It looks like 1998 has made a comeback in South Fulton. What is so unique about 1998 and South Fulton?
If you recall, we lost several major businesses in our community.
Macy’s pulled out of Shannon Mall. Service Merchandise and Target closed along Old National Highway.
Unfortunately, we never obtained replacements for these businesses. Both the Target and Macy’s have remained empty since their closures. The departure of Macy’s began the path to death of Shannon Mall as other businesses followed such as JCPenney and other major outlets.
We have seen two malls die out in our area; Crossroads at Stewart-Lakewood and Union Station (formerly Shannon Mall). We also have seen many once vibrant shopping centers become ghost towns.
Over this weekend, the Cascade Patch reported that WineStyles is leaving Cascade. This is the only location that was in an urban area. In fact, this is the only location that had an Atlanta address (even though it was located in unincorporated Fulton).
The Cascade Corridor has seen the closure of Quizno’s (near Fulton Industrial), Bruster’s, Up The Creek Seafood Restaurant, Wing Stop, Foot Locker, Footworks, Gorin’s, Imprimis Beauty Salon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Johnny’s Pizza and more. Keep in mind, the corridor is only but so big.
Regardless of how you feel about these businesses, we have lost jobs, services and most importantly, tax revenue that is paid into the South Fulton Special Services District (the fund that pays for city services in unincorporated Fulton).
For those of us who are natives to the Cascade Corridor, we remember when there was nothing on strip but two, maybe three gas stations, woods, a haunted house and nothing else. Research Atlanta Center Drive was not even on the map yet. Local family dining was either at Greenbriar (only so many times one can eat Piccadilly) or on Fulton Industrial (Sizzler, Shoney’s). Other than that, we had to take our cars and commute for services and quality.
In 2003, Camp Creek Marketplace provided more dining, shopping and medical options for our community. The center has since expanded and we will be seeing entertainment complexes along the parkway in the near future in both the city limit of East Point and unincorporated Fulton.
Greenbriar Mall, a staple of our community since 1965 has seen its fair share of businesses come and go. Most recently, we lost two movie theatres, Magic Johnson Theatres in 2009 and its short lived replacement Revolution Cinemas.
To stop this business erosion, we need to start shopping locally. For years, we complained and yearned about not having establishments in our area. While there are still several areas of unmet demand, we must continue to demonstrate that we are a viable community that is ready to do business. We have to stop thinking its better or best on the other side of town.
The Old National Alliance holds businesses along Old National accountable and responsible for their actions. If we see something that is substandard, then we must speak up. Contact the manager and if no response or action is taken, then contact the corporate headquarters.
Secondly, criminal behavior cannot be justified, excused or tolerated. All too often, businesses in our community are subject to theft, burglary and vandalism. Our police department must ensure that the business corridor is receiving adequate patrol coverage so calls are responded to in a timely manner.
However, Fulton County Police cannot place an office in every community they serve. Neither can the Atlanta Police Department. We all must do a better job of keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and as the public service announcement says, “if you see something, say something.”
Thirdly, our businesses must do a better job of networking and partnering with one another. All too often as entrepreneurs and business owners, we tend to forget our neighbors next door or down the street when we are doing business to business transactions. Why have two similar special events in one area? Reach out to collaborate and consolidate. Businesses must be referrals for one another and get past this competing attitude. Why does everyone feel the need to offer a trivia or karaoke night? Be innovative, different and creative. Our business groups such as the Cascade Business and Merchants Association, the South Fulton Chamber of Commerce and others must provide opportunities for the businesses to meet one another and to meet the consumers. As an entrepreneur in South Fulton, I see first-hand the limited options for business networking. I have ran into countless other entrepreneurs and business owners in neighboring counties networking and pushing their businesses.
Fourth, our governments cannot be anti-business. We all know that the ‘Cascade Overlay’ is king when it comes to the corridor but is it sustainable? Telling a business, it cannot engage in various activities to market and promote their business, adding to the cost of doing business because of required fixtures and structures simply pushes many out of a potential market. There is a business on Fulton Industrial who told me they have several banners they would love to display but the county charges them per week. This is not a major chain or corporation but a small business. Simply being on a high traffic road or located within a “popular right now” community does not keep the doors open. Governments must do more for small businesses and entrepreneurs as it us who will be the ones to take the chance of going into an area labeled undesirable by the large companies. It is us who will take an office within an antiquated office park to get ourselves started. Everyone rolls out the red carpet for large corporation but who rolls out the red carpet for entrepreneurs?
In addition, the same can be said for our neighborhood groups and community associations. When was the last time a business had the chance to present themselves to your group? Have you reached out to local businesses about holding your meetings in their establishment? Many of these businesses would love to provide both monetary and in-kind sponsorship to your causes but we tend to skip over them. Many of these groups treat business owners and entrepreneurs like political candidates—you are welcome but sit down and shut up. Nobody is saying turn your meetings into infomercials and place necessary agenda items on the back burner. What we are saying is these businesses in your community are contributing to your quality of life that you enjoy?
This is a call to action. If you like having businesses in your neighborhood, you have to support them. Get to know the staff, management and owners. Develop a relationship with them. Talk them up to your colleagues, family and friends. Before you venture out across town, ask yourself is there any place local where I can do this. Business owners and entrepreneurs, you must do more to get your name out there. Handing out business cards and flyers on the sidewalk in front of your business is not enough. You are part of the community too and you have to get in the midst of it. Get involved, be seen and be out.
We have plenty of corridors for you to chose from: Old National Highway, Greenbriar Mall, West End, Cascade Corridor, Fulton Industrial Blvd, Camp Creek Parkway, South Fulton Parkway, Roosevelt Highway, Metropolitan Parkway, Campbellton Road, Sandtown, Ben Hill, Oakland City and the downtowns of College Park, East Point and Hapeville.
Save a business, strength your community, shop local!
Dominique Huff is the CEO/Founder of the Tenth Amendment Media Group. TAMG specializes in sharing community stories through broadcasting, publishing and hospitality. Visit them online at www.tenthamendmentmedia.com.