New downtown merchants group formed

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By Dave Bell

Merchants in downtown Vandalia have decided to combat the sluggish economy by taking matters into their own hands. To help jump-start business activity in that historic district, they have formed an association.
Simply called the Merchants Association, the group attracted about 20 people to a kickoff meeting last Tuesday, and leaders have made plans to host a rummage sale on Gallatin Street on Saturday, Sept.11.
That promotion will allow merchants – as well as individuals – to buy a 12-foot length of sidewalk for $10 to sell their wares along Gallatin Street between Third and Sixth streets.
“We need to get people downtown,” said Donelle Conaway, owner of Something Special Florist and one of the organizers of the merchants association.
“This is an effort by the merchants to get things moving forward.”
After the kickoff meeting, Conaway said that the level of support is gratifying.
“Everyone seems excited about it,” she said. “And everyone is willing to work together on this. It’s not just the merchants; others are concerned about the downtown, too.”
Also attending the meeting were Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman and Economic Development Director Joanne Givens.
The main goal of the rummage sale – aside from bringing people to the downtown area – is to generate money for the association to do some advertising.
“I had a little bake sale during the Grande Levée that raised $323, and the money from that was used to start an advertising fund,” Conaway said. “The money from this rummage sale will be added to that fund.
“When things are slow, there’s never enough money to advertise – to let people know what we have to offer down here. We’re hoping this will help get the word out.”
She stressed that the downtown merchants aren’t continuing to blame the downtown streetscape construction for the downturn.
“We can’t keep going back to the construction,” she said. “Things are just slow downtown. We’ve got to move on, to focus on telling people what we have to offer here. If we approach this with enthusiasm, we can make it work. Sometimes, you have to go out and get business.”
For more information, Conaway can be reached at 283-1810.