Elizabethton: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Published 11:34 am Friday, March 22, 2024

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There was a time when Elizabethton was a thriving downtown. Businesses included five and ten-cent stores such as Kress and Woolworth’s; department stores such as JC Penney and Belks; hardwares, movie theaters, drug stores, shoe stores, etc.

Then, small industries began closing – the undergarment plant, box factory, chair factory, and finally the rayon plants. 

Also contributing to the loss of small businesses downtown was the coming of shopping centers and malls.

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For the longest time, the Elizabethton downtown was a place for second-hand stores, and they thrived on Elk Avenue.

Today, Elizabethton is a town that has been re-birthed. It has new, trendy shops, restaurants, and is an inviting place to spend a Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, the traditional structures remain. There are parks in and around the city; Doe River flows through the east part of the town, the Covered Bridge draws sightseers from near and far. The downtown is attractive and inviting, and many people can be seen walking in the downtown during the evening hours.

The new businesses and the improvements have set the tone for surrounding development and create an entire area of walkable, lovable places without the hustle and bustle of a big city. To me, that sounds like a place where people want to spend time and money, creating a better sense of community and a healthier financial situation.

Another piece of news that was welcomed by most of the community in recent days was the approval by City Council for the car show to be held downtown again this summer. Some people like it, some don’t. But, it is an event that brings people downtown.

We must remember that downtown does not belong to just the businesses on Elk Avenue, but it belongs to all of us.

There was a time – and it has never left us – when people came downtown on Saturday evening just to loathe, meet with friends, or grab a bite at the Southern or the luncheonette at Kress’ or Woolworth’s or perhaps meet a friend at Hale’s Drug Store or Burgie’s for a coke or a dish of ice cream.

Downtown was a place for people to meet up with each other…and it still is. 

You don’t want a downtown that’s ONLY shopping or restaurants or housing, but a good mix.

At the same time, it is good to see the new businesses and places to shop. We applaud such organizations as Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce for working tirelessly to make downtown a welcoming place. Some good things are happening on Elk Avenue. Do take time to patronize those businesses downtown. They’re not only investing in the downtown, but in you and me as well.