(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"The thing is most people forget the downtown is here," said Craft, who co-owns the downtown shop, Craftmasters' KidSmart, with his wife, Nancy. "But it's like the hub with the axle. If you don't keep it greased, it runs down. I think it needs to be greased and nurtured and expanded on to show the creative stores we have in Sikeston."
Craft isn't alone. Recently the Downtown Merchants Association reorganized under the Sikeston Chamber of Commerce as the Downtown Business Association in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.
Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Missy Marshall noted the interest in revamping the downtown area isn't something that just came up -- it's been contemplated for years.
As part of the revitalization, Marshall said the organization and Chamber is looking at not only promotional vehicles, but at giving the downtown a facelift.
"It's my hope that in a couple of years somebody who hasn't been here in a while will come in and go 'Wow!'" Marshall said.
Marshall noted some business members of the community have told her a city is judged by its downtown area and it's something businesses look at before moving into an area.
With the help of the city, the organization and the Chamber will bring in experts from the state level around Feb. 1.
"We'll pull members in and sit down one evening and discuss what we want as far as trying to unify the look, theme, period, structure, sidewalk patterns, lighting and signage," Marshall said. "And we have great historic buildings. We are so fortunate we haven't lost them -- and we need to market that."
The enhancing/assisting of the revitalization is under the Chamber. "We have dollars set aside for downtown projects, and the timing was right to say, 'Let us help you out,'" Marshall said.
Giving the downtown a facelift will make it a strong area for not only Sikeston, but for Miner, too, Marshall pointed out.
"We want to create the whole package," Marshall said, adding it wouldn't be just for locals, but for tourists, too.
And it's not just for the downtown streets like Front, Center and New Madrid, but there's something in it for anything that leads into the downtown area, like a domino effect, Marshall said.
"What we have found since we reorganized, there are businesses along Main and Malone and further down Tanner Street that are interested and concerned about the downtown area staying strong," Marshall explained.
To kick off the newly named organization, the Downtown Business Association is hosting its annual Christmas Open House Celebration Nov. 12-14 with several activities including holiday sales, free horse carriage rides, hot chocolate concessions, a story hour, chili dinner, visits with Santa Claus and Disney tour at the Malone Plaza planned.
The revitalization of downtown Sikeston is multi-faceted and its possibilities are endless, Marshall said.
Craft said he thinks within the next year or so, the downtown area could be looking at 100 percent occupancy and a demand for businesses to be downtown.
Susie Kenedy, owner of Susie's Bake Shoppe on Center Street, admitted she's excited about the revitalization. She said she's talked with a lot of people who've said they'd like to see the downtown get back to what it used to be -- a place where everybody did their shopping.
"I've seen a lot of businesses come and go over the past 17 years. Hopefully with the revitalization, we can get some to stay," Kenedy said.
Craft, whose store has been in downtown area for 17 years, said he doesn't look at the area as having deteriorated over the years, but it's more like its been taken for granted.
He said: "It's like I said -- it's the heart of the community and needs to be alive and well."
For more information or to assist with the downtown revitalization, contact the Chamber office at (573) 471-2498.