(Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 21--A group of merchants is hoping shoppers will make the block and stay awhile the next time they visit downtown.
The group launched a marketing campaign Thursday for Shoppe the Block Wichita Falls, a shopping and entertainment district, though the official ribbon cutting will be Aug. 2.
The marketing campaign will focus efforts on two blocks of downtown. The boundaries will be from Eighth to 10th streets, Scott Street and Indiana Avenue.
"There are currently 18 retailers, three clubs, three restaurants, hundreds of parking spaces, a theater, museum, 20 vacant buildings and retail spots, many general businesses and two parks," said Dwayne Jackson, a co-executive producer of the Wichita Theatre whose company, Stellar Art Group, will manage the effort and will oversee the vendor selection, signage, funding and advertising for the Shoppe the Block group.
The idea is to start the focus of Shoppe the Block small -- it includes such businesses as the Hello Again décor consignment boutique, the theater, Littlest Skyscraper and Gidget's Sandwich Shop, to name a few -- and expand it to encompass more of the 60 or so blocks that make up downtown.
Jackson said Backdoor Theatre, which is at Fifth Street and Indiana Avenue, is significantly off the block, but "visitors will recognize it's there and see the publicity about its events, as well."
The idea is to consolidate marketing efforts and complement usual business operations with food vendors, artisans in the park, street performers, themed activities and nighttime activities.
"All social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) will begin Friday (June 20), and as we get into July, signage will be going up," Jackson said Thursday afternoon at a press event.
A Web page is in development (shoppetheblockwf.com), and maps soon will be available to visitors, telling a little bit about the merchants and what their businesses offer.
The Shoppe the Block campaign came about quickly, Jackson said. He and other merchants started talking about five weeks ago about how to better draw people downtown to visit their businesses, and so the idea grew to organize this informal group of merchants and come up with a marketing campaign. For now, members of the group pay a small monthly fee, which goes to its operations.
Shoppe the Block is something organized independently of another downtown promotion group, Downtown Wichita Falls Development Inc., though the new group has met with DWFD.
"This goes along so much with our vision," said Cynthia Laney, executive director of DWFD, also known by its tag, Downtown Proud.
Downtown Wichita Falls Development is busy working on its latest project, restoring the old Zales building on Eighth and Ohio (it once housed the original Zales Jewelry Store in 1924). The group also manages the Downtown Farmers Market and is known for such events as City Lights, Cajun Fest and the St. Patrick's Day Downtown Street Festival, to name a few. " Our vision adds to your vision," Laney said to the merchants at Thursday's launch at the Wichita Theatre. "And your vision adds to ours."
She added, "We're behind it. We think it's a great project."
Clayton Lane, president of the Downtown Wichita Falls Development Inc. Board, mentioned how DWFD has been looking into benches, trash cans and other "simple things that downtowns should have."
"And Clayton just read an article about walkability," Laney said, referring to the benefit of a downtown that's easy to get around for those who prefer to walk, rather than drive. The two-block entertainment and shopping district fits that idea.
Rowena Jackson of the Wichita Theatre added of the effort, "We need to be family."
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