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Optimism will ring in new year for many in Gainesville
National poll reflects upbeat mood by local residents for 2015
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Jacob Smith, 27, a barista at Inman Perk, said Saturday he is optimistic about the growth in foot traffic of downtown Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Wars, terrorism and a recession got the millennium off to a rocky start, but many Americans, along with Gainesville residents and business owners, are feeling optimistic going into the new year.

Nearly half of all respondents to a recent Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll reported they believe 2015 will be a better year than 2014. Only 1 in 10 respondents to the poll said they feel it will be worse.

In downtown Gainesville, residents and business owners approached Saturday are cautiously aligned with the poll results. Most reported they saw the general volume of business increase in 2014, making them hopeful for the future.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that things are going to be better around (Gainesville in 2015),” said Don Griffin, owner of Frames You-Nique on Main Street in downtown Gainesville.

Griffin saw his business “trending upward” in 2014, something he hopes will carry over into the new year.

“The big thing was the election,” Griffin said, when asked what he’ll remember most about 2014.

For Terry Link, owner of the Jeweled Attic, a new business on Main Street, the most memorable part of 2014 hits a little closer to home.

“We’re just now one year in business, so of course we’re optimistic,” Link said. “We made it through the first year, so that’s a good sign.”

Link, whose store sells items from cupcakes to folk art to handmade jewelry, credits downtown Gainesville’s growing capacity to host events as one factor that drew more traffic to the area in 2014.

“There’s more and more people coming in, and lots of interesting things going on down here,” Link said. “The more events we can host (in downtown Gainesville), it’s got to bring people.”

Myriad new businesses also expanded to the downtown area in 2014, drawing a new, younger crowd than seen in the past.

J.R. Crider’s, an apparel company geared toward young people, and Pink Barre Lanier, a branch of the Atlanta-based fitness chain, were both new additions.

Jacob Smith, an employee of Inman Perk on Washington Street, echoed others’ sentiments, saying he’s seen “business pick up on the square” in 2014.

“There’s a lot more foot traffic,” Smith, 27, said. “People seem to be spending a lot more time in the Historic District, and that seems to be bringing a bit more culture to Gainesville, which is much needed.”

That increase in business has been inspirational for longtime residents of the area. Delenna Gee, a 29-year-old native of Clermont, believes 2015 will be another year of growth for Hall County’s economy.

“It really seems like the square has come alive again,” said Gee, a employee of Rahab’s Rope on Washington Street. “That’s exciting, because you’re able to see small businesses growing and making an impact.”

The nonprofit Rahab’s Rope, which is dedicated to helping women escape the sex-trafficking industry, moved to a new location in 2014 to accommodate its growth.

But the positive upturn in business hasn’t distracted residents from the fact that there’s still work to be done.

“Locally I think (elected officials) need to get their act together on water,” said Griffin. “I moved up here in the mid-70s and they’ve been arguing about a reservoir since then. It’s time to do something or quit talking.”

Regardless of what has come before, many residents of Hall County have found it’s easier to go into a new year with a positive attitude than a negative one.

“You have to be always optimistic,” Link said. “It’s a new year.”