Flowery Branch is starting to see rebirth in a part of town once marked by aging buildings, failing businesses and a permanently parked yellow school bus that used to sit next to the railroad tracks.
It’s not a case of extreme makeover, but some improvements are taking place on the Buford side of Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and even further into the historic downtown along Railroad Avenue.
“I think the whole corridor is turning out pretty good,” City Planner James Riker said. “We’re excited about that.”
Some of the work hasn’t been voluntary — a couple of businesses have been forced to comply with city standards — but others are making strides to revitalize. The school bus that sat facing Snelling Avenue has long since been removed.
Moonie's Texas Barbecue moved last August into an Atlanta Highway building that had been occupied by restaurant after restaurant.
“It was a demographic thing,” said owner Jason Martin. “Being a (computer) programmer, I was a numbers guy, so I looked at the demographic data for Gainesville and Hall County and north Gwinnett County, and the demographic didn’t serve the Peruvian and Cuban restaurants (that were there).
“But I knew barbecue would succeed out here.”
He said his business is growing by 10 or 20 percent each month, drawing customers from as far away as Marietta, and Martin has plans to build an outdoor deck and add a new smokehouse to keep up with demand.
“I think we’re going to be improving the downtown area ourselves just because we’re bringing in so much traffic from places like Duluth, Gainesville and Cumming,” Martin said.
Robert Mason, owner of the BP gas station/convenience store at Phil Niekro Boulevard, recently underwent a branch change from Citgo and, as a result, has made many changes to the store.
The store has converted to BP colors and added new equipment, including a computer system, he said.
Also on the way are new digital signs and a newly striped parking lot.
“I did a lot of work out back,” Mason said. “It was kind of rough-looking. We regraveled and spruced it up out back. I want the city to look neat — I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Terry’s Auto Towing Service shut down two years to make some city-required improvements. Work has taken place since, as cash has become available, and the business is close to reopening, said Shelia Terry, whose family ran the business for nearly two decades.
The effort included converting a car wash into a building that would serve as office space. Other work has featured new landscaping and fencing.
“Everything has to be up to code to fit what (the city) wants,” Terry said.
To keep income flowing in the meantime, the family has continued the business at leased space in Gainesville.
Across the road, the city is forcing Flowery Branch Auction and Antiques to address parking lot and stormwater drainage issues.
“The property owner had agreed to do the improvements and we’ve given them a timeline. I think it’s until the end of the year to finish parking lot improvements,” Riker said.
And the business is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation “on stormwater modifications on Atlanta Highway,” he said.
Clarice Bailey, the city’s contact at the antique business, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, the city completed the second phase of a downtown improvement effort that featured new pavement and striping on Railroad Avenue, as well as sidewalks and streetlights between Snelling and Main Street.
Also, the city has used a $50,000 state Gateway Grant for landscaping along Atlanta Highway from Chattahoochee Street south to the city limits near the sewer treatment plant.
Funding for those grants came from fees paid by outdoor advertising companies to the DOT for vegetation removal at signs, according to the DOT.
Mason said he believes his area of town is looking better.
“My store was kind of an eyesore, the way it was painted and the way it looked. Of course, 10 years ago it looked great,” he said, referring to a previous rebranding and renovations.
“Ten years from now, it may look like heck,” he said. “You have to do it again. You got to keep going with the flow.”