Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.
- Member for
- 3 years 9 months
This past week, we were pleased so many of our member businesses teamed up to help promote “Get Downtown Week.” It was an enticing way to get customers to support their local businesses in downtown Duluth. And now, when I look at the summer ahead, there are so many additional reasons that residents and visitors should be making downtown Duluth their destination every week.
It’s no surprise that security cameras are very prevalent in Duluth’s downtown. It is our commercial hub and it sees significant traffic on a daily basis. Security cameras have become additional tools for investigating crimes and, in many instances, for preventing crimes.
I often like to highlight a cartoon image I found not too long ago about parking. It shows a cowboy on a horse slowly making his way up to his favorite saloon. But, there’s already a horse tied up outside the establishment and the horse is standing parallel to the front of the building. There’s nothing else in sight. The cowboy mutters, “Great, he took up two spaces, now where am I supposed to park?”
Recently, the Greater Downtown Council hosted a sold-out crowd of 650 people at its annual dinner meeting. It’s a testament to the strong support for our downtown and the importance of working together to further strengthen our central business district. We celebrated successes with the doors opening at five major construction projects in our downtown. We also celebrated at least five more large projects in the pre-planning or construction phase for the near future. And we celebrated initiatives that make us stronger.
As we welcome in a new year, I feel optimistic and excited about what lies ahead for Duluth’s downtown. That wasn’t always the case. When I came into this position in the early 2000s, we were facing challenges in our downtown and we were often forced to react to unfortunate situations. From extremely high vacancy rates to large employers moving their workforce out of our central urban core, it was a bit of a roller coaster ride.
There is a common theme coming from many of downtown Duluth's retailers. They are telling us that Small Business Saturday is one of their busiest, if not their single busiest day of the year. We have many of you, our readers, to thank for that. It was great to feel the positive energy in our central business district on Small Business Saturday. Our merchants hosted open houses, demonstrations and special promotions. The weather was unseasonably warm and shoppers came out in force to show their support of our local businesses.
With the calendar already turned to November, there are plenty of things happening in Duluth's Downtown Waterfront District that can fill your days and nights. The Greater Downtown Council is pleased that our central business district is a destination for so many reasons.
It's hard for many of us to say goodbye to summer. Once the kids are back in school, it truly marks the end of the summer season. And as we look at preparing for events in Duluth's Downtown Waterfront District, we jump right into gearing up for the holiday season.
While many know me as an advocate for our downtown business community, I wear many hats. I am a sounding board for ideas, an ally who learns some of the most confidential information and plans for growth and development, a guide to help through challenging times, a cheerleader and a friend. And, as a small business owner, I can relate to some of the challenges.
Over the last three years, we have seen vacant retail spaces in downtown Duluth filled with pop-up shops during the holiday season. That list of available spaces was quite long in our first year as we ended up filling a dozen empty storefronts. In recent years, the list of available space has diminished. This means we have been fortunate to see more retailers signing leases in our downtown.