After-hours events like 3rd Friday aim to bring community downtown
By Andrea Brunty, Living editor, The Decatur Daily
Third Friday Downtown — three words that signify a movement to those who run Decatur’s downtown shops, restaurants, theater and other spots.
What started as a way to bring people downtown after hours on one block has slowly grown into a monthly community get-together on several streets.
In addition to the after-hours shopping and free family-friendly live entertainment it offers, 3rd Fridays signify a new way to do business in a tough economy.
Trish Land, owner of the shop with her name on Moulton Street, says downtown Decatur is riding the new wave of business trends.
“We’re having to be creative, and it’s working,” said Land, who also hosts acoustic concerts occasionally at her store after hours. “These evening events help introduce my store and its unique items to potential customers.”
Diversification is the key to a successful business right now, she said.
While the 5-8 p.m. event is mainly on Bank Street and Second Avenue and a few side streets this Friday, merchants say they hope to involve all of downtown soon.
“We have a lot of new businesses and enthusiasm, and I think we’re all trying to think up themes and come together in a grassroots project to make downtown a destination for entertainment, shopping, dining and museums,” said Lindy Ashwander, executive director of the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts on Second Avenue.
Last year, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, which already hosted its monthly Fri@5 artists’ reception on third Fridays, sponsored a meeting where organizers from Gadsden shared how they started the city’s First Friday events.
“The merchants from upper Bank Street in the 800 block got together and said ‘It’s got to start somewhere,’ ” said Gloria Arthur of Bank Street Antique Mall.
After a couple of months, the 700 block of Bank got involved, and then merchants on Second Avenue joined in.
This year, the merchants linked with the Decatur Jaycees to coordinate the dates of Cajunfest and Riverfest with 3rd Fridays.
Now, some businesses around town are sponsoring MCATS buses to shuttle people from Bank Street to the Carnegie and to Second Avenue.
“What we’re seeing is there are a lot of people out there who believe in Decatur and are willing to work with the merchants downtown to have events that show people what we have to offer,” said Arthur, citing support from Decatur Parks and Recreation Department, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Redevelopment office.
Though several of the business owners are on the Main Street Decatur board, 3rd Fridays Downtown is merchant-based, Arthur said.
However, it’s not necessarily something to increase sales, she said.
“We want to make people feel welcome and become a part of our environment,” she said.
For some businesses, though, the event does make a difference in sales, she said. She estimated that between 100 and 200 people attended last month.
Several downtown businesses will participate for the first time this Friday. For example, Tallulah’s, a women’s boutique and hair salon that recently moved to Bank Street, will feature live mannequins in their windows.
Acoustic guitarist Shaun Ferguson will perform in front of another first-time participant, Emiron Music on Second Avenue.
The Princess Theatre will hold its first “Concert Under the Marquee” on Friday at 7 p.m. featuring classical guitarist Emily Jones of Decatur, who teaches guitar at Mississippi State University.
Ashwander is planning more events for the 3rd Friday festivities, such as classic movies.
“This will take a while to build, but if you are looking for something to do on a third Friday, know that downtown will have some activities going on and be a fun place to come,” Ashwander said.
Restaurants such as Timbuck2 and Simp McGhee’s on Bank Street, Vittone’s on Second Avenue and The Brick Deli on Moulton Street are participating, too.
Merchants are also raising funds for nonprofit organizations.
Shine(Salon) on Second Avenue will feature local artist DJ Moses, who will paint shoes for TOMS Shoes, an organization that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.
Your Story Captured, which recently moved next to Shine(Salon), will host an open house and silent auction to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Morgan County. The studio will offer giveaways, complimentary cocktails and light hors d’oevures. If you donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters, you can get a retouched head shot taken for free.
Join the 3rd Friday Downtown group on Facebook for more details.
Land’s special events in her shop include other Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 3rd Fridays. She has sponsored several acoustic music “house concerts” where she provided appetizers and soft drinks.
Michelle Malone and Blue Mother Tupelo played the May 7 concert.
The next one is planned for June 26 featuring Malone and Will Kimbrough from Nashville, who has been nominated for best guitarist for the Americana Music Association.
“House concerts are taking place across the country in stores, libraries and homes,” said Land. The suggested donation is $25 for her events, which are for those 21 and older.
“The reason I do this is that I want my store to be a source of community, and music really brings people together,” she said. “And I want to expose the Decatur area to original acoustic music they may not otherwise get to hear.”
Acoustic music extends to a few blocks away at Excalibur Vintage & Vinyl. John Verchot knew he wanted to host after-hours live music even before he opened his shop in November next to the back entrance of Decatur Athletic Club on Second Avenue.
“I wanted to create an environment where young artists and budding performers in the community could have an outlet and people could come and enjoy music,” he said.
As a musician himself, he knows the struggles of finding a venue outside of a bar or event center.
“The biggest hurdle is finding a venue to play in where you A) Don’t have to pay money upfront, and B) It can be an all-ages event,” he said.
“A lot of times you’re playing in bars and that’s fine, but sometimes people are there drinking and they don’t necessarily care about the music as much.”
The shop hosts after-hours, all-ages music events two to three times a month.
This Friday, Matt Spencer will play a folk acoustic show with Colin Bugbee and Freeman Gray at 9:15 p.m. at Excalibur. Cover is $5.
The shows offer a view at merchandise, which ranges from vintage records and work by local artists to thrift clothes and jewelry.
“I try to not offer just one item; I try to appeal to as broad a crowd as I can,” Verchot said.
Though most shops downtown close at 5 p.m., Excalibur stays open till 6 Tuesday through Thursday and till 8 on Friday and Saturday. See www.excalibur
The Daily Brew on Market Street is hoping music with a view of the Tennessee River will be a draw for customers. The deli, coffee and gelato shop plans to offer Open Mic Nights once a month.
The first, hosted by Cookie Stoner, will be Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Gray Cauthen and Tom King are scheduled to perform.
Usually the deli is only open during lunch, but this summer they are extending their hours, said Carolyn Bild of The Daily Brew.
At their previous eatery on Point Mallard Parkway, Open Mic Nights were popular and featured everything from poetry recitation and storytelling to fiddling, though most performers were guitarists and singers, she said.
“Anyone’s welcome to come. We’re doing it outside on the patio, and it’s the perfect place to have it with a view of the river,” she said.
You can purchase charbroiled burgers and slaw dogs, homemade Italian gelato and desserts, wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres such as bruschetta.
The Daily Brew also plans to open during Concerts by the River on Monday nights, and feature entertainment Thursday and Friday nights.
“We wanted to provide another entertainment option for the community,” Bild said.
Performer sign-in is from 5:30-6 p.m. Thursday. Call 686-1593 or see www.daily
Concerts by the River at Rhodes Ferry Park features area musicians and groups from 6-8 p.m. every Monday through Labor Day. See www.decaturparks.com for more details.
Art & more
During the 3rd Friday event this week, you can paint a clay butterfly for $5 at Memi’s Pottery on Bank Street. This summer, the shop is continuing its Canvas & Conversation (and Palettes & Punch for children), where you can paint with local artists. Though hours vary, some are from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 350-0101, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see memipottery.blog
Tammy Eddy Antiques and Interiors on Bank Street plans to host an after-hours event Monday night at 7. Athens artist Carole Foret will paint on canvas, while Bill Hunt will read from his novel “A Full-Grown Man.” Call 306-0007.
Staff writer Patrice Stewart contributed to this story.
3rd Friday Downtown music
Emily Jones, Princess Theatre, Second Avenue
Justin Miller, Memi’s Pottery, Bank Street
Kim Stone, Willis Gray Gallery, Second Avenue
Margie Cumbie as Patsy Cline, Bank Street Antiques
Shaun Ferguson, Emiron Music, Second Avenue