Downtown is going strong

Published 8:27 am Monday, February 23, 2004

By Staff
Preserving a healthy balance is not always easy. Whether it involves maintaining the correct ratio of work and play in our personal lives, or the proper mix of enthusiasm and decorum in the workplace, keeping ourselves on an even keel sometimes takes effort and discipline -- and some people are better than others at pulling off with aplomb the juggling act life requires of us.
Cities and towns often face the same challenges we as individuals do, especially as they grow and change. Preserving the right mix of the old and the new while keeping both components thriving is an area in which all too many communities fall short, making for deserted and shuttered downtowns surrounded by strip malls and supercenters.
Not that there's anything at all wrong with those sorts of shopping outlets -- they play a vital role in the economies of towns and cities across America and, frankly, offer shoppers things that they want and need.
But it's always disappointing and a bit sad to visit a place where modern retail developments have grown up at the expense of the downtown areas which were once home to most shopping and business interests -- places where that elusive healthy balance has not been maintained.
Luckily, Brewton has done a good job of keeping its downtown healthy and vital. Thanks to some adventurous businesspeople and a populace willing to support diverse business offerings, the city has something on display which many of its municipal brethren can only imagine -- a downtown that matters.
And more and more people are experiencing historic downtown Brewton of late, many of them as part of tour groups who come here by bus to spend the better part of a day taking in all the area has to offer.
For the past year or so, Natural Decorations, Inc. (NDI) has been hosting the tour groups, which have brought people here from Florida, Mississippi and all over Alabama. The visitors tour the NDI facility, then head downtown to have lunch and shop.
Members of the tour groups spend money which helps out our local economy, but more importantly, each of them is a potential future ambassador for Brewton -- someone who can go back home and tell their friends and family of the good time they had here, sparking future visits.
Of course, that all depends upon their liking what they see while here, something over which downtown Brewton's business community has the most control. And they're doing an excellent job of it.
Many small cities and towns steer visitors away from their downtowns, so depressed have they become from years of neglect and flight to outlying areas. To have a downtown where just the opposite occurs -- to the degree that tour groups regularly visit by the busload -- is a unique and wonderful situation.
And we're all better off for it. Every part of Brewton is important, and all areas of town work together to complete the whole. But this downtown area, from which the town began its growth many decades ago, is in many ways still the heart of the city, literally and figuratively.
Keeping it beating maintains that balance that's so unusual today, and puts a happier, healthier face on our community.

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