SUCCESS STORY – Downtown Gainesville

“The ornament collection keeps people focused on the preservation of Downtown while allowing them to capture a piece of downtown in their homes and memories for years to come.”
Joe Burnett

Executive Director, Downtown Gainesville

Established as “Mule Camp Springs” near the crossing of two Indian trails followed by settlers in the 1800s, the City of Gainesville has maintained and built upon its historical legacy as a regional transportation and trade center for almost two centuries. Main Street Gainesville is actively involved in making and keeping Historic Downtown Gainesville a popular destination for North Georgia residents and visitors.

In 1995 Gainesville was named a Main Street City. At that time, there was no awareness or fundraising activities for the organization. Joe Burnett, Executive Director, wanted a way to reach out to both residents and tourists alike, to create awareness and to increase the operating fund. This fund helps Main Street Gainesville market Downtown Gainesville. Burnett, a transplant from Virginia, felt that an annual ornament program would be the right solution, but needed to choose a vendor that represented the same high‐quality and values as their organization. After receiving several referrals about Beacon Design, Burnett began the program in 1996.

The ornaments reflect the classic buildings and places that either still remain in the Downtown area, or had unfortunately been torn down. These include the Courthouse, Hunt Tower, Downtown Gainesville Square, Main Street School and even Engine 209. “These pieces resonate with long‐time residents, as well as people who have moved away but retain a sense of pride and nostalgia in their old home town,” says Burnett.

The series is marketed through the local newspaper, the downtown newsletter, on the website, and even in many of the local retail stores. These stores often give 100% of the proceeds back to the organization. The pieces are also sold in some of the town’s Fall events, such as Art in the Square and the three‐day Mule Camp Market.

The effect of Burnett’s actions and involvement over the years is very apparent. Main Street Gainesville has been awarded more than 17 state and national awards for its events and programs. More than 60 businesses have located or relocated into the Downtown district and over 525 jobs have been maintained. Burnett comments, “The ornament collection keeps people focused on the preservation of Downtown, while allowing them to capture a piece of downtown in their homes and memories for years to come.”

For more information on Main Street Gainesville, please visit their website at: downtowngainesville.com

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