Historic downtown Elkins provides an ideal location for businesses to take advantage of the immense foot traffic from tourists and a great central location to meet the needs of residents.
"We are really putting an effort into the downtown," Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott said. "We have a lot of potential for development."
One of the key areas the city is working on is to help develop the Elkins ON TRAC organization into a full-fledged Main Street program.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
Main Line Books owner Vickie Roidt established her business at the corner of Third Street and Davis Avenue eight years ago and she said the location is ideal for local customers and foot traffic from tourists. Her shop is shown here.
"Downtowns that have a Main Street program have had more business open than fail," Talbott said. "The Main Street program will play a key role in the economic development and prosperity of downtown."
Talbott said there are many things going on near the downtown area, including the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the American Mountain Theater, Davis & Elkins College and upgrades at Davis Memorial Hospital.
"We have a lot of vitality that we could see emerging into a downtown area that is vibrant and dynamic," he said. "There (are) all kinds of attractive architecture and a good sense of community. It has a lot of character that a strip mall does not. Every downtown is unique."
"Downtown is charming, people are friendly, food and products are unique - what's not to like?"
Talbott said national statistics show that younger people, especially those in their 20s, like to shop in downtown areas when restored.
Elkins ON TRAC liaison Karen Carper said downtowns are important to all ages because they are the heart of a community.
"Downtown provides our historic identity and community pride through those who worked to found it and those who continue to operate businesses there," Carper said. "Businesses located downtown are essential to our local economy. Their investment is returned to all of us not only in local taxes, but also in their sponsorship of the many events and activities for our youth."
Carper said she can see a "new spark" in the downtown and there seems to be a renewed interest in locating businesses there.
"We have two new businesses on Davis Avenue, the Rustic Corner and The Closet," she said. "Rustic Corner relocated to the downtown area. I think that is a very positive sign. There are also businesses relocating to some empty spaces on Third Street."
Carper said ON TRAC is working with the Elkins-Randolph Chamber of Commerce to show available vacancies in the downtown as part of the Building Blocks for Business seminars. She said the seminars are a great resource for new and existing businesses.
"I think our downtown area has tremendous potential for growth and opportunity for investment," she said. "The downtown environment is so much more welcoming that big box stores, and the customer service is exceptional."
She said customers appreciate the personal attention provided by merchants who care about shoppers' experience and who will go out of their way to make it pleasant and productive.
"The merchants are also very knowledgeable and helpful when discussing their products," she said. "Downtown is charming, people are friendly, food and products are unique - what's not to like?"
Carper said ON TRAC is working on ways to improve the downtown area's future, including a comprehensive streetscape plan that will address the need for continuity in the appearance of the downtown.
"We are looking at crosswalks, lighting and planters," she said. "We also hope to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly, with bench seating and attractive sidewalks where shoppers can enjoy strolling and browsing."
She said the organization also is working to fill empty storefronts with programs that support new businesses.
"A new project called Business Jump Start will help startups who wish to locate in the downtown area," she said. "Down the road, we will also work to bring quality residential apartments to the upper floors of downtown commercial buildings. Bringing residents back to our downtown will make a huge difference in its vitality."
Main Line Books owner Vickie Roidt established her business at the corner of Third Street and Davis Avenue eight years ago and she said the location is ideal.
"It is centrally located and I wanted the downtown to succeed," she said. "I have a perfect location - and location is everything."
Roidt said one of the best things about being located in the downtown area is the immense amount of foot traffic that goes by her store on a daily basis. She said many people take advantage of the downtown to take their lunch breaks and the tourist flow coming to ride the train provides even more traffic.
"There are so many people that come through the downtown," she said. "I do get a lot of tourists and am looking forward to that this summer. A lot of people come to downtown to shop."
Elaine Greisel opened her business, Ceramics With Class, in downtown Elkins 20 years ago near the Seneca Mall. Eleven years ago it moved to a location on Davis Avenue.
Greisel's husband, Ed, helps with the operation of the shop, and said there are advantages to its location.
"Being downtown provides parking, and when you get what you need done, you can walk up the street and grab a bite to eat," he said.
The store is a one-stop shop for all ceramic needs including paint, brushes, glazes and numerous different pieces of ceramics. The shop also offers two different lines of candles and even provides a meeting place. The Elkins ON TRAC Promotions Committee hosts its meetings at the business, and school groups have used the facility.
"We will even host birthday parties," he said. "It is a place for people to come together to work on a project."
Greisel said things are a little slow at the business right now, but he hopes it will pick up.
"We get people from out of town," he said. "There are not many businesses that offer (these) products."