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Downtown businesses draw a younger crowd
Visitors like 'vibe' in shops on Gainesville square
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Shoppers and clerks comb through the racks at Dress Up Boutique. The store on the outside corner of the downtown square has a contemporary decor and draws customers of different ages - photo by NAT GURLEY

Downtown Gainesville is adding two new storefronts to its growing roster of shops, restaurants and boutiques.

J.R. Crider’s apparel and Pink Barre workout studio will be the new kids on the block come late summer or early fall.

“For a while there, it was just mostly stores that have been here for years — the staples — but now there are a lot more restaurants and trendy shops,” Main Street regular Delores Cox said. “It’s just darling.”

Pink Barre’s owner, Amy Hoffman, is excited about bringing the workout trend, which is popular in Atlanta, to downtown Gainesville.

“I’m so excited to be on the forefront of the trend thing. I knew it was definitely up and coming — it was just a matter of time before it happened,” she said.

J.R. Crider’s, not new to historic town squares, was attracted to the “vibe” of Main Street.

“We looked at different locations around the Gainesville area but this is kind of our nook. We’re on the square in Dahlonega, so this fit our motif and the style that we wanted,” owner Dan Fifer said.

These two, along with other new stores on the square, skew noticeably younger than their predecessors.

Dress Up Boutique, one of the square’s first trend boutiques, has a median shopper age of 24, manager Molly Powell said.

“We cater toward all ages, but it is nice having something to offer to high school girls and college girls. Brenau is right beside the square and North Georgia’s Gainesville campus not too far, either,” she said. “We’re excited to have something new and hip and young with us on the square.”

The changing face of Main Street is attracting newcomers, but is also regenerating interest in longtime Gainesville residents such as Holli Howard.

“I’ve grown up in Gainesville. ... I’m just excited to see how the square has changed,” she said. “When you come out here, there’s actually people around and there’s places to visit. It wasn’t always like that. That brings a different younger crowd to the square, I think.”

With the square’s lineup starting to cater to younger groups, some may fear it losing its traditional charm. There’s no reason for that, said 30-year Gainesville resident Ken Brown.

“I like what’s going on up here. You still get that old-time feeling,” he said. “People seem to be a little nicer on the square. I like that cause I’m old-school.”