Main Street cites suc­cesses, looks to fu­ture

The Covington News - - THE SECOND FRONT - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

The square has al­ways been the heart of Cov­ing­ton, but there were more and big­ger events dur­ing the past 13 months than in re­cent years, and there was also plenty of busi­ness ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing some new re­tail stores and con­struc­tion projects.

Down­town Cov­ing­ton hosted 65 events from July 2012 through June 2013, paid homage to its film-in­dus­try pop­u­lar­ity through the un­veil­ing of the Cov­ing­ton Walk of Stars and con­struc­tion on a real Mys­tic Grill restau­rant, and had some new busi­nesses pro­vide greater va­ri­ety to the dis­trict’s re­tail. Main Street Cov­ing­ton, the non­profit down­town ad­vo­cacy group, held its an­nual meet­ing last week. While the pro­gram is un­der­go­ing changes, in­clud­ing a search for a new di­rec­tor and likely be­ing placed un­der the Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce, of­fi­cials said the pro­gram and down­town in gen­eral had a strong year.

“From out­side, peo­ple may be think­ing Main Street is in tur­moil, but we’re get­ting more fo­cused and more ef­fec­tive, in my opin­ion,” said Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston, who thanked in­terim Main Street Di­rec­tor Randy Vin­son and Main Street board Chair Serra Phillips for their lead­er­ship ef­forts dur­ing the tran­si­tion.

“You drive around the square, and there are con­struc­tion projects go­ing on and great things to see. I think some folks are start­ing to un­der­stand what we have here,” John­ston said. “It’s not just the phe­nom­e­nal struc­ture and place called the square; it’s the fact (we’re) blessed right now with peo­ple com­ing from all over world, com­ing to see the Cov­ing­ton square.”

Phillips said the Main Street pro­gram’s num­bers dur­ing this past bud­get year (which runs from July to June) were im­pres­sive. The an­nual re­port said “Down­town Cov­ing­ton’s” Face­book page had 4,511 likes and Cov­ing­ton drew be­tween 5,0007,000 peo­ple for this year’s In­de­pen­dence in the Park event (tech­ni­cally in the new bud­get year) and had $11,000 in do­na­tions. Also, about 1,500 peo­ple at­tended the an­nual Light­ing of the His­toric Court­house and an­nual Christ­mas pa­rade.

How­ever, Phillips took most of the an­nual meet­ing to look back and fo­cus on the busi­ness own­ers whose suc­cesses were driv­ing down­town for­ward.

Among them: South­ern Heart­land Art

The gallery is grow­ing, with 20 artists now fea­tured there. Lo­cal artist Cindy Mur­phy had a ca­reer high­light in 2012 when she was cho­sen by Gov. Nathan Deal to cre­ate Ge­or­gia’s of­fi­cial state Christ­mas or­na­ments. Mur­phy’s 24 or­na­ments graced the Ge­or­gia Christ­mas tree at the 2012 National Christ­mas Tree dis­play in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Cub Scouts

Rick Gunter works for Ram­sey’s Pro­duce stand on Usher Street, but he’s also a lo­cal Cub Scout leader, and he and his scouts sold 160 pounds of boiled peanuts and more than 400 drinks dur­ing the city’s Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion, al­low­ing seven scouts, whose fam­i­lies couldn’t af­ford camp, to at­tend. Arts As­so­ci­a­tion

Be­cause they don’t have chil­dren tak­ing part, many peo­ple are un­aware of the qual­ity per­for­mances pre­sented by the Arts As­so­ci­a­tion in New­ton County, Phillips said.

She said the el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school ballet per­for­mances and choral con­certs are in­cred­i­bly ad­vanced for those age groups, in­clud­ing per­for­mances of “The Nutcracker” and “Les Mis­er­ables.”

The non­profit has a re­gional ballet, which added a con­tem­po­rary dance per­for­mance pro­gram, and mul­ti­ple choirs for young chil­dren and older youths, pro- grams that weren’t around when Phillips was par­tic­i­pat­ing in such arts pro­grams.

“Now, we even have op­por­tu­ni­ties for 3-year-olds to start dance, and (the pro­grams) go up into high school,’’ Phillips said.

The Arts As­so­ci­a­tion pur­chased the Main­stream Dance stu­dio to ex­pand its ballet pro­gram and cre­ated its first mu­si­cal the­ater camp last sum­mer. Sweet Treats Bak­ery

Though the bak­ery isn’t a new busi­ness, a re­design, in­clud­ing a new lay­out, fresh paint and a big­ger dis­play case to show­case the desserts and baked goods, has im­proved the bak­ery’s ap­peal. Mov­ing for­ward

LeSho­nia May­bin has no ties to Cov­ing­ton, and, in fact, when she first moved to Ge­or­gia from Michi­gan, she fig­ured Cov­ing­ton would never be on her radar. Fast-for­ward a few years, and the busi­ness­woman is open­ing a new hair stu­dio, O’Han­nah’s Hair Stu­dio and Bou­tique, at 1118 Brown St.

May­bin said she chose Cov­ing­ton be­cause of the city’s vi­sion and re­cent growth.

“I wanted to be a part of that and bring some­thing to that,” said May­bin.

Mayor John­ston said ex­cite­ment is build­ing, as he re­cently met with two in­dus­trial prospects who could bring as many as 1,500 jobs to the com­mu­nity. While it’s al­ways tough to close those deals, John­ston said Cov­ing­ton is al­ways an easy sell.

“You can be as ag­gres­sive and creative as you want to be in this com­mu­nity. You are in a great spot,” John­ston said. “To me, it’s an ex­cit­ing time; it’s a great time.”

Gabriel Khouli /The Cov­ing­ton News

Th­ese pho­tos tell some of down­town Cov­ing­ton’s bright­est suc­cess sto­ries, in­clud­ing the arts, eater­ies and more.

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