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Jonesborough needs Merchant Association

Jonesborough needs a merchant association. Talk of the formation of an organization was reported this month in a Herald & Tribune story headlined “Times tough for downtown businesses – Merchant may form association to garner more community support.” Spokeswoman for the group is Diane Rowenhorst, owner of Bone Ami Pet Boutique in downtown Jonesborough.
After meeting with Town leadership in an effort to help downtown stores, she commented: “There’s nothing the Town can do to help us immediately. They’re not in the position to help us out right now with anything we need.” Rowenhorst maintains that the shops and restaurants need community support. She expressed some frustration when she said: “We don’t get that [community support]. Somehow the downtown has gotten a bad rap, but everyone down here could use some help.”
The pet boutique owner also stated that places like “restaurant row” and the Mall in Johnson City remain fairly busy despite the economic downturn, and it is a matter of choice for people to come shop in Jonesborough.
Her comments come after this paper has editorialized about a lack of identification of Jonesborough by the Chamber of Commerce in its adoption of a new stylized logo stating: “Start Your Adventure: Johnson City, Tennessee.”
In our opinion, Jonesborough merchants should expect only limited exposure in Chamber materials. Interestingly, in speaking of the area, Jonesborough is often mentioned as Tennessee’s oldest town along with its heritage and history. However, the Town of Jonesborough is also a living community where residents shop and socialize in a small town separate from Johnson City’s urban environment.
It is this quality of living with unique restaurants and shops that merchants in Jonesborough are attempting to maintain.
The proposed merchants association plans to do promotions and is looking into nonprofit status. One of the ideas that Rowenhorst said merchants have been discussing is a family area downtown.
The area would include a playground or “green area” where people can walk around shops located in the historic area. Other topics that the merchants need to discuss are hours of operations. Promotions that would attract tourists as well as local residents need to be talked about.
Too often in the past there has been the notion that festivals are not necessarily good for business and discourage local residents from patronizing downtown merchants.
Another topic for debate would address the need to “blend” the merchants located along busy Jackson Boulevard with merchants on Jonesborough’s Main Street. Rowenhorst indicated that “it’s small business that suffer the most” when the economy takes a hit as it has in the current recession. Sometimes, however, hard times prompt solutions that lead to prosperity. Inclusion of Jackson Boulevard businesses could benefit local stores by bringing companies with national marketing ideas and resources into the mix of association ideas.
The newspaper has already received several “Letters to the Editor” concerning traffic and the need for assistance by the Town to local merchants. More responses by letters, e-mail or fax communication might begin a helpful exchange of community opinions. Let us hear your ideas in a letter addressed to the paper at P. O. Box 277, Jonesborough, Tennessee 37659; by e-mail to [email protected] or fax at 423-753-6528.