Merchants Association making a positive comeback

Several years after its messy and very public dissolution, the Port Orchard Downtown Merchants Association is attempting to reinvent itself and reconcile the differences of business owners up and down Bay Street, focusing on a common goal.

Mallory Jackson, of Custom Picture Framing on Bay Street, spoke to the Port Orchard City Council earlier in the month reiterating most Bay Street business owners’ commitment to the repair, beautification and maintenance of the downtown marquee.

“Under no circumstances do we want the awning removed,” Jackson said to the Council on June 13. “It is a vital component of our ability to operate our businesses on Bay Street.”

According to Jackson, business owners are asking the council to fund any necessary structural repairs, consider underhead lighting and signage and replace the dated facade.

“People have such a hard time visualizing what the town could look like without the blue and teal and ugly pickets,” Jackson said.

The marquee issue is not the only one on which downtown businesses are in agreement. Jackson said she’s optimistic about the possibility of resurrecting the merchants association.

“I think (the marquee issue) put us all together and put us all on the same page,” Jackson said. “(The association) is not anything that’s going to happen tomorrow.”

She said she will begin going through the past association’s bylaws and discover how to put the group back together. According to Jackson, the merchants have been discussing meeting as a regular group as much as twice a month.

“We’re going to try to address more business matters,” Jackson said, “and work on the image of our town.”

“I think we’re right on the cusp of downtown Port Orchard becoming a tourist destination,” said Dennis Lei of downtown’s new Puget Sound Wine Cellar. “We’ve got to give people a reason to get off the ferry.”

Lei said that the influx of new merchants downtown makes now the perfect time to implement new and exciting ideas.

“It’s a new time,” Lei said. “With the merchant’s association, we’re saying ‘we have no preconceived ideas.’ ”

“We’re trying to form an organization that acts as a unit,” Lei said.

According to Lei, the reconfigured association will likely begin by holding one major community event every year. He said both he and Jackson are open to ideas from the merchants, but are firm in stating that snide remarks and negativity are not welcome.

“For the preservation of all of us, we have to do this,” Lei said.

“It’s exciting,“ Jackson concluded. “People down here are energetic and enthusiastic to see some change.”

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