As the setting of the sun began to darken the Hernando County skyline, local business owners congregated Tuesday in Bill's Bistro in downtown Brooksville. The meeting's purpose was discuss how to restore productive commerce to their downtown livelihood.
A sign with the words "Creative Community Commerce" hangs in a window of the restaurant, mimicking the commitment and energy of the downtown merchants who gathered to unite and brainstorm ideas. This was the third meeting, held on Tuesday evenings, to discuss efforts to promote the downtown business sector to local and out-of-town traffic.
Bistro owner Bill Staunko opened the floor with a request for introductions from attendees that included a group of small business owners from Brooksville and Spring Hill and various parks and recreation officials.
"We've got a number of people today who would like to tell us how they can assist and what their vision is for their groups in the near and long-term future," Staunko said.
Christie Williams, director of the Hernando County Recreation Department, outlined events that are planned for the county.
"We are just trying to build up downtown Brooksville like everyone else," she said. "Our goal is to bring more events to the parks."
In collaboration with Brooksville Parks and Recreation, movies are planned for each month at locations around the county. Williams also mentioned that during months her department isn't sponsoring movies, they will plan live band events.
Williams also discussed an effort to host a downtown lunchtime gathering on Aug. 24 to entice local businesses to gather in the street.
"We are looking to do vendors and a live band," Williams said, "and will push to get people out into the street between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m."
Tiffany Taylor, recreation leader for Brooksville Parks and Recreation, also discussed her department's efforts to bring events downtown. They recently hosted the Uptown Block Party at the SunTrust parking lot on July 24.
Future Uptown Block parties will take place at the City Hall parking lot on the last Thursday of each month, she said, to make it more convenient for attendees.
"There will be public restrooms," Taylor joked.
Other area businesses represented a combined effort to help build more awareness to the businesses downtown by brainstorming ideas for future events and vendor participation.
New businesses have consistently opened in Brooksville this year, adding to the diversity of the business sector downtown.
Anchored shops like Easy Street Home Décor and Main Street Eatery, both of which were represented at the Tuesday meeting, are active in promoting awareness.
Also attending wereJoe Pepitone from CVF Productions Inc.; Rich Melton from Crossland Media; Sheryl Ryan from Print All Promotions; Lena Castel from Love Your Neighbor, representing the Brooksville Market on Main; and Susan Meyer, from Studio 191.
The goal of the meeting was to share ideas on how to promote the area by keeping interest downtown through planned events.
Staunko said the meetings usually have a strong presence and have attracted interest from other local merchants like Patricia's Boutique, House of Passage, Riverstone Wines, Snapdragon Vintage, Peace Tree Trading, Tactical Supply, Gallery of the Arts, Revamp It, Bobby Meadows Printing & Antiques, Pronto Dry Cleaners and Amanda's Sweet Escape.
The meetings will continue every other Tuesday at Bill's Bistro on Broad Street, beginning at 6:30 p.m., for as long as there continues to be an interest. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Perhaps Peggie Bell, owner of Main Street Eatery, a 23-year staple to the landscape, summed it up best.
"It's not just for business that I want to bring more people downtown," she said. "It's a passion. It's such a unique and quaint town and we have so many things that are different from other places in Florida."