Photo: Downtown Gadsden, Inc., Director Kay Moore poses for a photo in front of the DGI building in downtown Gadsden. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)
Gadsden citizens showed their support for small businesses throughout 2022 as they shopped and dined locally, making this another successful year for downtown Gadsden.
“I think 2022 was a good year for most of our merchants and restaurants downtown,” said DGI Director Kay Moore. “After COVID, 2021 was really a great year, but most (business owners) I’ve talked to have said 2022 continued the success that they had. I honestly believe that people want to support small businesses.”
During 2022, downtown Gadsden welcomed five new retail businesses and saw two businesses closing. In addition to these, a Sunday Artisan and Farmers market became part of the downtown scene.
The city saw activity in the new Times Square on Locust building, which will house multiple small businesses, and Etowah County Board of Education made downtown its new home. These developments added more than 75 employees to the downtown district.
New and established business owners alike share the vision of the Main Street community and believe in the strength of downtown Gadsden.
“The merchants, the restaurants, everybody is pulling together to make things happen, and I think that’s the key to success,” Moore said. “By working together, we will continue to move forward and grow stronger.”
The city has seen renovations of existing buildings and two property sales in the development of downtown living. Downtown Gadsden currently boasts 26 loft apartments with about 14 more in the planning stages.
“One of the best things a downtown can have is nightlife, and people walking around, and one of the greatest things to make that happen is when people live downtown,” Moore said. “Loft living is an important factor in the growth of the downtown area. It creates foot traffic from residents and their guests, and it benefits our shops and restaurants. Right now, we’ve got 26 loft apartments, and the majority (are occupied).”
Downtown Gadsden, Inc., hosted several events in 2022, including annual fundraisers like the Chili Cook-Off and Sunset Sips. Downtown Gadsden’s St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl is routinely held the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day, and the new Shamrockin’ with my Gnomies retail event was introduced last year. DGI also plans to hold a benefit concert in April, with details to come.
Of course, DGI is most recognized for First Friday, which brings thousands of visitors downtown each month from April through October to enjoy food, entertainment and classic cars.
“When we started out (with First Friday in 2006), we wanted it to be more of an artsy-crafty-type thing, but Terry Jennings, who had Little Faces Doll Shop back in the day, knew a lot of classic car people,” said Moore. “He said, ‘Come on down,’ and they did. And they continued to do that, from all over the Southeast now. It’s been a huge part of the success of downtown.”
According to Moore, people from other cities associate Gadsden with First Friday.
“Of course, when I go places and I say ‘Gadsden,’ I hear, ‘Oh, First Friday,’” she said. “It brings people from all over, and that’s a great thing to have. I credit First Friday with the growth of downtown Gadsden. I really do, because it brought people back to show that we do have a very vibrant downtown.”
DGI won four awards at the Main Street Alabama conference this year: Excellence in Public/Private Partnership for its Hometown Hospitality Seminar; Excellence in Adaptive Reuse for Times Square at Locust; Excellence in Promotion for Plaid Friday and Excellence in Business Promotion for Shamrockin’ with my Gnomies/Downtown Pub Crawl.
In addition, Sydnee Isbell of The Stone Market won the Main Street Hero Award for her work in making Sunset Sips a success for DGI.
“When we have these events, like the Chili Cook-Off or Sunset Sips or the concert that we just had at the Pitman, we take that money we make and we reinvest it in downtown,” Moore said. “What I do (as DGI director) is try to promote in a positive manner anything that we’re doing and to bring people downtown.”
Moore thanked public and private partners of DGI for their continued support.
“Our working partnership with the City of Gadsden, Greater Gadsden Area Tourism, the Mary G Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, the Gadsden Museum of Art, the Walnut Gallery, the Gadsden Public Library, the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Alabama, along with others, allows DGI to provide resources to help small businesses grow and prosper,” she said. “This in turn strengthens the entire community. A strong downtown is the heartbeat of any community, and we passed our stress test with flying colors.”
Moore, a lifelong Gadsden resident, has served as DGI director for 15 years.
“In 15 years, I feel like we’ve come a long way,” Moore said. “But in that 15 years, we’ve come a long way because people are working together. Our continued success is owed to the outstanding merchants, restaurants and service organizations who work together to make our downtown the place to visit, shop, dine and play. DGI is grateful to all who have supported our local merchants and looks forward to your continued support in 2023. Please continue to shop with our local merchants, eat and drink in our local restaurants and bars and support our local museums, doctors and hospitals, professional services and all other locally owned businesses.”
For more information, visit DowntownGadsden.com or see DGI’s social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Submitted by DGI Director Kay Moore