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Citys downtown partners plan events, promotions
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Hinesville Downtown Partners met Wednesday morning to expand on ways to bring more residents downtown to shop and enjoy family friendly activities.

Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis briefed business owners and managers on this year’s scheduled events and facilitated a discussion on how businesses can inexpensively promote themselves using new marketing tools such as social media and taking advantage of HDDA’s services.

Davis informed downtown business owners the first holiday open house is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18 and the second is tentatively set for Dec. 6, to coincide with Christmas in the Park.

The HDDA director suggested the open house in November could include retailers and their employees wearing vintage costumes. Residents could also be offered horse- drawn carriage rides around downtown.

Cathy O’Hagan, store retail operations executive with VIP Office Furniture & Supply, suggested the carriage rides take last year’s hayride route, thereby bringing folks around to the city’s businesses, like VIP, which are located a few blocks off Main Street. Another open house activity discussed was adding a scavenger hunt back to the event. A scavenger hunt was held two years ago during the holiday open houses and seemed to spur more participation, several merchants said.

Davis also proposed launching a more aggressive shop local campaign, particularly before the Small Business Saturday, which is scheduled for Nov. 26. Shopping locally boosts the economy by keeping sales tax revenue in the community and helps those businesses vested in Hinesville stay viable, Davis has said. Having Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving can also give residents an alternative to Black Friday, she said.

Jason Lee, owner of Jungle Jake’s gaming store, agreed and said customers have told him shopping locally the Saturday after Thanksgiving was a relaxing experience compared with shopping at the mall on Black Friday. Jungle Jake’s is on Commerce Street, above Uncommon Grounds coffee shop.

Davis also asked downtown partners to suggest new activities or pursuits that could be added to established events.

Lee suggested holding a family game night one evening a month in Bradwell Park, starting in mid-March when the weather warms.

"We can set up card tables for different games and businesses can sponsor a table or offer prizes," he said.

The game store owner said his focus this year has been to bring families together and "get kids away from electronics."

Jerri Johnson and C.J. Robinson with Enchanted Creations Home Décor & Gifts and Paint Your Own Pottery, at 140 E. M.L. King Jr. Drive, said they would participate in that type of event.

Davis said such activities could be opportunities for downtown partners to cross-promote one another’s businesses. Lee said when he hosts Friday night games at his shop he could direct the wives, mothers and children of his gaming customers to Johnson and Robinson’s pottery studio.

Davis said a "putting around town" event could be established, whereby downtown businesses would each provide a mini-golf hole. Tickets could be sold for a minimal cost and players would putt-putt at each store along the mini-golf route.

Davis reminded merchants the HDDA would help them promote their businesses through media releases, table tents and e-mail fliers, and suggested they check into setting up a professional Facebook page, Twitter account or join other emerging social networking sites such as Foursquare.

Other downtown partners who attended this week’s meeting included Hinesville Day Spa & Salon owner Sheela Eichhorn, Ease the Pain Massage Clinic owner Miguel Ayala, John Crowley with The Heritage Bank, Hinesville public relations manager Krystal Britton, VIP Promotional Products sales representative Jennifer Buehler, Coldwell Banker Realtor Jimmy Shanken, Coastal Courier managing editor Hollie Barnidge and Denise Joiner with Exclusive Entertainment.

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