Friday, December 2, 2016

Midway Business Association, citizens hash out issues

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, standing, spoke with Business Association members and interested parties Thursday night.
By Emily Priddy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media 

The Midway Business Association hosted a “business social” Thursday night to allow business owners and citizens to share ways the group can improve attendance at association meetings and prepare for the future of the Midway Fall Festival.

The group discussed how to improve communication among members, how to address parking issues, and how to provide a public restroom for visitors, and heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift say a new City Council committee will help local businesses.

Business Association members, Vandegrift and interested citizens gathered at the Grey Goose to discuss the future of the group. Approximately 20 people attended, participating in open discussion for nearly an hour. Amid waning attendance at meetings, communication was a point of concern.

“There just seems to be a lot of pettiness and self-interest,” said Steve Simoff, MBA member and council member-elect.

Joshua Naylor, general manager of the Grey Goose, commented on communication issues, citing “unnecessary and detrimental pettiness.”

Elisha Riddle, a social media and marketing consultant who works for the MBA and the Versailles Merchants Association, also pointed out the communication problems. “I think the biggest thing I see in Midway is a cohesion problem,” she said, “In Versailles I have cohesion. People work together, they ask what the event link is, they ask what they need to do, and they do those things.”

For example, Riddle compared the towns’ Christmas open houses. She said 1,000 people were interested in the Versailles event’s page on Facebook, while Midway had 256 people interested in its event. “There is no reason we can’t accomplish the same thing here,” she said.

Vandegrift told the group, “I have seen this merchant association do well, I’ve seen it not do well, and the key is y’all have to work together. If you all work together, the city will be there to carry you across the finish line.”

Two years into his four-year term, Vandegrift sees the need for the city to play a bigger role in helping local businesses. “Maybe we need to help out a little more than we have the last two years,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift announced that he would be making appointments to a new committee called Events, Outreach and Tourism. He has named council members-elect John McDaniel and Simoff to the committee already, both were present at the business social Thursday night. Vandegrift said more appointments will be made in January. 

The committee would focus on city events and tourism by reaching out to the business association on how they can help, Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift, who operated a Main Street restaurant for several years, had some advice: “Try and every now and then see the city as the newcomer sees the city.  Try to remember the first time you saw the city, it’s magical, it just captures you immediately.”

Kenny Smith, association president, said the Fall Festival is a tremendous amount of work for one person, and the association will benefit from hiring Riddle to be its coordinator, a job he has handled the last two years. Riddle was chosen to take over the festival by three members of the association who attended its October meeting. He suggested that she be hired as the event coordinator year round.

Many in attendance voiced the need for a public restroom on Main Street. “We have to work with the city to get a bathroom downtown,” said Leslie Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum store and association treasurer.

Vandegrift said he understood the need, but saw it as a future endeavor for the city: “We can use our resources in better ways.” He estimated $20,000 would need to be raised for a restroom and maintenance that is required, and suggested that Midway Renaissance aid in the fundraising effort.

Vandegrift encouraged more shop owners to provide bathrooms for their customers if possible. 

Brian Lynch, owner of Amberway Equine, suggested that City Hall restrooms be opened on weekends with volunteer help.

Vandegrift said, “If we had a consistent turnout for volunteers to man City Hall I would certainly look into it.”

Lynch volunteered to build a public parking lot on land he owns just north of Main Street, with help from the city and businesses. Lynch said he would need “stone, electric . . . put some lights in for the staff to safely get back to their vehicles” after restaurants close.

Simoff expressed the need to resolve the parking situation for businesses downtown. “An idea I have is that if you own a business try to find a place off the street so that your customers can park there,” he said. Simoff said each parking spot in front of businesses downtown is worth about $5,000.

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