Bring Suffolk more

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Changes are coming to downtown Suffolk, and I for one am ready to enjoy them.

I’ve been covering stories for the Suffolk News-Herald for nearly two years, and I’ve seen plenty of ribbon cuttings and groundbreaking across the city. But the developments highlighted at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts on Tuesday night are very, very interesting.

The center hosted the Community Business Launch Pitch Night Competition, the culmination of a seven-week program. Nine of the people who finished the program submitted businesses plans to participate in the Tuesday pitch competition.

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This was sponsored by Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Suffolk Economic Development Authority, and funded by a $45,000 grant for new and expanding business ventures.

Only five of those nine submissions were chosen to take the stage Tuesday evening. Ed Beardsley, Anticia Macalou, Joseph Wood, Syreeta Woods and David Stacknick each had five minutes to present their business plans, which was either an expansion of their existing downtown business or a plan to open a new downtown spot.

The judges had to divide the $45,000 grant among the most compelling pitches. All but Wood ended up receiving between $5,000 to $15,000 in grant funding, although his idea for a “Historical Vendors Court” was still intriguing in its own right.

That’s what got me so excited about the competition. Each plan had its own merit, and a few of them got my ears perked.

I love the idea of going to Stacknick’s Brick and Mortar Brewery later this year and relaxing on an outdoor deck that’s currently in the works. Macalou’s vision for Groundworks Bar and Bistro looks to provide another coffee destination — plus late-night cocktails — on North Main Street, which simply means more space to get work done that’s not another Starbucks or Panera.

All of Tuesday’s pitches bode well for Suffolk, from Woods opening a clothing boutique to Beardsley creating more space for local artists. I want to see more exciting opportunities that are in Suffolk and not across tunnels and bridges in the other cities of Hampton Roads.

One of the things I heard from both competitors and spectators on Tuesday was that you can already see and feel the changes that are happening downtown. You see the murals downtown from the SPARC Initiative and Keep Suffolk Beautiful. You taste the coffee at Pourfavor or the craft beer at Brick and Mortar.

It’s reassuring to know that’s there’s not going to be a shortage of new sensations anytime soon.