On Doing Little Things Downtown

 

 

 

 

I’ve been working so hard on this Community First Saturdays event that I’ve not take a lot of time for this blog. Sometimes blogs get neglected because there is not much to write about. Downtown Jacksonville is the opposite. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of stuff going on. Major things like free events with gold medal winners and bridge closings, the biggest Landing event of the year, and half marathons that run through the whole thing. And that is just this weekend. People who talk about a dead Downtown have clearly never attempted to enjoy it.

With all of these things falling in to place and major announcements almost daily, you can imagine many people taking a sit back and watch it happen attitude. Not Downtown. We push the limits. We pick up the cones from the last event/project/program and immediately start on the next one. HISPANIC ART WALK IS TONIGHT!

There are a lot of ways to take part in the projects big and small. When asked recently to cater a film crew on a local scary short film, a Downtown restaurant that I’m a part of, threw in a catering for mention in the credits. That film, Velvet Road, is now showing at film festivals all over the world! It turned out to be an excellent film, and our brand is getting seen in places we’ve never dreamed of. In fact, they’ve just won their first film festival, the Chicago Horror Film Festival. That small catering investment in local arts and culture has paid off big time.

There is an opportunity to make something big happen right now. And you don’t have much time. Please, go right now, and invest in One Spark. Anything you can give will help. They have passed third and are preparing to slide home. I bet they hit their goal and One Spark becomes the massive event the community and Downtown has been waiting for. But it would be a shame that they would make it happen without your contribution. Even if they’ve hit their goal, donate. You’ll get cool recognition and even stuff. But what you’ll really enjoy about the return on your investment is that Downtown Jacksonville will be ALIVE with art and creativity this spring in an event that whole world will take notice.

Downtown! GO GET IT!

Image from Dr. Wayne Wood’s Excellent Footage of Summertime in the City 2010

This Saturday marks one of the most anticipated events returning to Downtown Jacksonville. Summertime in the City is a BBoy Competition and Hip Hop Afterparty that will make you want to bust out your parachute pants and start spinning on your gramma’s linoleum. Break dancing crews from all over the southeast have converged on Summertime in the City for years. Its one of the most fun events in Jacksonville there is. The BBoy event is always family friendly with DJs always looking out for little BBoys and BGirls, and the afterparty (this year at Phoenix Taproom) is all about live Hip Hop for the adults. Don’t miss this event. Thanks to the Jacksonville Landing for hosting this year’s (free) BBoy Competition portion of the event!

Do you like the feel of bass in your face in the crowd? Then mark your calendars for two weeks from Saturday for this event Downtown as we move from Summertime in the City to Bass in the City. More than 30 bands and DJs playing at several of Downtown’s best pubs and live music venues. 30!

But perhaps you can’t wait a couple days and/or weeks. Ok, ok, well then TONIGHT at the Jacksonville Landing you can check out the Electric River! Click this link and check in on the DJs that will be rocking the Northbank tonight until 2AM! This show is FREE! Here is a taste of one the DJs. BYOGlowsticks! Free Show!

On Competition and Food Trucks

Monday, history was made Downtown. That may be a stretch, but it was monumental for some – like the dozens of cube dwellers that lined up for fresh artisan tacos. Monday, Corner Taco, a local food truck set up shop on a city lot in the middle of a busy week day. While strict regulations exist with regards to mobile food vendors, food trucks are thriving Downtown.. As part owner of a restaurant Downtown, I welcome and encourage the success of food trucks.  This is why:

1. They are trendy. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, come to truck rallies and events in the summer heat and rain. Food trucks attract more people to our urban core. When they are here, they see all the other cool things happening Downtown.

2.  Thousands of people work (me) and live (also me) Downtown, and want more options.

3. Downtown encompasses a large area and there are lots of opportunities to serve residents, employees and visitors in many different locations.

4. The City, including the administration and parking officials are really working to help navigate regulations and create opportunities. That is why Monday, in my opinion, was so significant. It was the direct result of the City Parking Department finding a way to make that opportunity happen.

5. Advocacy matters. Mike Field and Caron Streibich are the pied pipers of trucks. They actively promote food trucks. When those trucks are Downtown, they are actively promoting Downtown.  

6. The natural advantage of being able to pick your location. Food trucks aren’t a sure thing, and they can be as expensive as a restaurant to set up (especially with Downtown rents as low as they have ever been! zing), but one has to admire anyone who gets to pick their 3 biggest things in real estate every day (location, location, location).

So what does this have to do with competition? Well for one, I am part owner of a retailer who sells tacos one and half blocks from this taco truck. I support legal small businesses to operate Downtown. I support more options Downtown. I support more things to do Downtown. My partners set up a massive food truck rally in our parking lot for example. We did very well that day. And that is the point.

When a local restaurant group approached that same partnership to rent our upstairs for the best thai restaurant in town, we thought about it and knew in the long run that, what is good for Downtown is good for us. Now when there are waits upstairs we get overflow customers, and we haven’t missed a beat.

When competition and challenges come in the first thing you may think of is a strategy to keep them out. It’s not like that Downtown. We’re different. We welcome new business and don’t (in my opinion) try to hurt someone’s chances to operate. It’s not always easy, mostly the challenges don’t stop coming. But you have to up your gameto meet those challenges and you’ve got to always remember, a rising tide floats all boats.

As a funny anecdote to this rising tide, here is a little extra story. Our little burrito shop is one of the only local operators at EverBank Field. We read in the paper, like everyone else, that fans can now take food into the Jaguars games. Well great, was my first impression. But then I thought, if more families can go to games because the overall experience is less expensive and more enjoyable, then we’ll see more fans and generations of fans. If we see more fans, more people will see our brand and possibly try our food. In the long run – which is what all businesses should be -, you’ve got to look past short-term issues and challenges. When we work toward a bigger, better, more inclusive environment, we will become more profitable.

That is my take anyway.

Tony 

Art Walk is tonight. ACT BUSY! – UPDATED

Did you know that this is the 105th Art Walk?  Hey that is 501 backwards. Hmmm. Anyway, way back before there were even Stormtroopers at Art Walk organizers used to wonder,  will come out?

As the event has grown, it has become a great way to make sure retailers have rent at the beginning of the month. Its not really a question of if they will come, but more so how many will come. The answer is always the same. Lots. Your support of the Art Walk has made a huge economic impact and with that powerful impact, Art Walk has given back numerous things to do and ways for the community to get involved.

A quick glance at tonight’s Art Walk shows 40+ venues. Each of these venues is open during the month at some time so it is a great way to see many facets and assets of our vibrant Downtown. I also count way more than 100 local artists on the flyer (PDF), but many of the venues have multiple artists as well. If you could see hundreds of artists at a free event in the heart of the city would you go? I sure hope so!

And don’t worry about rain. If for some reason we get lucky enough to have rain, put on a positive face and remember rain is nature’s crowd control. It makes for a cozy and unhurried Art Walk. Its easier to make new friends on a rainy Art Walk. It is also easier to park, order drinks and dinner, and if the crowds aren’t massive maybe that artist friend you just made will give you a rainy day discount. Or maybe not! But either way, please come Downtown tonight. Bring your kids, or bring your mom, or bring your buddies, or bring your buddies’ moms. Art Walk certainly has something for everyone. It is a great time feel the Downtown vibe. Don’t miss it.

See you on the streets!

Tony

UPDATE:

Art Walk, once again had rain right at 5 PM. I’m sure many people are on the fence whether or not to come out to Art Walk, then, right when they clock out, it starts pouring. If say half of the people decided not to come Downtown last night because of a little rain, then I’m sort of glad. Because it was PACKED out anyway. My favorite stops last night were (in no particular order)

Jen Jone’s Gallery in the Wells Fargo Center (amazing collection of local talent)

Underbelly – Finally got to see L. Gustavo Cooper’s Festival Favorite The Velvet Road

MOCA – Project Atrium with Stormtroopers checking it out was epic

Hemming- Excellent collection of locals including Jason Wright

Snyder Memorial – Somebody let a funk band in church!

Crash the Satellites at the legendary Florida Theatre was awesome too!

There were also 35 more venues! If you aren’t doing Art Walk each month, I can say without hesitation, you are completely missing out. Here are some snaps:

Downtown Owners Reception

Jacksonville Junior Chamber Photo: Spottswood Collection

July 26 (Thursday)

5PM – Reception

5:30PM –  Remarks

6PM – Photo on front steps of JAX Chamber

I’m a partner in a business Downtown. I know a lot of business owners Downtown. I’ve been working on and off Downtown for more than a decade. In 2002 I went door to door to put local art in 100 windows Downtown. This was the first art meets city project that I did with Downtown Vision, which later produced the still thriving First Wednesday Art Walk. When installing 100 Windows of Art I got to meet a good many building and business owners. This year I’ve been going door to door again. Many of those same faces are still around compromising not just the 90 plus ground floor retailers, but also many law firms, eye doctors, dentists, barbers, book sellers, consultants, accountants, and nearly any kind of small business you can think of. Because of its supreme walkability and other assets, Downtown is the most diverse business environment in the city.

And opening a shop Downtown can be difficult. We have different challenges from parking (not finding it, paying for it!) to transportation, to garbage pick up, to cable access, to package delivery, etc. etc.. Many of us work hard and head home. I wanted to create an opportunity for all Downtown business owners to get together. The occurances where Downtown business owners get together are too few and too far between. With so many new entreprenuers opening their doors Downtown I feel this is a great time to get together and network.

In the remarks portion of the program I also want to explain my job as Director of Downtown Engagement and JAX Chamber’s role in revitalizing Downtown. The Chamber has been a huge win for my Downtown business (we joined before I became DDE) and I want to relate that to our group of owners as well. This isn’t a sales pitch, however, we’ll have Chamber representatives on hand if you desire to join or just need more information. We’ll get feedback about being a Downtown business and Chamber member from one of my partners in the Burrito Gallery as well.

Speaking of Burrito Gallery, we’ll have light snacks provided by BG to go along with ICE COLD INTUITION CANS! Provided by our sponsor Champion Brands! Like the event, the beers are free!  

 

Tony

Who wants to go to Downtown Jacksonville?

Photo: Orlando Sentinel

I don’t know, the leader of the free world? Roughly half of Jacksonville is excited to see our President roll up to our beautiful Downtown today, but this isn’t a political blog, its about Downtown. And Downtown is hot!  

Despite road and Skyway closures it should be business as usual as we welcome President Obama. Will he stop in at one of our 90 plus restaurants Downtown and speak to one of their local owners as he likes to do on the road? If you think he might, put one guess in the comments. I’m going with International Cafe on Hogan Street.

Speaking of leaders, I had the pleasure of speaking to Leadership Jacksonville’s Collegiate Leadership group yesterday. I was fully prepared to talk about the resurgence of interest in Downtown and boy were they an interested audience! Each year for many years I have been talking to this group and each year, more and more I see these young acheivers considering staying or coming back to Jacksonville to launch their careers. I was struck by their excitement about our Downtown, and frankly, relative lack of knowledge about it. We’ve got to get our story out!

They gave reports at the end of the program and many were surprised that the crime rate Downtown was 64% lower than that of Duval County as a whole. They were also stoked that so many young entrepreneurs and tech savvy companies are opening up shop Downtown. Working and advocating for Downtown is a battle of perception. There are a lot of people who let outside-of-Downtown opinion or lazy media make up their mind about our city center. These kids have decided to experience it for themselves. It was the first time I’ve ever been in a room where the entire room was optimistic about Downtown! I can get used to that!

So the second time might be tomorrow. Tomorrow I am addressing the Downtown Council, JAX Chamber‘s oldest and most revered council. I am dropping all kinds of news and breakthroughs happening in our urban core. It is open to non-members, but membership is reasonable and highly encouraged, and I think you’ll see why tomorrow morning. Set your alarm clock, its an early one.

If anyone guesses a Presidential retail stop correctly in the comments, I’ll buy your breakfast at tomorrow’s Downtown Council meeting. Only one guess per person please!

See you on the street!

Tony

P.S.- If you’ve read this far you might want to read about a get together we are having next Thursday (scroll down for story) for Downtown Business owners. Please pass this on to your friends who own businesses in Beautiful Downtown Jacksonville.

Remain Pawsitive

You may or may not know that there is an NFL team here in Downtown Jacksonville. Its true! And do you know who supports your Jacksonville Jaguars? Pretty much everyone. Many fine traditions have been created since we scored our very own team and there is a lot of pride involved in being one of only 32 cities with an NFL franchise. We’re no Green Bay, yet, but we’ve got a ton of love for our Jags, win or lose.

One of my favorite Jaguars traditions is the yearly Downtown Council Painting of the Paw Prints event. It has all the ingredients of a great preseason football tradition. Namely mimosas, bloody marys, paint, stencils, the league’s best mascot and even coffee (roasted downtown) if 8 am is too early for ya.

This year is looking to be a major event. Make sure you rsvp at the facebook event page for this awesome free event. Also, don’t miss this excellent chance to help sponsor the event. Your marketing department will be impressed with this street level opportunity!

Tony

Stop. Collaborate. Listen.

You know what is better than people coming together to support a common cause? NOTHING. That’s what. And that is driving force behind Dig Downtown Jax, a new blog by the Downtown Marketing Collaborative. Dig Downtown Jax is awesome because it gives you many different perspectives from a diverse and growing roster of bloggers all focused on our vibrant and emerging Downtown scene. I should know, I’m one of them! Please, put it in your daily read list. You can get all kinds of great info about events and goings ons, past, present and most importantly FUTURE. I can tell you right now, there are a LOT of great things on the horizon. And make sure you like the facebook. And while I’ve got you on the subject, when posting/tweeting about Downtown use #digdtjax just like you would #ilovejax. Stay tuned for big announcements ya’ll!

Tony

SHARK WEEK!

Ever been intrigued by the thought of grown men running full speed at a wall? ME TOO! That is just one reason I love to go to our World Champion Jacksonville Shark’s games. The Sharks games are full of energy. The Attack Dancers and never ending crowd participation keeps the action going until the final whistle. The kids love it because there is something to do and see at all times. This game will be televised live on the NFL Network, so please head to the Arena and show that Shark attitude for this national audience!

This Friday (tomorrow) you’ve got an awesome opportunity to catch your first Sharks game or get back in the chum-filled waters if you have been before. Downtown enthusiasts are rewarded with special ticket prices brought to you by the Downtown Council and the Sharks! Save as much as $10 per ticket!

I did some math and figured with the deal on tickets and the Shark’s Happy Hour Special on this game, one could buy a ticket and two beers for $18!  

How to Buy Tickets

 

 

1. In your web browser, log on to jaxsharks.com. From the website’s home page, mouse over the “Team Shop” tab in the top right corner of the page and click on “Group Tickets.”

2. Click on “Order Your Group Tickets,” then enter the username “Downtown” and the password “Sharks1” to continue. Please note that both the username and password are case-sensitive.

3. Once logged in, click on the ticket icon that corresponds to the seats that you wish to buy. After clicking on the icon enter the quantity you wish to buy. Then, you must click “purchase” to continue the process. Follow the on-screen instructions to enter your payment information.

4. Pick up your tickets at the Will Call window of the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena box office, which will be open beginning at noon on the day of the game.

5. Offer expires at 10:00 a.m. on July 6. BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Biggest Weekday Ever

I hope you have an awesome time on this great American holiday! If you have time between your back yard bbq and Art Walk vs. Fireworks, STOP at Klutho Park.

This is a once a year treat. Real baseball, 1901 style. Catch the East Side Reds vs. The West Side Giants. Food Trucks onsite. This is a highly recommended free community event with play by play announcing authentic uniforms and equipment. Think small brim hats and tiny gloves with real pitching. There will also be a live band.

The fireworks from Klutho are nice, or you can head towards the river. Enjoy Downtown!

Happy Independence Day!

.Tony