Earlier this month on a chilly Friday night, hundreds of people flocked to Downtown Marietta for the very first First Friday, hosted by Marietta Main Street. Despite below freezing temperatures, the sidewalks were filled as shoppers popped in and out of shops downtown to warm up and treat themselves to some post-holiday shopping.
A reinvention of the well-known Merchant & Artists Walks, First Fridays are a monthly event intended to draw people downtown for a special experience. While several shops downtown are open until 7 or 8pm on Friday evenings, First Fridays feature extended hours with participating shops open until 9pm. First Fridays will take place throughout the entire year, instead of just during the summer months, giving residents even more opportunity to spend time in their favorite downtown shops.
“Marietta’s first First Friday was great! Despite it being bitter cold, people came out to enjoy the beautiful ice sculptures and to see what each business was featuring,” says Becky Pritchett of Twisted Sisters Boutique, Ltd.. “You could feel the excitement in the air! We met people who traveled to Marietta just for this event, and caught up with locals as well. Twisted Sisters Boutique is looking forward to each and every First Friday!”
“Anything that unites the downtown stores with shoppers is a blessing.”
Downtown merchants met to share ideas and discuss how each business could invite people in and make it a special evening. Shops hosted artists and musicians, offered hot drinks, created themed window displays and sponsored ice sculptures to contribute to the atmosphere of a Fire and Ice Festival. Becky Pritchett and Debbie Cline coordinated with five local chefs and artists for the creation of nine ice sculptures that were placed throughout downtown, as well as a beautiful ice swan that was carved in front of their shop during the event by Chef Tyson Whistler of Glenwood Retirement Community. “We set up free art activities for kids at Peddler of Dreams,” shared owner Prudence Knox Burgardt, “so it’s nice if parents bring their kids downtown for these events – especially when it’s cold! We had the S’Mores Bar set up and everyone enjoyed that, parents and kids alike.”
Initially, there were several merchants who were not in favor of the change from the Merchants & Artists Walks, typically the second Friday of the month, to First Fridays. “I was not on board with First Fridays,” admitted Dagmar Kupshe, co-owner of The Cook’s Shop in Downtown, Marietta. “I have to say, now I love it! Shoppers never knew which Fridays were involved. ‘First Friday’ is just that – the first Friday of every month, a no brainer. Anything that unites the downtown stores with shoppers is a blessing. I would love to see 100% involvement moving forward. Marietta is a ‘timewarp’ community that is built on a small-town structure. Everyone knows everyone – it’s a gem that needs to be preserved and shared.”
The new structure of First Fridays allows the merchants to have more agency over the programming of each month’s event, and opens the door for more organizations to get involved in what’s happening downtown. “It’s really important for the growth of our community that our citizens, local organizations and area businesses feel that they can not only be represented downtown but to enjoy it as the heartbeat of our community,” says Cristie Thomas, Executive Director of Marietta Main Street. “A thriving, dynamic downtown is a vital indicator of the strength of our community. First Fridays are one way that Main Street facilitates that connection.”
The spirit of the Marietta community is clearly evidenced in how the downtown merchants came together to create such a vibrant event. Every shop participated in their own way, making it a unique experience for shoppers as they made their way downtown. It just so happened that The Small Business Revolution team scheduled their visit to Marietta for the first weekend in January. Marietta is currently in the running to be a finalist for a $500,000 makeover and 8-episode series on Hulu through the Small Business Revolution on Main Street, so it was great for their to team to experience the first downtown event of the year.
“I was proud of our community for supporting this event, and I’m glad that the Small Business Revolution team got a first-hand look at how Marietta works together to enhance the downtown experience.”
Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit & Whimzy, commented on the success of the evening: “Despite the frigid temperature, we saw a large number of people downtown enjoying the ice sculptures, Burning Dawn’s performance at the Armory, and the late shopping hours. Corey Shields performed live in my shop and the crowd was great. I was proud of our community for supporting this event, and I’m glad that the Small Business Revolution team got a first-hand look at how Marietta works together to enhance the downtown experience.”
While it’s easy enough to remember, be sure to mark your calendar for all of this year’s First Fridays! The next one will take place on February 3rd, just in time for Valentine’s Day – and Marietta’s downtown merchants are very excited for what the next month will hold. So grab a few friends and make plans to come downtown – it’s a perfect way to let your local small businesses know how much you love them!