Event seemed to boost business

October 22, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

Organizers were "obviously taking a risk" by sponsoring an October outdoor music festival in downtown Hagerstown, said Debbie Everhart, the city's economic development director.

But the risk paid off Saturday as both the weather and the show provided what Everhart called "a beautiful day in downtown Hagerstown."

Downtown Live! was the brainchild of developer Mike Deming, one of a group of developers whose names are becoming synonymous with downtown revitalization efforts.

The festival closed off the first block of South Potomac Street, and Deming could be seen flitting around the venue, both outside where the bands were playing, and inside the premises at 43 South, the new Italian restaurant operating in one of the buildings Deming's Demcore Development company has renovated.


Business was booming at 43 South. Deming said the festival had drawn a big Saturday crowd to the restaurant. At midafternoon, nearly every table upstairs was filled.

Other businesses in the block said they had had more foot traffic as well. Next door at Soma Home and Gifts, owner Nikki Paul said she'd had good business Saturday, but "I always get lots of traffic," she said.

Closer to the bandstand at Public Square, Scott Guertin was ringing up ice cream and pastry purchases at Bones & Cones Dessertery. It had been a better-than-average Saturday so far, he said. And Bones & Cones co-owner Charles Stewart said "we're staying open until it's over."

Stewart, an attorney whose wife is the force behind Bones & Cones, said he would like to see more events downtown, adding that he and his wife are banking on the success of downtown's revitalization.

Gathering sponsors and putting on a show had been a challenge for Deming, who won approval for the festival from the Hagerstown City Council despite the objection of Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh, who voted against it. During an August council meeting, Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean had asked whether the festival was meant to promote downtown revitalization or Deming's business, to which Deming replied, "my business is the revitalization of downtown."

And he's putting his money where his mouth is. Demcore has purchased several downtown buildings with development in mind. Two new restaurants are planned for the former Schindel-Rorhrer building on South Potomac Street, where Deming said renovation should be completed within weeks.

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