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Gainesville netting more business
Downtown adds new shops in 2010
Friends John Wilkins, from left, Josh Wiggley, and Richie Bullock enjoy coffee Thursday outside of the Inman Perk Coffee shop on the square in Gainesville. The downtown area had a net gain of two businesses in 2010. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

While a few downtown Gainesville shops closed their doors in 2009, overall the downtown district had a net gain of two new businesses in 2010, a sign of strength for the local economy, said Angela McFarlin Thompson, Main Street manager for the city of Gainesville.

"This year's been great for new business downtown," she said.

"...This is a very tough time for new business and I think it shows great that we've net two businesses downtown this year."

Don Griffin, the owner of Frames You Nique, which opened 24 years ago and has been on the square for the last 12 years, said shoppers have been more optimistic this year.

"It looks like 2010 will be better than 2009," he said. "Most of the (business owners) I've talked to have felt the same way, that things are starting to pick up a little bit."

Jane's Dress Shop, which had been open for three decades, closed this year when the owner retired.

Two other businesses, Butcher BarBQ Company and Uncle Louie G's, both opened and closed within a few months.

Thompson said many building owners are offering incentives to draw in new businesses. While that can be helpful for a new business trying to get on its feet, she said, when those incentives expire many owners can't maintain the lease payments.

Five new businesses set up shop downtown this year: Wonderful Events and Celebrations, Hair Shack, New Morning Vintage & More, The Next Chapter Book Store and Dress Up Boutique.

Looking into 2011, Serenity Massage & Day Spa has plans to move into a building across from its current storefront which was recently bought and is in the process of being renovated.

The spa's owner, Donna Reeves, said she is planning on a Valentine's Day weekend opening.

A new wine shop will also be opening inside the spa.
"It's going to be a boutique-style wine store," said owner PJ Chastain-Feirer.

"It's not going to be like large package stores. It's going to comfortable, elegant."

While many downtown districts have been hit hard by the recession, Thompson said the square's strength can be attributed in part to creative marketing by business owners.

She said many stores have changed their marketing strategies and embraced social media tools.

The owners of Dress Up Boutique, which expanded their Dahlonega-based business to Gainesville in November, said they aggressively market with social media to build their customer base.

"Every time we have a new customer, we tell them about our Facebook page," said Derrick Case, who owns the business with his wife Danielle.

"We get in about 30 new styles a week, and we upload the photos of every style we get in every week. And we're religious about it."

Griffin said many business owners have also partnered to promote each other's events.

"It's a community and we do try to support each other," he said. "And I think that's helped. ... I'm optimistic of the direction that the square is going."