As Perry Main Street coordinator. Catherine Edgemon is among those making downtown a growing and vibrant place.
Occupation: Perry Main Street coordinator
Q: How is downtown Perry doing?
A: Great! New businesses are opening — the newest application was for Perry Wellness Salon and Day Spa in the 700 block of Carroll Street. Businesses are expanding and there’s rehabilitation going on. The Perry Area Chamber of Commerce is moving downtown to the corner of Carroll Street and Ball Street into the old Perry Coffee Shop — a location everybody knows — and I think that’s a good indication of the interest and bright prospects for downtown. And there’s a new coffee shop opening. These are all exciting developments so yeah, I’m optimistic about the good things happening downtown.
Q: What rehabilitation?
A: It’s a significant rehabilitation at 905 Carroll St., the former jewelry store location. It’s being redone with hopes of recruiting a restaurant to go in there.
Q: Technically, what is downtown Perry?
A: People obviously think of the square around the hold courthouse building and up and down Carroll Street, but technically it’s larger than that and that configuration determines who can get certain incentives and benefits from being downtown — aside from just being in a great place.
Q: Can you give some rough boundaries?
A: Contact us for a detailed map, but roughly you could kind of think Commerce, Carroll and Main streets out to Big Indian Creek then Main Street just past Clinchfield Circle the other way. Then north on Macon Road to Perimeter Road and Washington and Ball Streets to Sam Nunn Boulevard.
Q: What are some programs and incentives to help promote businesses opening and staying in downtown?
A: There are a number. There are a couple of revolving loan programs, our Facade Grant Program, the BOOST Downtown Perry Investment Group and the benefits of our being designated a rural zone.
Q: That’s the newest, right, the rural zone designation?
A: Right. The rural zone boundaries are a little different than our actual downtown designation but they match pretty close. I’d encourage anyone with questions if their eligible or not to contact me and I can tell from the list of eligible addresses.
Q: What can you say about that program?
A: First, it’s a new program in Georgia and we’re in the first group of nine to get qualified. That’s good because the community population cut off for eligibility is 15,000. We were just nine people below that. I don’t think we would qualify if we’d waited another year. As far as details, it’s new and I’m going to a class (Thursday) to learn all the in’s and out’s myself. I’ll know more after that.
Q: What is the BOOST investment group?
A: That’s really a homegrown, crowd-funded, micro-grant grant program where individuals and businesses who want to support downtown can contribute — then grants are made from a fund. The group of contributors vote on grant applications. The seed money for BOOST was $1,000 that came from us at the Perry Main Street board but the grants are administered for the group through the Perry Downtown Development Authority. Contributors have to give a minimum of $400 and we have 10 active boosters right now. We’re always recruiting for more to help downtown businesses. We’ve done six rounds of grants.
Q: What are grant sizes?
A: Applicants ask for a particular amount. The max is $1,000 and we’ve had some as little as $250.
Q: And the revolving loans?
A: There are several of those, a downtown development loan that’s locally funded and some state ones.
Q: Back to downtown more generally, how many restaurants are there? What’s the range of businesses?
A: There are half a dozen or so restaurants and the soda fountain shop called A Couple of Jerks. Some of what’s downtown is seasonal. As far as range, we have a lot of boutiques, home décor and gift shops, a lot of professional offices — those sorts of things.
Q: Why should someone travel to downtown Perry?
A: It’s an attractive, charming downtown with beautiful landscaping, inviting sidewalks and great boutique shopping. There are the unique restaurants and wonderful hospitality and customer service you’re not generally going to receive at big box stores. Come because downtown isn’t just a place to purchase great items your looking for or grab a quick meal, but it’s a place you can come have a great experience. People outside of here think of Perry as the fairgrounds and as that place with the sweet little downtown with charming shops and restaurants. It’s as much the experience of being downtown in Perry as anything else. There’s good energy and so much going on through the year.
A: The Peaches to the Beaches Yard Sale coming up March 9-10, our Dogwood Festival, music festivals, St. Patrick’s Day celebration and more. And of course the New Year’s Eve Buzzard Drop. We do a lot to keep Perry engaging and it’s all in line with the goals and plans our mayor and council came up with in 2014 to guide efforts for community growth from our parks, to leadership development, to economic development — a comprehensive plan for the whole city. We’re making real progress and implementing plans. They’re not just goals that aren’t getting done. And being able to show what we’ve done and plan to do plays a positive role in our getting into programs and taking advantage of things like the rural zone incentives.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.