The town of Matthews is a great place to open and operate a small business. Liz Parham, director of the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center, as well as several small business owners delivered that message at the Matthews Business Summit.
The recent summit was presented by the Matthews Economic Development Advisory Committee and 70 or so local business owners and others interested in business in the town attended.
Parham gave examples of small towns across the state, from Sylva to Kinston, that have redeveloped or reinvigorated downtowns with breweries and distilleries, art, pocket parks, famers markers, farm to table restaurants and more. She said the redevelopment was carefully designed to create gathering places and a sense of community that, in turn, brought in even more people to support the small businesses located there. The resulting economic activity also spurred some unique partnerships.
“We have some communities where part of the vision is to bring in millennial entrepreneurs. They are partnering up with retiring baby boomer investors to start and grow businesses,” said Parham.
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To outsiders Matthews is fantastic. It’s unique, different, pedestrian friendly. I see the opportunity for downtown Matthews to be the core, the hub, for all the towns that surround us. None of them have this historic core. Matthews and the surrounding towns have 125,000 people and I see incredible opportunity just drawing from those four towns.
Rob Jacik, owner of Carolina Beer Temple
Rob Jacik, owner of Carolina Beer Temple and co-chairman of the Red Brick Partnership, a group of downtown Matthews businesses and residences seeking to promote the downtown core, sees Matthews as a place with similar possibilities.
Rob Jacik launched his Carolina Beer Temple store in Matthews four years ago, serving beers by independently owned North Carolina breweries. Today, Jacik operates three different stores in downtown Matthews and he recently opened a fourth location in Ayrsley.
“Matthews is not overrun with chains. When we were deciding where to open our brewery, we were impressed with all the unique businesses here. It’s good to be a small business surrounded by small business,” said Jacik.
He says the rich history of Matthews, the preservation of its downtown corridor, and its proximity to other small towns, are also a big advantages.
“To outsiders Matthews is fantastic. It’s unique, different, pedestrian friendly. I see the opportunity for downtown Matthews to be the core, the hub, for all the towns that surround us. None of them have this historic core. Matthews and the surrounding towns have 125,000 people and I see incredible opportunity just drawing from those four towns.”
We understand that we have to grow, but we don’t want to lose that small town character. We plan to carry on in the tradition of what came before us.
Matthews commissioner John Urban
Alexander “Xan” Hood, owner of Buffalo Jackson Trading Co., an e-commerce site with a small storefront in Matthews that sells clothing and leather goods, cites some of the same reasons for locating there.
Alexander “Xan” Hood opened his Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. store in downtown Matthews in 2009. Today, much of his sales come from his online business, but he still runs his retail store selling stylish outdoor clothing for rugged gentlemen, based on themes of the American West.
“My family was moving to Charlotte. At the time we were just an ecommerce company, but when I drove through Matthews, I experienced something I couldn’t find anywhere else. The presence of history was very strong, and the community support is part of what we long for as business owners,” said Hood.
Matthews commissioner John Urban, owner of the Urban Architectural Group and co-chairman of the Red Brick Partnership, says though it’s always a balancing act between growth and small town charm, the town board is committed to helping the town grow in the right way.
“We understand that we have to grow, but we don’t want to lose that small town character. We plan to carry on in the tradition of what came before us,” said Urban.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in knowing more about downtown Matthews and exploring what the town has to offer?
▪ Learn more about plans for the East John Street widening project 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Hood Room of Matthews Town Hall. The Transportation Advisory Committee will hear a presentation from VHB consultants about the proposed project and receive a summary of comments gathered at the Jan. 31 public meeting. The public is invited and there will be an opportunity for public comment at the end of the meeting.
▪ Check out a First Thursday event. The next First Thursday happens March 2, beginning at 5 p.m. in downtown Matthews. Also check out Red Brick Partnership’s annual “Shamrock Crawl” on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Details coming soon on its Facebook page.
▪ Visit http://www.matthewsnc.govto find out more about economic development in the town, downtown events, and ways to get involved.