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Daily Archive for December 06 2010

Reviving Life Downtown

The motto for Romano & Associates is “Helping People, Supporting Community.”

For Shawn Romano, part of supporting the Charleston community is helping revitalize and reawaken the downtown area.


“We need more people downtown, and to get more people downtown, we need more retail downtown,” he said.

That’s part of the reason why, when he located his office at 230 Capitol St. in August, he decided to be a part of Downtown Artwalk, the monthly Charleston Area Alliance event that promotes local business and local art.

He learned about ArtWalk through another Alliance program, Leadership Kanawha Valley, and worked with Taylor Books to display pieces in the Romano offices. And for one evening each month, visitors are free to go into the offices and enjoy food, wine and art.

“ArtWalk is a way to encourage people to come downtown, even if they’re not buying anything,” Romano said. “It’s also good marketing for my business. It benefits us because we have 50 or more people each ArtWalk becoming familiar with my business.”

When Art Emporium relocated to 823 Quarrier St. and joined ArtWalk seven years ago, “we probably got 10 people in here,” said Traci Higginbotham, who works and exhibits art at the Emporium. “Now we get 200 on a bad night.”


In recent years, she said, more shops have moved downtown. In response, more people are shopping and walking downtown.

“ArtWalk has definitely helped business,” Higginbotham said. “People don’t feel intimidated when they come in during ArtWalk. People might think the items are expensive and decide not to visit us otherwise. But when there’s a crowd, it’s easier to walk in. They say, ‘I didn’t know you had all this stuff!’ They come back, and we see residual sales.”

Romano calls downtown Charleston an “alternative to homogenization.” No other place can replicate the vibrancy of the downtown atmosphere.

More and more people want to support the local economy, and the downtown landscape is evolving into a trendy locale. The change was evident during the most recent ArtWalk, which happened on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. The participating shops were packed with people searching for holiday gifts and avoiding the stress of shopping elsewhere. The crowds returned Dec. 3 for Generation Charleston’s Holiday Open House, which showcased a variety of downtown shops after hours.

Promoting the virtues of supporting local business is easy. Giving people a good reason to do it is the hard part. ArtWalk is the epitome of why more and more people are going downtown – to be part of a rich culture. Charleston, like other cities, offers food, ideas, expressions, shops and customs not found anywhere else, and its citizens identify with the charm.

If you haven’t explored downtown in a while, you should. You’ll want to come back.

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