The Cullman Downtown Merchants Association has played a vital role in bringing emphasis back to the area’s historic shopping district.
After the 2011 tornado, the merchants association organized the successful Celebrate Cullman to show the area that downtown remained vibrant and was poised to recover from disaster. The event was a great success and was held for the third year this summer.
But that spurt of energy shown by the association is in desperate need of a boost to continue. At a lunchtime meeting Tuesday, board president Nathan Anderson, businessman Ron Pierce and other longtime members expressed concern that the association could quickly become inactive without some additional members willing to step forward and volunteer time.
Anderson said a relatively small group of members dedicate their time to plan and execute events. With many of those members scheduled to come off the board in December, replacements have yet to step forward with the desire to continue the promotion of downtown.
Small businesses such as those in downtown Cullman are typically family-owned, leaving very little time outside of making a living to contribute extra time to other projects. Nonetheless, the promotional efforts over the last three years by the merchants association have been valuable in introducing the area to new shoppers and for bringing new investments to town.
Merchants will need to consider if the extra effort is worth their time. Marketing efforts have undoubtedly brought positive attention to downtown. Unlike many older shopping districts, downtown Cullman is a busy, lucrative hub for commerce.
The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce has hired a tourism director, which is a plus for any events and promotions planned by local merchants. However, she cannot devote undivided attention to downtown.
A larger group of merchants participating in the association would make the job of promoting events easier. Before this current board expires, more merchants should commit to the progress that has been made. Enlisting some volunteers from the community could also be a big help for making communitywide events such as Celebrate Cullman permanent.