Christmas activities set in Martinsburg

November 26, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Santa Claus will be a harmless lure in Main Street Martinsburg's plan to promote downtown businesses Friday night during the city's annual tree-lighting ceremony at the corner of King and Queen streets.

After the tree is illuminated, school choirs sing and pets are paraded on South Queen Street, the big guy from the North Pole will walk the crowd two blocks to the Shenandoah Building. There, children will receive goody bags, and cookies and hot cider will be served, said Randy Lewis, Main Street Martinsburg's new executive director.

Along the way, Lewis hopes celebrants won't ignore the shops and businesses that will benefit from the exposure.

"In the years past, we've always stayed in the square," said Lewis, himself a downtown business owner until closing his men's clothing shop about five months ago.

The annual Christmas parade, featuring about 80 entries, will begin Saturday at 6 p.m., Lewis said.


After enduring the ups and downs in the retail world, Lewis, 42, closed R. Lewis Clothier after 13 years in business because of health reasons.

"The stress was just killing me," Lewis said.

Though he still misses the store, Lewis said he agreed to apply for the Main Street position after receiving encouragement from many people.

Now, little more than a week on the job, Lewis said he finds himself hitting the ground with his shoes on. He was an active member of the downtown revitalization organization for nine years, including three as president.

After the holiday season events are over, Lewis anticipates moving forward with a plan to develop relationships with Realtors to promote available space in the downtown area.

Lewis also hopes to make the Main Street office more visible, and expects to move from City Hall, where officials continue to be squeezed for space. Lewis agreed that downtown business should be promoted as a package, and hopes to develop a marketing campaign.

"There is definitely a need for that," Lewis said.

Since first working at a men's clothing store while in high school in 1978, Lewis said he has seen significant changes in downtown Martinsburg, and not always for the better.

But he believes the downtown commercial district's potential still remains.

"It can't come overnight," Lewis said.

For more information about the Christmas events hosted by Main Street Martinsburg, call 304-262-4200.

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