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We dig Jonesborough

If all goes as planned, people will truly be “digging Jonesborough” beginning in August.
Town of Jonesborough leaders are set to launch a “We Dig Jonesborough” promotion on Saturday, Aug. 4, filled with family friendly activities and Jonesborough’s first-ever “cash mob” shopping experience.
Nearly 20 downtown merchants, many of them wearing bright yellow hard hats with a “We Dig Jonesborough” logo, listened as Town of Jonesborough Events Coordinator Melinda Copp outlined promotion plans at a July 17 meeting.
The new promotion, Copp said, is designed to create enthusiasm and hopefully bring a much-needed influx of shoppers into the town’s historic district to help offset the negative economic impact merchants say is being created by ongoing construction downtown.
Extended street closures, the presence of heavy equipment, jackhammers and dust have kept shoppers at bay, merchants say, as the Town of Jonesborough undergoes an extensive facelift that will include new widened brick sidewalks, plantings, lighting and street paving. Also included in the construction project are updates of power and water lines downtown.
The project, scheduled to be finished in December, isn’t going away, town leaders say. So they are set to embrace — even promote — the construction with the light-hearted “We Dig Jonesborough” series of events.
The promotion will focus on Friday evenings and Saturdays, with shop owners staying open late to accommodate crowds at Music on the Square on Friday evenings and Movies On Main on Saturday nights.
Saturday mornings will feature a “cash mob,” which entices shoppers to spend a minimum of $20 in the store of the week. (See sidebar on Cash Mob).
“As the construction is nearing completion, let’s create a buzz about what we have to offer,” Copp said.
The town will unveil the complete promotion on Thursday, July 26.
Copp also announced that WJHL-TV reporter Melissa Hipolit, who conducts a weekly report called “Melissa for Hire,” will be in town on Wednesday, July 25, to help lay brick and do other construction projects. A segment, featuring her “work” in Jonesborough will be aired the next day, Copp said.
While the majority of merchants at the meeting committed to extending their hours and working with the new promotion, some expressed their doubts about the plan.
Instead, Steve Cook, owner of Jonesborough Art Glass, suggested the Town and the Johnson City Power Board each make financial contributions for advertising and promoting downtown businesses.
Since both have been major contributors to the problems caused by the construction, Cook said, “it wouldn’t hurt either of them to spend $10,000, even $25,000 to help with advertising.”
Pete Paulin, manager of the Jonesborough Fine Art Gallery, said he would like to see a billboard promoting downtown businesses on Interstate 26.
“It is a priority, from my viewpoint,” Paulin said, “that Jonesborough should be focusing on tourism.”
Paulin said he believes event-driven messages have been proven ineffective and asked that more market research be provided.
But Marty Glasgow, owner of Gracious Designs, said she likes the idea of the promotion and touted the practice of staying open in the evenings.
“I have customers who have spent thousands of dollars with me because I stayed open,” she said. “They would come in at night, sometimes without their purses. Sometimes they didn’t buy anything right then and there,” she added, “but they came back.”