WJBA supports antiques fair on Main Street
by James Howell
The West Jefferson Business Association decided after a meeting Tuesday night to support holding the second annual Olde Time Antiques Fair on Main Street in downtown West Jefferson.
The meeting and show of support was in response to a decision last week by the West Jefferson Aldermen to rescind its approval to host the event on Main Street. At that meeting, not attended by Mayor Dale Baldwin or Alderman Stephen Shoemaker, Alderman Lester Mullis made a late addition to the agenda to revisit the board’s January decision.
Mullis, and Aldermen Calvin Green, Tom Hartman and Dr. Brett Summey voted to rescind the town’s approval to hold the fair on West Jefferson’s Main Street (from Jefferson Avenue to Badger Funeral Home) citing parking concerns by several business owners.
Keith Woodie, a member of the business association and owner of Antiques on Main, said the WJBA meeting was about more than just the antiques fair.
“We need to come together and decide if we are a tourism town,” said Keith Woodie at the beginning of the meeting.
Woodie is the owner of Antiques on Main, a member of the West Jefferson Business Association and coordinated last year’s Olde Time Antiques Fair.
After the success of last September’s inaugural antiques fair, said Woodie, the business association decided try to move it to Main Street from the Backstreet. Several reasons were offered during the meeting for the change in venue.
Woodie said one of the main reasons for the change is that it would allow the fair to “connect” to the Art on the Mountain event held at the Ashe Arts Council during the same weekend, the third in September.
Also, West Jefferson Mayor Dale Baldwin and Woodie both said Main Street is a good location because the road is 80 feet wide and is owned and maintained by the town. Vendors could set up in the middle of the road and visitors could move along the road side, placing them closer to local businesses.
“We’re talking about thousands of dollars in revenue for the town,” said Woodie.
Even though several West Jefferson businesses have supported the fair’s move from the Backstreet to Main Street, a couple business owners were still hesitant to show support for the move.
It was announced during the January W.J. Aldermen meeting, the owners of Parkway Theater objected to the fair’s proposed new venue because of its potential negative impact on movie ticket sales.
Rick Woodie, the owner of Parker Tie Company, was also concerned that event parking will drive his patrons away from his business.
“I’m not against the fair, I actually like the fair,” said Woodie in an interview prior to the meeting Tuesday. He said the lack of customer parking “puts us in a tough spot.”
“We’re not trying to start trouble, we’re just looking at keeping our business running,” said Rick Woodie after the meeting.
Neither Rick Woodie or Eldreth attended Tuesday’s meeting. However, during the meeting, Kieth Woodie said he tried to work with both businesses and offered them free promotions to go along with the antiques fair.
For instance, Keith Woodie said he asked Eldreth to consider showing old movies during a matinee over that weekend. He also recommended Eldreth sell concessions during the fair. However, Eldreth still objected.
Despite an offer from K. Woodie and West Jefferson Police Chief Jeff Rose to station two officers to protect Parker Tie’s parking, owner Woodie still opposed the move to Main Street, said K. Woodie.
“We can’t let two businesses stop thousands of dollars for this town,” said Keith Woodie.
K. Woodie also said the business association should “make it steadfast and known that we are developing tourism in West Jefferson.”
“It’s time, we have no industry left,” said K. Woodie. He also said the town spent money to beautify the town and make it more attractive for tourists, and now those changes are not being utilized. Woodie continued to stress the importance of tourism.
“I was here for the first Christmas in July,” said K. Woodie, “and I credit summer home sales to Christmas in July.”
John Smyre, the market manager of the farmers market, said Christmas in July was one of the reasons he fell in love with the area and decided to move to West Jefferson. Others in attendance said street fairs often convince visitors to stay here, which increases the tax base.
Rex Goss, a member of the business association, reminded everyone in attendance why Parker Tie Co. is so concerned about their parking situation.
“W.J. Hardware and Parker Tie are fighting a different kind of battle - against Lowe’s Hardware,” said Goss.
Woodie told the business association members that other options for the antiques fair had been proposed to him by the board of aldermen, like holding the fair in West Jefferson Park or at Jefferson Station.
“That’s not what we’re doing,” said K. Woodie. “We’re wanting the festivals to bring business to town.”
“There should be a way for every business to get involved,” said Lisa Willingham, the owner of the Artist Theater. “Why do we have to go through all of these hoops?” asked Willingham.
Addressing the concerns of those two businesses opposed, Willingham said, if they wanted to make the fair work for them, they could come up with a way.
During the meeting, K. Woodie offered an alternate location for the fair in town. He said Jefferson Avenue is an option. He said all but two of those businesses (which hadn’t been contacted prior to the meeting) located on the thoroughfare supported the fair.
The proposed “new” site, Jefferson Avenue, might appeal to the two businesses who object to the fair on Main Street.
However, that move does present other challenges.
To hold the fair on Jefferson Avenue, the N.C. Department of Transportation would have to approve closing down the road temporarily. According to Baldwin, the DOT did give the “okay” to close down the road earlier that morning.
Jefferson Post General Manager Cliff Clark posed a question about moving the site of the fair from Main Street to Jefferson Avenue.
“What if two businesses on Jefferson Avenue don’t favor having it in front their their businesses? What happens then? Do we have this discussion again?” asked Clark.
Willingham asked everyone in attendance to decide on a fundamental question about the fair: which location is better to hold a fair, regardless of feelings?
“I’d rather it be on a street that’s owned by the town,” said Keith Woodie.
Baldwin agreed. “From here to Badger Funeral Home is the place to have it,” said Baldwin.
Willingham said she only wanted the fair to be held in the best place possible for businesses in town.
“It sounds like we, the town, are listening to Tony (Eldreth) and not listening to you,” said Baldwin to Willingham.
K. Woodie also said The Honey Hole and Ashe County Cheese Plant would be upset by the move to Jefferson Avenue.
Members in attendance also said that, for an event of this size, a change in location would not change the town’s parking situation. The town’s parking places would quickly fill up, and eventually spread to the Parkway Theater and Parker Tie.
“We need to come to a consensus for where it’s going to be held,” said K. Woodie. “We make a motion that we want to put it (antiques fair) on Main Street.”
In a vote of yay or nay, the business association and community partnership members agreed to push the Main Street location for the antiques fair and urged its members to attend the West Jefferson Aldermen meeting in March to voice their support for that location.
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