With five theaters, specialty retail shops and many bars and restaurants, you'd think people would flock to downtown Wilmington. However, parking hassles and minimal outreach means some people just don't know what the area has to offer.
A grassroots organization is trying to change that. "Do It Downtown" hopes to revitalize and strategize to draw diners, culture seekers and shoppers.
Hot Pink Cake Stand is one of downtown's latest additions to the business scene. It's owner, Jody Carmichael says, she's not new to the area, but downtown is relatively new to her.
"I moved to Wilmington in 2003 and I can't tell you how many things I had never been to downtown, until I came back this year and actually live and work downtown," Carmichael said.
Carmichael was just one of many local business owners to attend "Do It Downtown's" marketing strategy session. Just like Jody, a lot of the people who attended say people just don't know what there is to do, see and eat.
"We need a vibrant downtown 12 months a year," Joan Loch, owner of Crescent Moon at the Cotton Exchange said. "It's always been here but people need to rediscover it."
Between questions, comments and concerns, the forum generated some marketing strategies to draw people to Wilmington's downtown. The most popular idea seemed to be creating a map locating and categorizing each business that would be available in front of the post office on Front Street.
"I'm a new downtown resident myself," Lori Unruh, with Indigosilver Photograpy on Front Street said. "I think a map would be really helpful. I'm still trying to learn my way around downtown and still trying to learn what businesses are here and what they offer."
Also on that map would be where to find available parking. Customers can be kept away by what the group called a perceived problem.
"It's very reasonable and inexpensive down here and if you do have to park far away from your destination, there are free trolleys," Lisa Layman, founder of Dinewilmingtononline.com, said.
With the Front Street improvement project just beginning, now more than ever, business owners say working together to cross market could be key to downtown success.
"I think what everyone is realizing is that their own marketing efforts really need to benefit their own community of business owners as well," Layman said.
Another marketing idea mentioned at the meeting was creating a downtown business event to put on the agenda for "Be a Tourist in your Hometown" event coming up in March.