published Saturday, December 4th, 2010

MainX24 'big deal' for Southside shops


by Brittany Cofer
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press A glass ornament is formed at Ignis Glass Studio and Gallery. The studio will host glass ornament blowing workshops during Mainx 24.

As Chattanooga's Southside neighborhood continues to grow, the annual event meant to highlight the renaissance of the area is also expanding.

This year with more than 70 events, local business owners are expecting a surge in foot traffic for the two-day period and beyond.

"It's a huge boost, and not just for the day," said John Sweet, owner of Niedlov's Breadworks on East Main Street. "The whole event brings people to Main Street who aren't regulars to Main Street, that's what is so great about it from a community perspective."

Helen Davis Johnson, co-founder of CreateHere, said the event started four years ago as a way to "highlight the amazing creative individuals and businesses popping up all up and down Main Street and the surrounding neighborhoods."

During the event, businesses typically get about five times the amount of foot traffic that they would on a normal day, she said.

"It's a big deal," Johnson said. "It really benefits the businesses."

Business owners in the area said over the past few years there have been a lot of changes in the neighborhood. With the addition of Battle Academy and dozens of retailers, galleries and artisan shops in the surrounding area, the area has come to life, Sweet said.

IF YOU GO

* What: Mainx24 community festival.

* When: 8 a.m. today to 4 p.m. Sunday

* Where: Various locations in the Southside, primarily along Main Street, concluding at Chattanooga Market.

* Admission: Varies by event; many are free.

* Website: www.mainx24.com

* Related links: fyi.timesfreepress.com

ON FACEBOOK

Going to Mainx24? Fan us and post your event photos and video at Facebook.com/TimesFreePress.

When he opened Niedlov's more than three years ago, he said there were several places under construction but nobody was really visiting the area.

"There was no foot traffic; the only traffic that was here was speeding by to get downtown or out of town," he said. "Now, it's just totally different -- there are bike racks, people are walking all the time, so many families have moved in."

One of the area's newest businesses, The Crash Pad, recently broke ground on a hostel geared toward outdoor travelers.

local, not corporate, feel

Co-owner Dan Rose said he and Max Poppel chose the Southside for their business because "it's got the most promise of any neighborhood in the city."

"I love downtown, but it's super commercial and corporate," Rose said. "There's something to be said about the locally owned and operated feel of the Southside."

Merchants in the area said they hope to see a continuing momentum that brought 15 shops to the area this year alone. They said more educational opportunities, artists with galleries and places to buy food would help round out the area.

Tommy Payne, studio director at Ignis Glass Studio and Gallery, said he has noticed that people are beginning to realize the area has "more here than they had originally thought."

"A lot of people go to Frazier and parts near the aquarium and expect to find art down there, and this area needs to give them a reason to come down here for that," he said. "I am seeing more and more people coming to this area looking for art and the people are pleasantly surprised."

Contact staff writer Brittany Cofer at bcofer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/brittanycofer.

about Brittany Cofer...

Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...

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