Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Support your downtown
June 14, 2017
I spent several hours in downtown Grass Valley today with a couple of girlfriends. I couldn't help but think how lucky we are to have such a beautiful hub of restaurants, shops, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, entertainment venues and services so close to home.
We took a moment to watch the very talented artist work on the very large, colorful mural that is underway. What a difference it already makes to what was an innocuous building on the corner of Mill and Main streets. It could entice people from out of the area to come and have a look, which is good for merchants, restaurants and innkeepers — which is good for our local economy.
My friends and I were visiting downtown to solicit donations for a large raffle basket that will be given away on the last night of this year's Thursday Night Market on behalf of the Grass Valley Downtown Association. I happen to be one of the newest members of their board of directors, even though I do not own a business in the downtown district. My two girlfriends do not have businesses in the downtown district either.
But we realize the importance of a vibrant downtown and that is why we are donating our time and talent to support this group. Do you enjoy having the police respond when you need assistance? Do you want roads paved and sewer drains clear? Counting on the fire department to respond to fire or medical emergencies? Many of these services and organizations are paid for, in part, through the city's' general fund — which relies on the taxes collected by businesses within the city limits (as well as property tax and other funding sources).
In other words, if there is no one eating, shopping or choosing entertainment options in the city, the city does not collect taxes, which in turn limits its resources to provide services.
As important, living in a community with a vibrant downtown is as attractive as the other amenities that drew many of us here. I am not sure how likely I would have been to relocate to Nevada County had my first trip down Mill Street been filled with empty storefronts and filthy sidewalks.
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If you have been a resident for any length of time and have been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you already know the Grass Valley Downtown Association has struggled over the last several years. A change in leadership led to a change in philosophy, which led to the near demise of the Thursday Night Market, Cornish Christmas and other social events that drew the community together and helped support local businesses. For years, summer nights meant a trip to the market to buy produce, visit with friends, listen to great music, learn about organizations, buy unique crafts and enjoy the beauty and ambience that was part of being downtown.
From its heyday, less than a decade ago, to its less than popular status over the past few years, the organization and the events they facilitate have suffered. Fortunately, a new and revitalized board and the recent hire of a new executive director have given renewed energy and vision to the organization. The mission of the GVDA is "to represent its general membership with a unified voice in economic development and historical preservation of downtown Grass Valley and our community."
Businesses that reside within the district pay an annual assessment fee. Membership is not optional but part of the cost of having a business downtown. This fee, along with events, funds the organization. Those funds are used, in part, to pay the small staff (one full-time employee and one less than half-time), to make downtown attractive to visitors and to fund community events that are not money makers in themselves such as the safe trick or treat.
This year the organization is working to make the once renowned Thursday Night Market bigger and better than ever. Free entertainment, the return of the beer and wine booth, farmers with fresh produce, a kid zone, and many other food and craft vendors are just a few of the reasons to give Thursday nights a chance. Let it return as a time to gather with your neighbors, where you dance in the streets, spend time outside as a family or a wonderful way to entertain out-of-town guests. It runs each Thursday from June 29 through Aug. 3. Don't forget to stop by the GVDA booth for your free chance to win the gift basket! It will be full of items with a value more than $2,000, all donated from dozens of merchants who operate in the district.
In the meantime, give downtown another look as many new businesses have opened. Wander down Main and Mill and find something creative for Dad just in time for Father's Day this Sunday. Take him out to eat, take him out for dessert, take him out for a show, buy him something that says home. It's all in your own backyard, in beautiful downtown Grass Valley.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.