Presenters were allotted 5-7 minutes each and then were asked questions by committee members. Below is a portion of the email I received prior to the meeting:
We would ask that, within your allotted time, you would please
address the following questions:
·State your name and the properties or businesses you represent?
·Give us some history of your properties and any
improvements you’ve made since you acquired them?
·What are your goals for the use of your properties?
· What do you see as the long-term vision for downtown
·What kind of obstacles have you overcome or do you perceive?
In an effort to stay within the timeframe and to answer the question, I actually wrote out my thoughts beforehand. This is something I NEVER do but wanted to make sure that I covered the issues they were asking about. And, while I did not read straight from this text, it should be fairly similar to what I said during the meeting:
My name is Lisa Coleman Carey. I am the owner of All Things Arkansas at 610-C Central Avenue and am honored to be here today as one of the newer businesses in Hot Springs.
While I am new to the downtown area, I have a longstanding relationship with business and Hot Springs. My father is Ron Coleman, who owns Ron Coleman Mining in Jessieville and Hot Springs.
In the late 80s, I had the honor of meeting renowned artist Benini, who was also a client of my dad’s. He wanted to create an arts community in HS and we were invited into his property in downtown HS numerous times. He would tell us that the building had been knee deep in pigeon shit as he showed us the improvements he made. This teenager could never forget that line!
When Rex Nelson wrote an article about downtown HS a little over a year ago and it was forwarded through Fifty for the Future, Benini’s dream and Rex Nelson’s dream resonated deep within me. I sent copies to Dorothy Morris and to my dad. Something was beginning to blossom within me. I began talking about the redevelopment plans that occurred in El Dorado, when Murphy Oil Corporation bought up ALL the properties around its headquarters so that they ensured the integrity of the area.
The dream was born: I wanted all of the downtown area, including where I am now, Whittington Avenue, Park, Ramble, etc. to return to its glory. What great living spaces. What natural areas for walking, running, and cycling. What a great place to eat and shop.
So I began the process. Long Hua Xu rented his space to me. The ceiling of my section was altered to meet new fire code regulations as he added on a gallery and living quarters upstairs. As he already had the space in excellent condition, other than that we painted and buffed the floors.
I opened the doors on July 23, 2013, featuring products from Arkansas, made in Arkansas, or relating to the state. Right now, we are developing plans for a second store downtown. You can keep an eye out for that development in the next year or so. Right now, I rent and am happy to do so. I would prefer to be a property owner, but will continue to wait until the right property is available at the right time … and until the regulations are sorted out.
To open the store, I worked closely with the ASBDTC through Henderson and often at the Chamber. In addition, Arvest and attorney Carl Crow were invaluable. To be honest, my only real struggle was wandering through the mire of regulations through the City. Everyone answered every question I asked, but I definitely had to ask the questions. Since then, I have been told that there is a list of each step to take in establishing a new business. If this is true, that information needs to be shared much more freely.
Instead, after thinking I was ready to go, I discovered I still did not have permits for the signs on the store or for the sandwich board outside. For that matter, when I attended the meeting for the sandwich board, no one was sure who actually would be approving it. Trust me, if you don’t know, we don’t know either.
I would again like to say that everyone was kind and answered all my questions. It is not their job to hold my hand as I take on a new career. However, I can only imagine how intimidating this could be for individuals who are wanting to start a new small business without the willingness to keep asking … or to sound a little confused along the way.
All Things Arkansas has been doing quite well since opening its doors last July. I would not be considering expanding if it was not. But what I would like to see is more businesses with their doors open downtown. When visitors pass by closed doors, and there are several just north of me, they may stop.
And if that happens, they will never make it to the other wonderful stores.
The more options people have for food, for hotels, for entertainment, and for shopping in the downtown area, the better off we all are. If you travel downtown to visit Tillman’s, Lauray’s, or Blue Moon Gallery, great! You very well may see something in the other storefronts that pulls you in as well.
The more events that occur downtown, the better off my business and our entire town are. We need a location for weekend events. I have heard many suggestions for how to add a site for entertainment purposes, and I have my own ideas, but implementing ANY of them has the potential to impact the small businesses, the city, the county, and our entire state.
I was born and raised 15 miles from here in Jessieville, Arkansas. I went to college out of state and worked for a Fortune 500 company before returning to this area and spending 13 years at National Park Community College. I returned to central Arkansas and have now established myself in downtown Hot Springs because I love and believe in our community. We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world and, just as Coleman quartz sets the world standard, I believe Hot Springs can set the world standard for places to visit. To do that, we must work together. We must fill the buildings. We must promote our Hot Springs, and cross promote one another. We must fill our in- and out-of-house publications with the wonders of All Things Hot Springs. Together, we can and will set that standard.
Six minutes and 30 seconds. Whew! Once complete, members of the task force (a great representation of our area) asked several questions. I was asked about how often I had to return to the city thinking I had completed the process (only once, by the way) and how much help I needed (While I pride myself on doing things thoroughly and correctly on my own, I’m always more than happy to receive assistance from others). Bryan Smith then asked what types of festivals or events I would like to see downtown. I mentioned music festivals (a Christian music festival would be a great draw in our community and could reach several different audiences, in my opinion), arts and crafts festivals, and motorcycle rallies. For me, though, more important than the type of event is that it simply be something to bring people to Hot Springs, and that those people have a little money in their pockets that they would like to spend.
Those were my thoughts in answer to the questions put before us. What are yours? The City is hosting meetings for two more weeks. You can attend any of them, 5:30 on Mondays at City Hall, or you can watch them on TV. In addition, there is a blog up just for our thoughts. Here’s the link: http://www.cityhs.net/Blog.aspx?IID=6#comments. It’s our chance to be heard; speak now.