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Downtown restaurants face challenges
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      I haven't written much about downtown lately, because things have been kind of quiet. Like every other segment/area of our local economy, it has seen somewhat of a slowdown - most visibly, the restaurant closings of Hugo's and Blue Moon.
       I spoke with 119 Chop's owner Richard Toms to get his "take" on what is happening with downtown. Opened just over a year ago, Toms' restaurant has become an "anchor" of sorts for West Main Street.
       "This may surprise many people, but I didn't look at those two restaurants as our competition," Toms said. "We fed off of each other. People would come downtown at night to eat, and to have choices. Taking choices away makes downtown less of an attraction."
       Toms said his restaurant is still busy and holding its own. "You have to go after your clientele," he said. "You decide who your clientele is, and you find ways to reach them. We aren't in a high traffic area like the Mall area, and we don't have huge signage out front signaling that we are here. But, we are doing things to let people know that we are here, and they are paying off."
       Toms said First Friday has been a big help as it continues to draw larger and larger crowds downtown the first Friday of each month.   "We have noticed that people are finding out about us through First Friday and similar events. We have to keep promoting downtown as a whole, and I think our Downtown Development Authority is doing a very good job of that. We can see the difference that it has made."
       It is true that the building housing Statesboro Brews has been foreclosed upon and is now owned by the Sea Island Bank. I spoke with Sea Island Bank president Wayne Akins about the future of that high profile building, and indirectly the businesses within it.
       "It is true that we now own that building, and are actively marketing its sale," Akins said. "There has been a tremendous interest in it. Our plan is to take sealed bids on it in the next two weeks or so."
       As far as businesses operating within it, Akins said it will be up to the building's new owner once it is sold as to what happens with them. Toms is hoping that things will work out on a positive note.
       "It is certainly my hope that Statesboro Brews remains open," Toms said. "It is a great building with a fabulous set up. The business itself remains very busy, and I know that they have a loyal clientele. It could certainly be a landmark type of a restaurant. It has that potential."
       For those of you who may not be aware there are two new eateries that have opened downtown. Christy's on Main is located on South Main across from the courthouse and the Mud Shack is on Courtland Street behind the courthouse. I'm sure that they would appreciate your support.

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