With many empty buildings throughout Hardy, Cherokee Village, Highland and Ash Flat, city officials want to do something to fill the empty storefronts and make the area look more attractive to visitors.
Richard Jones with Main Street Hardy spoke at the Quad City meeting Jan. 29 and offered ideas to make the most of empty buildings while providing a better appearance to the whole area.
Jones said there are several empty storefronts in the downtown areas of all the quad cities. He said that when there are several businesses for sale near each other it appears that business in the area is not good and owners are desperate to get out.
"We want people not to say, 'Look everybody's leaving,' but 'Hey, they're really doing something,'" Jones said. "Right now it's like 'we've packed up and left and please, someone come and take over.'"
Jones suggested empty businesses in the area cover their window fronts. He said doing so would pique the interest of potential buyers and prevent them from identifying all the potential problems with the store and focus on the positives instead.
To increase the likelihood of a sale, Jones suggested the selling business owners list possible ideas for the building on signs located in the windows of the business.
"That way it doesn't look like we're desperate," Jones said. "It looks like we're trying to do something."
The Spring River Art Gallery will send artists out with their wares to put art in the window fronts of Hardy businesses, Jones said.
"It helps everybody out and it's more pleasing to see art than empty dark storefronts," Jones said.
The winter months are particularly difficult for many business owners, Jones said. He suggested that the area target artisans and crafters from other areas. He said such people coming to town could eliminate empty space in the downtown areas of the cities and help the area through the winter lulls.
"I think there are a lot of artisans and crafters wanting to get out of the city," Jones said. "I think if we can somehow get those people, it's a great audience that we're not really reaching."
Cherokee Village Mayor Ray Maynard said the key to attracting such people along with more tourists lies in the attitudes of the residents and business owners in the Quad cities.
"Everyone needs to know they're selling their town," Maynard said.
Ash Flat business owner Nancy Orr said Arkansas Parks and Tourism will provide training for business owners and their employees to improve attitudes in area businesses.
"We need to find out why they (tourists) are not coming back," Orr said.
Ann Raheem, director of the Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce, said residents and business owners need to talk positively about the bypass, restaurants, businesses and Spring River by focusing on the good aspects.
"We need positive attitudes and not just the people in this room, but from everyone in the area," Raheem said. "We've got to promote this whole package. Each area complements the other and we need to compliment it verbally."
The problem lies not only in attitudes but in the local business hours, Cherokee Village Alderman Jim Fenton said.
"From April until October people need to open later and stay open longer," Fenton said.
Highland recorder/treasurer Carol Frolow said that all the businesses wouldn't have to stay open. She said the businesses could rotate staying open later.
"We're missing them like mad," said Cecilia Jones, executive director of Main Street Hardy. "We open at 9 and close at 5 -- the same hours we're working."
Raheem said the chamber wants to attract large businesses and corporations to use the area for their retreats.
Longer business hours and area maps with food and entertainment venues would help not only those coming to the area for business, but also those staying in the area on vacation.
Sharon Mathis, Coldwell Banker real estate agent, suggested giving incentives to the businesses that stay open later and try to help the area.
"We're going to have to do something because we're going to die on the vine here," she said.
Raheem and Jones said they are going to determine what is available and put together packages for retreats.
"We just need to keep plugging," Jones said. "Working together we make one great area."
The next quad city meeting will be in April. For more information, contact the Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce at (870) 856-3210.