Most of the time when I drive through the downtown business district of Elkin, I’m passing through on my way to somewhere else. I drive past the small businesses, the offices and the restaurants on my way to a meeting at the library, or to drop off a kid at guitar lessons, or just to get from my house to the movie theaters in the neighboring town of Jonesville.
Yesterday was different. Rather than hurrying to a specific location for a meeting or zooming through Main Street on my way somewhere else, I decided to go for a walk. Carter had guitar on one end of Main Street, and I had a package to mail at the post office which sits on the complete other end of Main Street. I figured walking to the post office was a good way to pass the time while Carter was at guitar. Besides, it was a beautiful March day, with bright blue skies and lots of sunshine that helped counteract the brisk temperatures.
Moving through town at that slower pace gave me a chance to really look at the buildings I passed. I saw boutiques with beautiful dresses in the window, an antique shop, a building that houses both yoga and cross-fit businesses, a barber shop that also provides a place for after-school programs for kids, an independent book store, a pharmacy, sewing and quilt stores, a newly renovated theater, and of course, restaurants. I knew all of that was down there, but there was something about walking by it all that made me realize just how vibrant our downtown is.
It’s great to see new business ventures making their home in these beautiful buildings. The architecture on the outside is as interesting as the products and services you find on the inside.
A lot has changed in our town since my family moved here 15 years ago. Downtown businesses have come and gone. Some buildings are vacant that once housed thriving stores. The bridge that used to connect the towns of Jonesville and Elkin is gone. I remember when that bridge was taken down, business owners in downtown Elkin felt despair that their traffic would plummet. And maybe it did, for a while. But people got used to new traffic patterns, new stores moved in to help attract even more business, and places along the way received a facelift.
Elkin isn’t much different than other small towns throughout the South. (Maybe even throughout the United States.) Supercenters and Interstates have changed the fabric of our towns. But it’s nice to see that all is not lost in the historic sections. With a little passion and care from the community, these small towns can help their historic downtowns remain a vibrant part of the economy.
I’m glad I took a walk yesterday. It’s a good reminder to slow down once in a while and take time to appreciate our surroundings. Maybe some might say I got a little too sentimental or reflective, but in the end, I became a little more proud of what our town has done and where it’s going, and had a little fun along the way.