Our small town boasts, as I might have mentioned a time or two, a unique and active downtown district. While many Main Street areas of small-town America are still quietly lined with boarded windows and lackluster, dying businesses, our downtown district has valiantly fought off the mighty main drag. It proudly holds its own against the superstores and chain restaurants.

There are other hearts of other towns that have been as successfully revived. So what are the secrets of downtown growth and success? The answer could greatly boost the economy of towns still struggling to survive as well as revive the American Dream that once inspired moms and pops to realize great success.

While I love living in our beautiful little city with its bustling downtown, I feel it necessary to divulge some of these secrets. While Hubby and I plan to stay put, you never know what the future holds. If more small towns thrived like ours, sharing its secrets would only serve to broaden the chances of us ending up in a similar town should our children decide to move far away, yet reasonably close to each other.

My boys are getting much older. Over the next decade, they are highly likely to spread their wings. I’ve been content to fantasize about my children all settling down within a mile or two so that I might be of help with my grandchildren as needed.

However, I’ve got friends who already have experience with the empty nest ordeal. I’ve heard stories. Some of the tales were quite gruesome. Did you know that when the children you dedicated a giant chunk of your life to raising grow up, they sometimes decide to move thousands of miles away?

In order to ensure there are lots of great places like our beloved Asheboro should the need arise to pack up and move closer to our children, as well as to build up small town America again, I feel it important to share what I know.

One of the secrets is a piano with wheels. There needs to be a downtown establishment that owns a piano that can be rolled across the street to another downtown establishment. The purpose of having a movable piano is to enable folks to plan piano playing and singing events. People absolutely love to stand around a piano and sing familiar songs.

Of course, you need someone who can play the piano reasonably well. You also need a couple of lead singers to get the crowd going. It also helps if the piano event is a fundraiser during which you can pay money to both request music as well as stop the performance of a particularly eardrum shattering selection.

Another secret is portable bathrooms. But they have to be nice bathrooms. Our fine city invested in a movable trailer with comfortable bathrooms that exceed the quality of many gas stations and fast food restaurants. It is nice to attend concerts in the park and festivals during which you feel free to consume gallons of sweet tea. For bathroom needs, the comfort of trailer restrooms overwhelmingly beats facing a row of port-a-potties.

And while creative and fun events at downtown venues are an excellent way to draw people into the heart of a municipality, tons of convenient, free parking is what will keep them coming back.

When crowds of people are attracted to unique, downtown venues and start frequenting events and establishments, they have a chance to get to know each other. Once relationships begin to blossom, the town has no choice but to thrive.

People are the biggest and best secret to a flourishing downtown culture. Small business owners who work together to build the community as well as get to know their patrons make all the difference. Owners win over patrons. Patrons then become regulars. The regulars then get to know each other. Friendships grow along with the economy.

Another great aspect of our beautiful town is the fact that everyone looks out for one another. It’s a wonderful side-effect of a vibrant small town. As an example, last week, I wrote about preserving the fruits of my summer garden. I received several emails from folks who were greatly concerned about what I wrote.

The emails pointed out that I could be exposing my family to botulism based on the canning method I described. They were also concerned that my readers could start practicing unsafe canning methods after reading my column, exposing their families to sickening bacterias.

Therefore, this week I feel compelled to follow-up on last week’s column. Neighbor to neighbor, I urge you to first consult with your local cooperative extension agency before canning. Please make sure you use the appropriate method for the foods you are preserving to ensure your harvest is bacteria-free and safe for consumption.

Safe food preservation practices enable us to eat healthy, homegrown goodness throughout the year. And eating healthy foods strengthens the body, ensuring we are always up for an evening of group piano singing across the street.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.