By Kim Harbour
Looking for something fun to do on a Friday evening? Lewisburg’s Merchants Association sponsors First Fridays after Five, the first Friday of every month, all year round.
“Anything and everything goes,” says Monica Maxwell, owner of Harmony Ridge Gallery. One store has a book signing. Another has a craft activity for children. An artist’s show opens in a gallery in the next block. And there are live music and refreshments all evening.
“The goal is to generate foot traffic into downtown businesses. It provides a nice social setting to hang out… They may not buy a single thing – but they had fun, they saw their neighbors that they hadn’t seen in ages….”
Of course Maxwell and the other merchants hope the activities build relationships and future customers who just might remember Harmony Ridge the next time they need to buy a wedding gift.
Maxwell and her husband, Aaron, have been in this business since 1993, when they started a small craft gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. They loved living in Ft. Lauderdale, “But it got crowded, with more traffic – louder, with high-rises going up. We wanted to find somewhere else to be,” she explained.
So, Aaron went online and searched for affordable property. Although the couple had never been to West Virginia, Aaron rented a car and drove all over the state one summer. When he got to Lewisburg he called Monica and said, “I found the town!”
By moving to Lewisburg, the Maxwells were able to buy their own building – something they could never afford in a big city. “And because West Virginia is so inexpensive – we could do it bigger!” she added.
They doubled their gallery space and they were able to add a coffee bar. They find that the customer who comes in for coffee may not be there for the art. Or the wife may want to shop; so, the husband can relax on the couch and surf the Web on the store’s Wi-Fi connection.
“It’s gotta work for both of them. If the husband is tapping his foot, the wife is not going to be comfortable shopping. Creating the right environment is really important,” Monica said.