ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Downtown Elizabethton has always had a certain charm, but that is especially the case during the holidays.
The downtown area can already be seen dressed up in Christmas wreaths and lights, but are people coming downtown amid this pandemic? The answer is yes, but not as many as usual for the holiday season.
With the Coronavirus pandemic still on-going and cases spiking in the region, health officials are advising people to stay home when they can and continue to social distance. However, when people stay home and don’t shop locally, it tends to hurt these local businesses.
According to Frankie Bailey, the President of Main Street Elizabethton, it’s been a wild year. Thankfully, she said regulars and locals have been supporting downtown businesses during this trying time, but it has been an adjustment.
In order for these shops to stay operating, safety has become a top priority with shops enforcing masks, social distancing, providing sanitizer and wipes, and in some cases, limiting capacity. Despite everything they implemented to keep customers safe, shop owners are still hoping to drive more business to downtown stores.
Bailey said they’ve gotten creative in recent weeks and have been brainstorming ideas to keep people safe but at the same time, celebrate the holidays in a fun way in downtown Elizabethton.
One idea is their inaugural holiday bingo event. The holiday bingo started on November 21st and will last until December 5th and it’s a partnership between Main Street Elizabethton, Carter County Bank, the local Carter County Chamber of Commerce, and Elizabethton Parks and Recreation.
“Folks can pick up a card at participating locations and when they spend money or order a holiday drink or treat, they get a stamp on their card. Once they get a BINGO line, they can hand that back into any participating location and Carter County Bank is giving away three $50 gift cards to three lucky winners. So what that’s doing is driving people to downtown to support our local business, celebrate the holidays, and really get to see what we have,” said Frankie Bailey.
A scavenger hunt for downtown Elizabethton is also in the works but has not yet been set in stone. One event that’s a Thanksgiving weekend tradition is small business Saturday, in which people are encouraged to shop local and buy gifts for the upcoming holidays. Bailey said a majority of shops downtown will be participating and encourages everyone come check out what they have to offer.
“We have a lot of doors open and they’re ready to see you. We have a lot of great business owners and employees that are really happy that it’s this time of the year and we want you to come in and enjoy the holidays with us,” said Bailey.
Speaking of local shops, Bailey also happens to be a shop owner herself. She owns The Coffee Company, which has been a staple in the community for over two decades. There are a number of long-standing businesses in the downtown Elizabethton area, but some new shops have also popped up even during this tough time.
Opening during a pandemic was definitely a challenge, according to Isabel Volsky, an employee at The Secret Garden. Volsky said her father owns the shop and they recently opened in May. She told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield that they were skeptical of opening during a pandemic but did it anyway and have no regrets.
“We’re passionate about this. It’s definitely something that we like to do and we love to see people stop in,” said Volsky.
Volsky said foot traffic has been fair on warmer days but they’re still struggling to get their name out there. In August, they recently implemented online purchases and orders which has helped with business tremendously. However, there are still people who don’t know the well-kept secret of The Secret Garden.
She hopes the holiday bingo and small business Saturday shopping event help people discover their shop and all they have to offer. The shop is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Although they are closed Sundays and Mondays, Volsky said they are always receptive to orders or calls on those days as well and will do the best they can to serve the public.
They offer floral arrangements for any occasion including funerals, weddings, proms, and other events.
Another storefront that opened in recent weeks is located right across from The Coffee Company and is a storefront advertising the upcoming Blue Montanya Resort to be completed along Watauga Lake in Butler, Tennessee.
“We want people to know that we’re fully invested in Carter County and Elizabethton and that we love the community we live in,” said Business Development Manager, Blue Montanya Resort, Roger Bailey.
Bailey said the new storefront downtown is meant to promote the resort and answer questions the public may have about it. It’s also open as a holiday shop offering sales of unique Christmas decor and items. Bailey said in the coming weeks they hope to bring in local artisans and feature their work in the space as well.
While the resort isn’t downtown, Bailey said the storefront in a centralized location like downtown Elizabethton is important to him. He wants to keep the community informed on this project as well as promote all the good it will bring to the area.
Not only is it expected to be a hotspot for locals and tourists alike, but it is also expected to create 200 to 250 jobs in the coming years.
The resort was originally slated to open in 2020, but due to COVID-19, it’s been pushed back. Bailey said they now hope to open in the Spring of 2021. When the resort opens, the storefront downtown will still operate as it is now, but will also transition partially into an office space for contracts and event negotiations pertaining to the venue and its vendors.
The office is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
From the local shops to the holiday displays and fun events planned for the rest of the year, downtown Elizabethton is a great destination to visit, according to Frankie Bailey.