DOWNTOWN DRAW: Events provide economic boost for local businesses

Published 8:35 pm Monday, March 30, 2015

A lineup of events at the Turnage Theater this past weekend generated around 600 to 700 people in the downtown area, providing exposure and an economic boost for downtown businesses and the rest of Washington.

The Turnage Theater was in full swing this past weekend, hosting several events that brought in out-of-towners and locals, alike, to Washington’s downtown district. On Saturday morning, the Turnage Theater hosted the Beaufort County Traditional Music Association’s weekly jam session, which brought in around 100 people to hear bluegrass and traditional country music tunes. Following the jam session, the Turnage opened its doors to the annual Washington Daily News Spelling Bee. Registration for the event that brought top spellers from schools all over eastern North Carolina started at 11 a.m. and the event itself started at 1 p.m., which provided a two-hour window for out-of-town guests to peruse the downtown scene, whether to shop, eat or just take in what Washington’s downtown community has to offer, said Joey Toler, director for the Beaufort County Arts Council.

“We were talking to the folks at Little Shoppes, and they said they had a rush of business — people were buying and it was really good,” Toler said.

Jayne Meisell, co-owner of Little Shoppes, and Pat Lewis, owner of South Market Antiques, confirmed the rush in business and said events hosted in the downtown area, whether at the Turnage or elsewhere are a good boost to business generated at businesses in the downtown community. Several of the patrons were in town as a result of the spelling bee and Saturday was a good day for the businesses despite the cold and rainy weather, Lewis said.

“Typically, when the weather is cold and rainy, we don’t have that many people, but since we had that event, we had a lot of people come in,” Lewis said. “We had lots of sales from these people, but any time we get new people from out of town or outlying communities, they’re going to go home and tell someone else.”

And the Turnage’s boost didn’t stop there. Saturday night, it hosted the Malpass Brothers, a traditional country music act, which brought in about 300 people, Toler said.  Sunday, the Turnage hosted yet another event through a partnership with East Carolina University’s Storybook Theatre, which brought in another 100 people.

Toler said over the course of the weekend, the events at the Turnage brought in anywhere from 600 to 700 people that might not have normally been in downtown Washington.

“That has to have a significant impact on the economy downtown,” Toler said. “And not just downtown, but there is a ripple effect as well. These people eat in restaurants, they have to get gas — there had to be some kind of bump in the economy as a result of the events at the Turnage. I know for a fact that when we have an evening event like the Malpass Brothers, the restaurants are booked. We all support each other (downtown). But those were people that might not normally have been in downtown Washington.”

Meisell said her business, like many other businesses downtown, use the events to their advantage by simply staying open later on nights when Art Walk or Music in the Streets is going on, as well as evening events hosted by the Turnage.

“The events bring in a lot of people from out of town,” Meisell said. “We stay open late when there are events. We get a lot of people that hear about events and come to town, especially like Music in the Streets. We don’t make a lot of money, but it’s good advertising. They’ll come back within the week and shop so I fell like it’s free advertising.”

With next month’s NC Cycle event on tap, Washington’s business community is projected to have an influx in tourism. The event, which will bring over 1,000 cyclists into the area for a weekend, is a prime example of events benefitting local businesses, Meisell said.