When Carrboro business leaders and town officials gathered on Thursday evening to discuss the newly formed Carrboro Business Alliance, they could barely fit into one room.
Leaders from more than 100 local businesses flooded into Venable’s new B-Side Lounge at Carr Mill Mall at the kickoff event for the new organization, which aims to bring business owners together to help boost Carrboro’s economy.
Art Menius, former executive director of The Carrboro ArtsCenter and a member of the committee that planned the Business Alliance, said the group, which has been in the works all summer, will help local businesses thrive and help leaders collaborate.
“The biggest goal right now is to strengthen our connections, get us working and thinking together and exploring all the different ways we can collaborate to make each of us more successful,” Menius said. “We have a lot of creative businesses and a lot of traditional businesses, and together we make this one of the most vibrant downtowns in North Carolina. We just want to make it better.”
Menius said the Business Alliance will help supplement the work of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, similar to the role of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.
“We see the great work the partnership’s doing in Chapel Hill,” he said. “It takes a lot more than one organization to serve all the needs in our two towns.”
The alliance is an offshoot of a “Think Local” campaign that encourages Carrboro residents and visitors to spend their money locally and support small businesses in town. Annette Stone, economic and community director for the town of Carrboro, said promoting the local economy has been a goal in Carrboro for several years.
“We’re just excited to be able to support the businesses, to help them come together and work together,” said Stone, who helped spearhead the planning process for the alliance.
Stone said the campaign encourages both Carrboro residents and visitors to explore businesses in the town.
“It’s not just about downtown, it’s all Carrboro businesses,” she said. “We’re looking inwardly first, but we also want to take the opportunity to visitors that come in, for them to experience Carrboro as a unique place.”
Carolyn Griggs, owner of Looking Glass Cafe and Boutique, attended the kickoff event.
“This is our sixth year, so I just want to continue being a part of Carrboro and serving the community,” she said.
Sue Kopkind, a member of the WomanCraft Gifts cooperative gallery in Carrboro, also attended the event.
“We’re just trying to promote our business as best we can,” she said. “We moved there in January, so we still have to get our feet in the sand and get going.”
Clay Schossow, chairman of the planning committee, said the planning process yielded several innovative ideas from local business leaders.
“The town has been incredibly supportive in helping us organize something that ultimately comes from the businesses banding together,” he said. “The goals are to make connections between different businesses in the area, amplify events that are already happening — once we have a formal network, we can start to do that.”
He said the committee launched a website, localcarrboro.com, that will evolve into a consumer-facing site where people can receive weekly alerts for events taking place in Carrboro.
The alliance will continue to host social events for business leaders, as well as events for residents and visitors to Carrboro, he said.
“This is a huge deal, getting 110 businesses in the room talking,” Schossow said. “That just didn’t exist before. That’s what we really wanted.”
http://carrborocommons.mj.unc.edu/?p=8510 (previous article on Think Local campaign)