Downtown SP Merchants Form Organization
The Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA) was formed 32 years ago when the Moore County Chamber of Commerce was located on Broad Street.
“We were trying to do something worthwhile among ourselves without an ax to grind toward the Chamber,” says Buzz Hicks, owner of Theatre Antiques and an SPBA board member since its founding. “There was nothing wrong with what they were doing.”
So Hicks has no problem with the newly formed Broad Street Merchant Community (BSMC), an informal organization established last month in the wake of the grassroots effort that successfully changed the repaving schedule for Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Hicks says. “I am not against anything that will help the merchants in downtown Southern Pines. It’s been tried before. If it works, that’s fine. I don’t see it as any conflict.”
Neither does Tony Grausso, co-owner of Seagrove Candle Co. and a driving force behind formation of the BSMC.
“Hopefully, the two groups will complement each other,” Grausso says. “The BSMC grew out of our united efforts to stop back-in angle parking and reschedule the paving project. We can now focus on building on that experience and setting in place a permanent way to ensure the needs of our Broad Street community are met.
“The goal is to keep it all simple, relevant and effective. We have a special place here, but we can make it more special.”
Grausso notes that membership is open to anyone who owns or manages a business on Broad Street or any of the cross-streets in downtown Southern Pines.
“There are no membership fees or formal meetings,” he says. “We will simply work through email and a ‘telephone tree’ to collect input, organize ideas, and present those ideas to the town for review and action.”
Grausso has established liaisons with the the town’s administration, police department and Town Council.
“We wanted a single point of contact within each organization to work with us to address our needs as they arise,” he says. “Now, we have pathways established for two-way communication.”
SPBA President Lee Riggs-bee believes that the groups’ objectives “probably differ a little bit.”
“We’re not clear what their mission is because they’re so new,” Riggsbee says. “We really haven’t spent a lot of time finding out what the other organization is doing because we’re very busy right now taking a proactive approach to help the Southern Pines business community have a successful holiday season.”
Riggsbee says the SPBA has always promoted every business in downtown Southern Pines, whether or not they’re an SPBA member.
“The holiday activities that we have planned, such as the Christmas parade and First Eve, will benefit any downtown business,” he says. “The goal is to draw shoppers downtown. We’re coming into our busy season for that, so that’s what we’re focused on right now.”
Anthony Parks, owner of The Ice Cream Parlor and a former SPBA board member, expects better communication once the roles are defined.
“I don’t see the two groups even performing a lot of the same functions,” Parks says. “I think one of the positives that will come out of this is we’ll know what the SPBA can do, what the BSMC can do, and what other groups like the Chamber and the CVB can do.”
Parks adds that Broad Street merchants have a long history of conducting informal meetings after-hours and discussing the issues.
“Merchant ‘on-street’ parking along Broad Street has been an issue since the 1980s,” he notes.
Grausso hopes the BSMC will address merchant parking, as well as event trash overflow, drivers who refuse to yield to pedestrians in designated sidewalks and considering extended hours once a month.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “We’re also considering a blog, among other things. We’ve got a neat thing here that’s already going. We just want the momentum to continue in a positive direction. We all have a vested interest and a stake in the outcome.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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