. Not so long ago downtown was mostly made up of antique stores, a couple of furniture stores, and a few restaurants. That has changed in recent years as there have been new startups, new events.
Downtown is everyone’s neighborhood. In fact, downtown began as the “home-base” for the town. It was a place where citizens went to furnish their needs for food, clothing, and employment. Communities were built around downtown — homes, schools, and churches. Today, Elk Avenue remains at the heart of downtown.
If you haven’t been downtown in a while, it may surprise you to know how extensive product and service availability is in our downtown. From arts and crafts, to haircuts, cosmetics, clothing, banking, prescription drugs and furniture, downtown has it covered. Besides the charm of historic buildings and beautiful walkways, downtown shops and restaurants offer some of the best customer service around. Some of the businesses have been in operation for decades, and some are new start-ups.
It is not only a place for business and a place to eat, but it is a place where things happen. Events bring people to downtown to discover the businesses and to remind us that it is a place where life happens. Whether it is the Saturday evening car shows and Friday night events in the summer, a concert in the Covered Bridge Park, a Christmas open house, or just a visit to the War Memorial, downtown events offer something for everyone.
We invite the public to visit the shops and restaurants. You will meet some great people and make some great friends.
Who owns downtown? We, the community, own downtown. While a few in the community own the buildings and businesses, downtown is built upon the investment of hundreds and hundreds — people who lived and worked here for the 123 years that Elizabethton has been a town — and it stays alive through the continued support of the public. We need the downtown, and the downtown needs us.
The downtown not only needs people who buy and sell, but it needs events that bring people to downtown. Downtown is not only a place of commerce, but it is a place to celebrate, to meet up, to talk, and to enjoy our time together. That’s what make us who we are.
As I reflect on the history of Elizabethton, I think about people like W.P. Duncan, who was a leader in every progressive movement that contributed to the development of Elizabethton. He was a former mayor who established the first bank in the town. He was a town builder who was instrumental in the development and construction of the old Lynnwood Hotel. He wasn’t the only town leader. There were Dr. E.E. Hunter and Harry Burgie, and so many more, who, I am sure, would frown at the division today between the present day downtown leaders and car show people.
During their time the Lynnwood Hotel was the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night. There was music, dances, food, and even politicians who came to town from time to time to get in on the action.
Downtown belongs to all of us, and it is the heart and soul of our community. It is big enough for all of us. It is time we put our differences aside, and celebrate what we have. We must focus on what Elizabethton has, rather than what it doesn’t have. Savvy communities build on what they already have.
– Rozella Hardin, Editorial Director

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