How to draw visitors to downtown Washington

Published 4:32 pm Monday, August 8, 2016

The “dog days” are here, and the heat and humidity have almost been unbearable! Welcome to eastern North Carolina! We have finally gotten to the real Washington summer months.

Thank goodness for the Pamlico River, which can provide some relief while the humidity and heat is torching us. Does this affect our business district’s economy?  You bet. So, let us discuss the different approaches we can use in our downtown district.

Our state economy is as diverse as the regions, and mostly driven by technology, agriculture, education, tourism and our military’s presence. Many small- and medium-sized communities (such as Washington) are identifying and growing their own niche markets within these broad economic drivers. Their economies will grow — most in vibrancy, diversity and innovations. Such drivers as the art and cultural development (Turnage Theatre) and food system (restaurants) along with recreational destinations (Pamlico River) are defining many small towns and their position within the big picture. We all know the value of the Pamlico River. Are arts and restaurants attracting people to our business district? You bet. Thanks!

The Turnage Theatre and Arts of the Pamlico are a big draw for people to visit our town.  Never being one that follows the arts much, I have discovered a whole new world and newfound appreciation for our hidden treasure. The potential is limitless as to how it can help our retailers. Our restaurants speak for themselves, and outsiders should never have a problem finding a good meal in Washington. The restaurateurs do an excellent job of serving up some of the region’s very best cuisine, bringing visitors back for more. Visitors come for a good dinner, and then a chance to watch a concert, while some will just eat and wander around our business district, visiting our artisans’ shops.

If our visitors like what they see, they will return and hopefully spend money in our retail stores. That is why it is so important for our central business district to be our “front porch,” along with our beautiful Stewart Parkway. The better it looks from an outsider’s perspective, the quicker he or she will return. Also, that same person will tell others of the beauty of our quiet port city beside the river, and soon, the word will spread. We all know the beauty of Washington, but we should not take it for granted. Many discover what we know for the first time through the arts, artisans and our fine restaurants. Hats off to this group of merchants, and thank you for all that you do!

In conclusion for this week, please let me once again encourage you to volunteer for either Music in the Streets (August) or Pickin’ on the Pamlico, which is our annual fundraiser in September. Mark your calendar for Sept. 24, and always shop, dine and play in Washington. Until next week…take a walk with the H-Rob!

Harold Robinson is the executive director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance.