Aberdeen Merchants Join Forces
Aberdeen merchants are joining forces to help build the town's growing business base.
The Aberdeen Business Guild, in its infancy, will begin working with an attorney to finalize the by-laws, modeled largely from similar associations in Southern Pines and Pinehurst, to be approved by its membership.
Currently there are seven core members.
Although the guild is still in the development stages, it has already defined its objectives.
"We want to promote the businesses within Aberdeen and work with the Aberdeen community to form a good base," said Ashley Baker, a guild representative and owner of The Inn at the Bryant House. "We want this to be home- and family-oriented, a place where people come to shop and eat."
In doing so, the guild hopes also to build on the momentum that the town's historic district is already experiencing.
"We'd like to see more of those vacant storefronts filled," said Baker.
Shirley Starkey, Baker's mother and inn co-owner, said, "We don't want to be Pinehurst or Southern Pines. We want our own identity, to have our own flavor, but that doesn't mean we can't work with Pinehurst and Southern Pines."
Baker and her husband, Matt, along with Starkey, moved to Aberdeen from the West Coast and immediately saw the potential for the small town to flourish. However, while they thought they might be giving up some of the cultural life they enjoyed out west, it didn't turn out that way. Aberdeen, they discovered, already has a lot to offer.
"We thought we'd never hear great live music again, but here's The Rooster's Wife. What a big asset," Starkey said. "It's so fun, you feel good when you're here."
They were also pleasantly surprised by Aberdeen's annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
"We thought it would be no big deal," Baker said, "but the display was huge, and we couldn't believe all the people and traffic coming through the town."
The Aberdeen Business Guild plans to promote those kinds of assets and develop new opportunities.
"A part of the guild's job will be to take the great ideas that the old guild had and add other, updated ideas," Baker said.
The previous guild in Aberdeen dissolved in the mid-1990s. The organizers behind the new guild would like to build membership and move forward.
The town of Aberdeen fully supports the guild and its objectives.
"Kathy Liles, the town's planning director, has really helped us all along the way," Baker said.
Liles said that toward the end of 2007, the town wanted input from the downtown businesses regarding activities such as the Christmas parade, a big annual event for the town, and the appearance improvements that were being planned.
"The first meeting was called by the town to give the business owners a forum," Liles said. "The meeting seemed to satisfy a need for communication with the merchants and gave them a venue to hear from the town regarding ongoing development projects as well as an opportunity to express their own concerns and expectations. The town's continued participation is driven by this evolving partnership."
The town will continue to have a presence and "hopes to see revision and implementation of the adopted streetscape master plan, event planning, beautification projects and development and use of the train depot site," Liles said.
"We hope to leverage grant dollars where possible to move forward with common interests," she said.
The guild's first project will involve developing and publishing a brochure and map of Aberdeen and its businesses. From there, it hopes to participate more fully in town events such as the Fourth of July fireworks display and its Christmas parade, as well as even organize some other events that help promote Aberdeen.
Right now, however, the fledgling guild would like to build its membership.
Membership dues are currently just $25 annually. But Baker says the fee could increase to absorb the cost of the business directory/brochure and map. For more information, contact Ashley Baker at 944-3300.
Contact Mary Griffin at email@example.com.
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