Consultant has ideas for enlivening Mount Airy Main Street


Mount Airy's Main Street needs better promotion of local businesses, some public gathering places and improvements to buildings fronting the street.

The suggestions are included in a consultant's report on the Main Streets in Carroll's eight municipalities. The report, prepared by the Chesapeake Group of Baltimore, was presented this week to Mount Airy officials and business leaders.

"It's good from the standpoint that we have people not affiliated with the town to assess our strengths and weaknesses," said Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson. "Some of their recommendations were things we felt needed to be done anyway, but there are also some new ones that I think have some substance and are viable."

A $43,000 state grant financed the Chesapeake Group project, and each of the county's eight towns contributed $1,000.

One factor that distinguishes Mount Airy from other Carroll towns is its orientation to the Washington, D.C., area rather than to Baltimore, said Howard Kohn, president of the Chesapeake Group.

The report says that local businesses should direct their marketing and advertising to Montgomery and Frederick counties as well as the Carroll County area.

The report suggests that Main Street merchants band together to market Mount Airy's downtown. Some proposed projects include developing a "Main Street" theme through window displays or bumper stickers, holding advertising workshops and seasonal events to attract people on a regular basis.

Possible activities include an "All-American Cooking Contest and Picnic" in the summer and a "Flower Mart" in the spring. Mount Airy already has an annual fall festival and Christmas celebration.

Lewis Dixon, a local businessman and former Mount Airy mayor, agrees that the Mount Airy business community needs to publicize itself more effectively.

"One of the things we need is good everyday promotions," Mr. Dixon said. "We've got a number of unique things in our community that you don't find in a shopping center."

Consultants from the Chesapeake Group view the planned opening of the Mount Airy Brewing Company and Firehouse Grill in the old firehouse on Main Street as a "jump start" to bring new people to the Main Street business area.

"The microbrewery could become the center of promotional activities and special events," the report states.

"It's something that could bring new people into the area," Mr. Kohn said.

The firehouse theme could be carried out through fire sales, firehouse souvenirs or a parade of fire equipment, the report suggests.

To attract more visitors downtown, Chesapeake Group consultants say that more evening business activity are needed. Some suggestions include food specialty shops, such as a bakery or a crab house.

Other proposed improvements include the installation of coordinated signs throughout the town, better pavement markings for pedestrian crossings and more places where people can gather along Main Street.

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