Businesses seek Driver revival

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On the left are the new banner designs for Driver; on the right, one of the new banners hanging in the village.

On the left are the new banner designs for Driver; on the right, one of the new banners hanging in the village.

Business owners in Driver are hopeful that several recent changes will help increase business and bring attention to the village.

New banners are up in the village, the portion of the Seaboard Coastline Bike Trail near Driver is nearing completion, and nearby road construction has a lot of people detouring through the village and learning about the businesses there.

“That’s spurred us to get a little more hopeful again,” Arthur’s General Store owner Greg Parker said about the bike trail. “That was the real exciting thing for us.”

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The village has been plagued by a run of bad luck during the last decade or so. The Kings Highway Bridge, a vital link to the village from points west, closed in 2005. A tornado in 2008 severely damaged or destroyed much of the village’s business district. And then the recession hit.

“A lot of things happened sort of all at one time,” Parker said.

Phyllis Murphy, owner of Harmony House Antiques, agreed.

“We’ve had right many things against us,” said Murphy, whose store was destroyed in the 2008 tornado while she and employees huddled in a bathroom. That bathroom and the building’s frame were the only things left standing.

Lana Sadowski, owner of the Little Black Dress resale boutique, said the Driver Merchants Association worked with the city to come up with the tagline for the banners — “Historically Hip Driver Village” — and the city designed the banners.

“They’re pretty,” Ken Parsons of Knot Hole Station said. “They did a good job.”

“We are hoping the new look will brighten the look of Driver, and we will continue working on plans to coordinate our landscaping and make the shopping area more cohesive,” Sadowski wrote in an email.

She said complimentary umbrellas for outdoor seating, old-style lampposts, more promotions and events and other initiatives are under way to help draw in traffic. Event ideas like a food truck rodeo, movie nights and an art festival are in the planning stages. Arthur’s General Store already has bluegrass music on Fridays at 6 p.m., which draws a small crowd. The businesses also hope to provide bike racks in front of their stores for cyclists taking a break from the trail.

Ronnie Gould of Rio Grande Traders said anything that brings in business is good with him. “She’s a hard worker,” he added of Sadowski.

“Our mission is to revive Driver,” Sadowski wrote in the email. “We are excited and motivated to make Driver a shopping destination again. We want people to come to Driver more often than just for the Driver Days festival.”

The event is set for Oct. 17-18 this year, but Sadowski encouraged folks not to wait until then to come — or come back — and see what Driver has to offer.

“We’re just trying to get people out here,” said Terri Johnson of Little Black Dress. “We’ve had quite a few new people lately, because of the road work, that said ‘I didn’t know y’all were here.’”