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Community Helping Community

by Kerri Corderman + photos by Turner Photography

Downtown Movement

The Downtown Movement is popping up a fresh model in downtown Hagerstown.

It’s a Wednesday evening and a former storefront at 60 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown is brightly lit as Downtown Movement meeting-goers take their seats. The semi-circle of 20-some chairs, two rows deep, is filled with individuals whose ages collectively span several generations. An older gentleman with a cane sits next to three teenagers who traveled to the meeting on their longboards. As the meeting gets underway, a woman walks through the set of double doors, waves, and shares that this is her first meeting. A welcoming applause ripples through the group as she takes her seat — a perfect example of the positivity the Downtown Movement committee exudes, which has been the foundation of its mission.

One of the leaders of the movement, Rori Daughtridge, says the effort began with a shared passion for change in Hagerstown’s city center. “Since the beginning, this group has focused on the positive. I think everyone realized there is no room for negative energy,” says Rori. “We recognized that we needed to change the feeling about our beautiful downtown.”

Rori says the first initiative of the Downtown Movement — the recent pop-up shop events — was a concept that grew from seeing a pop-up store when she and another leader of the group, Jackie Walker, lived in Manhattan.

“It really grew from the idea of having one pop-up store and then we thought about all the storefront space available downtown, and saw that this could really change the face of the town,” Rori adds.

The first pop-up shop event held this past August drew more than 24 vendors who filled 18 vacant storefronts in Hagerstown’s downtown. The group decided to build on the success of the first event and hold two additional pop-up shop weekends in November. Each original vendor from the first round in August asked to come back and be a part of the second round, plus an additional six new vendors participated in November.

To successfully execute these three popup shop events on schedule, many Downtown Movement volunteers worked long hours, and did in a matter of weeks what a normal business start-up would have months to complete. The eclectic group, which started with four people in May and grew to 30 by November, includes graphic designers, artists, business owners, and others, who came together to develop branding and marketing materials for the pop-ups, design and apply individual window decals for each vendor, and clean and beautify the vacant storefront spaces.

Downtown Movement member Khalil (Leo) Michel, 17, lives and works downtown and says it was a co-worker who got him involved with the movement. “It seemed like a great opportunity to create relationships with other people in the city,” says Leo. “I really hope [the movement] continues to spread; that’s the goal, that it’s constantly improving so people can enjoy where they are and go downtown and have fun.”

John Gordon, co-owner of Gordon’s Grocery, which participated in all three pop-up events, says the number of people who visited the pop-ups encourages him. “Being a part of Hagerstown and being in business for 91 years, we see the movement really helping to bring new business downtown with lots of foot traffic,” says John. “It was wonderful with a lot of people and a lot of excitement.”

Cynthia Millsop, John’s sister and co-owner of their grocery store, voiced support and says she also had a great experience with the pop-ups. “I thought everyone was really enthusiastic just about being downtown,” says Cynthia, who adds, “We met other local businesses and it was a chance to build relationships.”

Linda Silvers, owner of Silvers Studio, participated for the first time in the November pop-ups and says the effort of filling vacant storefronts will benefit residents and businesses alike downtown. “It will create a better energy,” says Linda. “I hope to be overwhelmed by orders —and it would be great if this leads to something permanent.”

Achieving this goal of permanency is already underway, says Rori. One of the pop-up vendors, James and Jess’ House of Goods, recently decided to open a store downtown. The home décor business, which features modern and vintage goods, will fill what was once a vacant storefront at the corner of North Potomac and East Franklin streets.

In addition to encouraging businesses to open downtown, Rori says the movement will also continue to partner with the City of Hagerstown on various projects and will also focus efforts on planning more events to help draw visitors to Hagerstown’s downtown core.

“The City of Hagerstown has been tremendously helpful and supportive and the Downtown Movement is excited to work with them on Main Street Program initiatives and other activities,” says Rori.

Katie Mace, a member of the group, echoes Rori’s outlook on the collective strength of the Downtown Movement and its advocates. “It’s the community helping the community,” says Katie. “It’s been nothing but positive. We’ve really felt the support of the shops, the community, and the City — everyone has come together.”

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