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Tourism officials, others draw a bead on downtown Hagerstown

January 18, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

The Potomac Bead Co. in Hagerstown started out a few years ago in a small building near the Washington County Free Library.

But as the business began to grow, co-owners Allie and Nathan Buchman decided to move the company to a larger space. In 2007, they relocated to 53 W. Washington St.

Allie Buchman said she couldn't imagine having a business anywhere else but downtown Hagerstown.

"It's been going very well so far ... It's a busy store," she said. "We'd much rather be in a downtown area than in a mall."

On Thursday, tourism directors, arts council leaders and downtown development officials from Maryland's five westernmost counties - Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington - met at The Potomac Bead Co. to experience firsthand the success that a downtown business can enjoy.

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Kevin F. Moriarty, executive director of the Washington County Arts Council, said Thursday's event, known as "Tourism, the Arts & Downtown Development," was created so arts and city officials could gather to network and exchange ideas to improve downtown development. Although the Eastern Shore had a similar event last year, Thursday marked the first meeting in Western Maryland, he said.

"This gives us an occasion to find nothing to do, but talk to each other," Moriarty said.

Besides visiting The Potomac Bead Co., where participants spent about 90 minutes crafting bead necklaces and bracelets, Moriarty, Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and city officials took their guests on a tour of downtown. Among the places they visited were The Maryland Theatre, the Gourmet Goat and Duffy's on Potomac.

"It feels good to be in downtown Hagerstown and have something to show off," Moriarty said.

Eventually, the event is to be held quarterly, with each of the five counties alternating as hosts, he said.

Kara Norman, director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, said the event offered an opportunity to meet representatives from other cities.

"It's an informal time to talk," she said. "It's nice that there is time for it ... It strikes me that Hagerstown has a lot of potential."

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