Downtown businesses are looking forward to 2009
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As the ball dropped on New Year's Eve, cars crowded the streets of downtown Wilmington while people crowded into the bars and restaurants. Thursday, was quiet but signs of the previous night still remained. At Pravda, the scene was much quieter as the final cleanup from the holiday bash continued. For owner Dustin Cook, it was the first New Year's as a downtown business owner. “It was just crazy. I mean it was very busy; a lot of places downtown I think were very busy. We were definitely cranking,” he said. It was Patricia Motiy's seventh New Year's as a downtown business owner. She was worried a slow economy might keep some people from following through on their reservations, but she was pleasantly surprised. “We confirmed everyone and 95% came. And the one's who didn't come called us this year so that was really nice,” Motiy said Local business owners said they hope the Wednesday night’s crowds are a sign of good things to come in 2009; not just for their establishments, but for all of downtown Wilmington. “The first three months: January, February, March will be the toughest months. If the weather is nice, than we'll have a nice crowd over the weekends. But if it's chilly, than everyone will stay wherever they are,” added Motiy. Cook said either way he's happy to have the experience under his belt, and is optimistic for what the New Year will bring the area and his business. “I'm looking forward to basically people coming and dancing more here, and building more the night club kind of vibe we've got going on.” Both owners said the crowds were a little messy, but everyone was in good spirits. They said several customers mentioned their faith in a turn around in the economy, and high hopes for the new president.

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The business of downtown Wilmington is the alcohol business. The plethora of bars (esentially government-sanctioned, drug pushers' dens) have pushed other businesses away. Only a handful of shops are sandwiched in between the dozens of "nightspots." It's a shame that city leaders have allowed grungy bars to dominate the downtown landscape. Downtown Wilmington offers little in the way of interesting, inviting retail outlets.
I grew up in downtown Wilmington and saw it decline when Penny's and Belks moved to the mall and dirty book stores moved in, then saw a comeback in the mid 80's with a neat mix of shops and resturants. Having moved away in 1999, I came back to visit, last year and saw mostly bars, empty store fronts and had a couple of friends that got jumped near Princess Street while out one evening. Downtown Wilmington just looked tired and except for a bunch of drunks, drugs and not much else to offer. During the summer what used to be quiet evenings on the waterfront with a few professionals out enjoying the nightlife has turned into a nightly obnoxious and loud scene. Since leaving Wilmington I have lived in Charleston, SC and Philadelphia PA, where their downtowns have a good mix of shops, pubs and resturants and even major department stores such as Saks Fith Avenue, Macy's, Barney's, Tiffany & Co and so forth. Mom and Pop stores coexist in the retail mix and do quite well from the foot traffic. People still come downtown and do their shopping. Although I was against the Convention Center at first, Having lived in Philly The Pennsylvania Convention Center in the Old Reading Railroad terminal brings almost weekly a new group of tourist and their families each week. They fill hotel rooms and shop in my store during their downtime and pump alot of money into the local economy downtown. Hopefully the same will be for Wilmington if they can keep it booked. The Mayor and City Council should set up an economic task force to first lure retail back to downtown Wilmington, and make parking easier, maybe even free. Hopefully downtown will come back and be back to stay but it needs again to be cleaned up!