Published: Business Lexington
Posted on July 25, 2013
By Rachel Gilliam
Richmond, KY – The first time Rose Rex visited downtown Richmond, she felt that the city had something special to offer.
“I fell in love with downtown Richmond in 2002. My husband was born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, so when he brought me to meet his family, I had the opportunity to see downtown. … I caught a glimpse of it, and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” Rex said.
After Rex moved to Kentucky in late 2010, she made a presentation to the city’s board of commissioners about maintaining a vital downtown district, and two years later, she was asked to lead a revitalized downtown business association.
While associations had been active on and off for several years, in 2012 Rex reorganized the group as Downtown Richmond Association LLC and in January 2013, “began hitting the streets,” she said.
While the various business owners who are part of the association have been attracted to downtown for different reasons, most agree that locating there has been a profitable business decision.
Chasidy Zimmerman, co-owner of Urge Cupcakery, was still a student at Eastern Kentucky University when she and her brother, Nicholas Zimmerman, opened the business in October. Urge Cupcakery is as an extension of their parents’ business, Simply Cupcakes, in Somerset, Ky. Zimmerman said she liked the idea of being downtown because it was within walking distance of campus, making it accessible to students.
“I wanted that to be an option for people who didn’t have a car, because some people don’t have cars on campus,” Chasidy Zimmerman said.
Being close to other downtown businesses has also been a perk, she said, and several businesses have ordered cupcakes or other specialty items for office parties and events.
“Everything is just so close downtown,” she said.
Since Rex has been at the helm, the Downtown Richmond Association has been working on special events and programs to bring people downtown. This summer, the association launched its own Thursday Night Live program. Downtown businesses offer special prices and products, and Purdy’s Coffee typically features free live music.
Rex said two free concerts are planned for downtown: one to welcome EKU students back to campus in August and one to officially end the season in October. Both will be held on Thursdays, serving as enhanced Thursday Night Live events, but Rex said specific entertainers have not been confirmed yet.
“I personally feel that downtown Richmond has a lot to offer businesses, and word is just getting out,” Rex said.
Robert Purdy, along with his wife, Kristin, and his sister, Kara, decided to locate their business in downtown Richmond because, according to Kristin Purdy, there was nothing else quite like their coffee shop concept in the downtown area.
Purdy’s Coffee opened for business May 25. Locating on Main Street has been a good business decision so far, Kristin Purdy said.
“I’ve always liked the downtown atmosphere. There’s a lot of history downtown, and a lot of local people trying to support the local people,” she said.
Having other business owners to partner with has also been a big boon to their success, and Kristin Purdy said the “downtown energy is improving.”
“There’s a great variety of businesses and a lot of reasons to come downtown,” she said.
After working downtown for several months, Chasidy Zimmerman said she thinks of downtown as a meeting place for community members.
“I think that it helps with just community involvement in general, because there is a general place for people to meet up — on the lawns or on the sidewalks or at a local business — just for social events,” she said.
Both she and Kristin Purdy said their businesses have benefited from working with other business owners and creating a combined marketing strategy.
The Thursday Night Live program is what Rex calls phase one of the downtown revitalization process. Eventually, she said, she and association members would like to branch out and work on projects like building renovations and beautification.
For now, though, the goal is just to get people interested in coming downtown, Rex said.
Other events on the horizon include a Family Fun and Fitness event, beginning July 24. The event will be held on the fourth Thursday of every month throughout the summer and fall and will cater to teens, women and children. First Street will be closed from Main to Irvine, and vendors will be set up from various businesses and organizations.
“You don’t have to go through a corporate office,” she said.
Currently, the association has monthly meetings, and Rex said she has a long-term vision for improving the downtown area.
“I’ve got some great plans for downtown Richmond, but it all takes time,” Rex said.