Business owners and locals react to Jackson Street revitalization

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Lori Shivers, co-owner of Modern Studio of Photography, gave her view on the changes on Jackson Street. “We love the new vibe that Jackson Street has.”

Shivers and her husband are long time professionals in the studio industry. “This business was established in [1945] next to this location upstairs.” Shivers told how the original studio was started by her husband’s parents, Helen and Gammage Shivers, before her and her husband became involved. “Andy became part of the business in the 70s and we moved down here in 1987. So, we’ve been here for quite a while.”

She talked about what made their business increasingly unique; “we’re what you would call a mom and pop studio. It’s just a husband-and-wife operation with some help with employees just to do production and things like that. There’s not a lot of portrait studios anywhere anymore. And so, we have people that come from all around to seek this type of portrait work. We’re very honored.” She mentioned that while they are no longer doing weddings, they are only semi-retired.

Yorka Ralwins, owner of The Spot, told her perspective on Jackson Street; “the traffic’s certainly increased.”

She talked about the variety of venues her and other business owners provided the downtown; “I like options, and I think that’s exactly what a downtown in a community like this needs and that’s exactly what we’re bringing.”

Ralwins praised the efforts of Main Street and the options the town has; “I think Americus has more than people think.”

Charles Crisp, developer and head of the Downtown Development Authority, talked about the addition of a balcony over a section of Jackson Street; “most of these buildings way back had some sort of porch on the front, including that one. The original one was not quite as big. It was as wide, but it wasn’t as deep as the current one.”

Crisp talked about its construction:; “it’s mostly steel and concrete. The railings are wrought iron. That’s all salvage. That was old fencing that I bought. The columns are steel posts with cast iron decoration applied to them.”

In addition to charting the existing improvements, Crisp mentioned he hoped to see “the sidewalks more user friendly.”

Kimberly Horne Folmar, with Horne Pecan, a coffee and pecan store, gave an interview about her family’s business on Jackson Street that opened last October. When asked what inspired her family to open a branch on Jackson Street, she replied; “we love coffee for one. Our other business is out on Southerfield Road. So, we’re kind of out of the main drag of things, and we really wanted to be in town.”

Folmar talked about what it was like being a part of the change on Jackson Street. “We’ve been [able to] participate in First Friday events and different things that the local community has downtown, which we weren’t a part of before. So, all of that’s exciting, and everything’s a new first.”

Sarah Cook, evening manager at Horne, told what it was like being manager during First Fridays. “It’s fun. I like it. I like when it gets busy. There’s a bunch of new people who come in on First Fridays, and then our regular customers.”

When asked if she visited Jackson Street before working for Horne, Cook replied; “no, I really didn’t. So since working here, I have started to appreciate the downtown a lot more. And I think that’s what a lot of people see when they come downtown.” She talked about the experience of new people visiting Jackson Street and getting to enjoy the new businesses. “It opens their eyes more the same way it did mine.”

She also shared a new addition to the menu, the mocha frappe; “we’ve been working on it for a few weeks.” Cook talked about its reception; “I think it’s been a pretty good hit so far. I love it. I could drink one every day.”

Daniel Caldwell, an artist with work on display at the Americus-Sumter Art’s Council Artists’ Co-Op Gallery on Jackson Street, also shared his experiences; “I’ve been coming to Jackson Street about six months ever since I moved here.”

When asked if he noticed a change in the street, he replied; “there’s a lot more people. It’s a lot more vital.”

Kenny Phillips, owner of an ice cream store called Scoops Americus, also gave an interview. He told what the experience had been like since the business had opened on the 29th of February. “It has been a very humbling experience to see so many locals and out of town guests support Scoops, so we’ve just been overwhelmed.”

Phillips talked about initially visiting Jackson Street with his wife Teresa Phillips before bringing Scoops to Americus; “we saw something, and thought we’d love to be a part of that.”

He talked about the change he had seen on Jackson Street; “it’s been tremendous. The traffic, whether it’s walking traffic or driving traffic has been just incredible.” He talked about the nightlife at the Spot, dinner opportunities at the Windsor, and shopping. He also shared his hopes for the future; “I hope it only gets better. We’re looking forward to different things that the city is working on with parking, and with The Downtown Development with bringing even more new businesses.”