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Downtown restaurateurs weary of the struggles

Albany restaurateurs Sarah Edmonds, B.J. Fletcher and Dale Saunders are concerned about the lack of development downtown. One of the city's downtown eateries, cafe 230, closed its doors on Friday. (Nov. 30, 2012)

Albany restaurateurs Sarah Edmonds, B.J. Fletcher and Dale Saunders are concerned about the lack of development downtown. One of the city's downtown eateries, cafe 230, closed its doors on Friday. (Nov. 30, 2012)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dale Saunders looks wistfully across the table at his Riverfront 2 Bar-B-Q restaurant in Lee County at fellow restaurateurs B.J. Fletcher and Sarah Edmonds.

"If this was all about me," he says, "I'd do what y'all are doing and just run all my business out of one location, either this one or the one downtown (Albany). But it's not just about me. I write checks to 45 other people every week, and I have to think about my employees."

Saunders, Fletcher and Edmonds met early Friday to discuss downtown Albany and the impact Donna Driskell's decision to close the popular Cafe 230 restaurant opened on West Broad Avenue by Fletcher and Edmonds three years ago would have on the struggling district.

Driskell, who also owns the Corner Cafe in west Albany, was unavailable for comment Friday. She bought Cafe 230 from Edmonds two months ago and abruptly announced to her employees Thursday evening that Friday would be the restaurant's final day of serving lunch.

"We were just as surprised as everyone," Edmonds said. "Both B.J. and I had so many other things going on, we were confident Donna was someone who could keep Cafe 230 going. That's why we made the decision to sell to her.

"I went by there today during lunch to thank some of the customers who supported us during the three years we were there. There were so many wonderful people, some of them who ate with us every day."

But Driskell and her staff served the restaurant's final lunch meal on Friday, leaving the restaurant in the hands of owner Marty McLendon. McLendon has given Fletcher, who now coordinates special events for the Hilton Garden Inn downtown, the go-ahead to continue using Cafe 230 as an events center. Fletcher said officials at the Hilton have told her they had no problem with her booking smaller events at the 230 W. Broad Ave. facility.

"We want people who have already booked luncheons and other events at Cafe 230 to know that those events will go on," Fletcher said. "We were surprised at Donna's decision, but I've been on the phone with Marty and I've got a feeling he's going to want to maintain the restaurant as an events center until someone else decides to re-open.

"I think if the right person looked at the situation downtown and came in with the right idea, they could make a go (at Cafe 230). I'd like to see that happen because I don't want to see anything bad happen to downtown. I still believe it can be the heartbeat of the city."

LOSS OF MOMENTUM

The closing of Cafe 230 slows what little momentum Albany officials had built while trying to revive the inner city. It was only four years ago, just before the area's economy came to a crashing halt, that both Riverfront BBQ and Cafe 230 were hailed as the poster children for how to run a successful business where many before had failed.

"In that second year we were open, we made more than $800,000," Saunders said of the original Riverfront Bar-B-Q. Adds Fletcher, "And we were right behind you."

Now, both are telling a different story.

"We're barely breaking even, managing to stay open," Saunders said. "When you live week-to-week -- day-to-day -- like that, a few bad days in a bad month can wipe you out. We're not setting the woods on fire here (at the Leesburg location) either, but we're still trying to grow this business.

"Being at a break-even point is not a good place to be at two restaurants, especially when you've got overhead like we do. My rent at the downtown restaurant is $4,000 a month, and utilities are about that much. Like I said, if I didn't have those other 45 people who are like my second family ..."

Fletcher, who sold her interest in Cafe 230 to Edmonds when Fletcher bought the former Ole Times restaurant at 2401 Dawson Road, said the special events business is bustling at the Hilton Garden Inn, better even than expected. But the closing of Cafe 230 has impacted her plans.

"Just like Dale, I can't stand to think of those workers -- and they were our workers, we hired them -- losing their jobs," she said. "So I'm making some changes at BJ's Place (formerly Ole Times). I've bought the equipment at the (recently closed) Donut Factory and will bring it to the restaurant. In January, I'm going to open BJ's Cafe and Bakery.

"I've hired the man who makes the best bear claws and apple fritters, and we're going to bring all the Cafe 230 employees over to our place to work with us. We'll still sell our fresh vegetables and our buffet, but now we'll have baked goods, too. And we'll do all of our catering business out of there. Catering is very important; I'd say it's the one thing that's kept Dale and me going the last couple of years."

SOME HELP NEEDED

Saunders said he made Riverfront a success with his hours and hours of hard work, and with no help from the city. But now, with the economy faltering, he says he'd be open to a little assistance if any were forthcoming.

"People told me I was crazy, that I'd never make it here when I told them I was planning to open a place downtown," the restaurateur said. "But I did it and never asked the city for a bit of help. Now, though, with the economy failing, it would be great if someone from the city came and asked me if they could help me in any way.

"I got upset when I saw that story in today's paper about how (Downtown Albany Manager) Aaron Blair said he didn't know Cafe 230 was having trouble. I don't dislike Aaron Blair and I'm not in love with him, but I think he's graced our restaurant maybe one or two times since he's been here. You think he's ever popped his head in and asked how we're doing, if we could use any help? I mean, isn't that his job?"

Fletcher, too, expressed disappointment in Blair's comments to The Albany Herald.

"He's not aware of any problems?" she says. "Here's an email we exchanged back in October. See where he talks about bringing another restaurant downtown? With a few exceptions, that's their idea of improving downtown, bringing in another restaurant. They end up getting someone with $1,000 and a dream, promising them free rent for six months, and that's about how long the business stays open.

"I responded to his email, telling him another restaurant downtown was not the answer. I told him there was barely enough support for three restaurants, much less four or five. In fact, see here where I told him, 'There are three businesses that are about to close their doors that are begging for help.' I don't know how he can say this is news to him."

Blair did not return a call seeking comment by The Herald's deadline Friday.

NO PARTICULAR CONCERN

Saunders, meanwhile, said he's convinced city officials are not particularly concerned whether his business fails or succeeds.

"I really don't think we mean anything to them," he said. "I'm not complaining about the Hilton, but every time they have an event, people take all of our parking spaces. And when we've asked the city to maybe take down the two-hour parking signs on our street, they've ignored us. And the way (Blair) is doing his job, well, I thought they'd learned their lesson from that (former downtown manager Don) Buie thing.

"I went to a meeting with city officials, and they're talking to us about opening at night. I tried that for a while, and I'd pay my people $300 to make $160. I asked them how many of them had come back downtown to eat at night while we were open. Not a one of them raised their hand."

Fletcher, too, said she and Edmonds had kept Cafe 230 open for night events at the request of various arts and civic groups, even if it meant losing money.

"We've done our part," she said. "We've gone out of our way to be the cheerleaders for downtown, to help and encourage other businesses. It would mean a lot if the city would get behind businesses who've stuck it out when others didn't.

"We had a problem with lighting around our restaurant, and Water, Gas & Light came and took care of it professionally and quickly. And there you have the Albany City Commission trying to take over WG&L. Maybe if they left WG&L alone and did their job of running the city, we'd all be better off."

Comments

Clif 1 year, 8 months ago

Starry eyes and high hopes are not what it takes to do well in business. Albany is a mess & will never be better. Right thinking people will not invest a dime in Albany.....You just can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.....

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southwestga 1 year, 7 months ago

Coming downtown for the Nutcracker, parade, or going to see the lights? Eat downtown!

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waltspecht 1 year, 7 months ago

The secret of a successful restaurant is a consistant and excellent product in an inviting atmosphere. I know of several restaurants that beat the neighborhoods they were in. Cafe Ferrara on Center Street in New York. The Idle Hours Pool Hall Chili Burgers in Charleston. Both in what would be at least considered interesting neighborhoods. Yet they flourished. Signiture dishs and caring management are the key. I have seen the differance between it's worth the risk of going downtown change to I won't go there again over a dirty glass. I remember the Old Jernigans outside of Omega. It seemed to fall from favor when they tried to open the one on the Creek in Lee County and it was a disappointment. Folks didn't mind the drive from Albany for the Thursday night Gospel sing. Then you couldn't find folks to go with you. The Menonite Restaurant in Montezuma used to be a Bi-Weekly trip. Radium Springs was great until it moved to Gillionville. Not to sure what stopped that among friends and aquaintances. You want to make Downtown work? Have off duty cops patrol the area and hire some local talent to run off the folks the Cops legally can't. Like several New York Establishments have done since the fifties. Make it where folks can feel safe, and actually are safe. Then get some really good dish's, and be consistant in their preparation and taste. Don't start to cut corners just as soon as you have developed a clientell. Sorry, that is the problem I have seen around here with thee restaurants.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 7 months ago

The main problem too, is you are never open. You cannot expect to pay your overhead on the lunch crowd. Not gonna happen. Dale you could take your bar-be-que to craft shows every weekend and make a bundle. They Cookie Shoppe is a good example. Mona is there pushing breakfast and lunch. She bought her building and controls her overhead. That is the key. Bob Brooks rushed up to buy all the ratty buildings and now he wants a fortune in rent. He is not going to get it ever. Remember what happed to Dipper Dan and the buyer from out of town. Killed a good restaurant. He will close most folks down before they even get started. The sign of the times is also a problem. But it is also Albany, GA and you are not Buffalo Wings. Maybe you should try them because the mind set swings that way. You also may want to think of reaching a certain crowd. Look at the little pub on Philema. Many folks failed there and they are making a bundle. The have a certain crowd and I understand good Margaritas.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 7 months ago

Dale Saunders' BBQ, BJ's cooking are both outstanding. friends visiting from Jackson, MS and New Orleans declare Riverfront to be best BBQ ever eaten. But look, the free market works like a river to find it's course and downtown got washed away. People need to let it go. Tax money and governmental energy needs to be redirected. How many times, how many years, how much money will have to be spent for the old guard wealth and power structure to accept reality. Let downtown stay offices and courthouses. We don't have the culture nor the demographics to repopulate a commercially successful downtown. A few folks picked whatever low hanging fruit existed and it's done, finito, kaput, no mas, fertig.

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ustaknow 1 year, 7 months ago

The owners of these restaurants are facing margin compression on one end due to the unprecedented inflation over the last 4 years ( ala Ben Bernanke and monetary easing) and the impact of less foot traffic associated with the downtown environment due to the crime that we all are encouraged to stay mum on.

It is a double edged sword that can only be combated with efficiency on one end and higher prices on the other. i once heard a clever quote and i paraphrase " you can take your worst manager and put him in a great location and it will be a mediocre store- but you can take your best manager and put him in a bad location and it will be an ok store- then you take your best manager and put him in a great location and it will be a super store."

I wish these owners the best and the economy is so very weak that my only advice is to rethink every move twice for the moves are very costly.

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billybob 1 year, 7 months ago

I'd be curious to know which is more profitable, the Riverfront location downtown or his food truck by the mall... I would not be surprised at all if it is the food truck.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

The DT location provides the basic support for the mobile, of course. But after making allocations of cost, I would think over a period of time when all is said and done it would be the mobile.

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dingleberry 1 year, 7 months ago

If downtown is to work, there has to be a reason for one to go there. A scattered handful of stores and a few normal work hour eateries don't give that reason. There isn't a "critical mass" to keep things going. Last night, there was an ad on TV for shopping downtown Moultrie's stores and restaurants. It looked warm and inviting and made me think I haven't been there in a while. T'ville is getting ready for its Victorian Christmas which I go to every year all the while wishing Albany were like T'ville with its clean, charming, and inviting downtown.

The rent downtown is simply too high from what I have heard for years. What Saunders quotes as monthly rent won't cut it. Are landlords too greedy ,considering what is there? But on the subject of greed, Saunders doesn't do himself a favor when he charges 35 cents for a glass of water at the downtown location, so I learned a few years ago before deciding not to return for future meals--and I won't eat there anymore. Sometimes we contribute to our own problems, or so I think!

I did make an effort to go downtown to eat at Cafe 230. The building had character, the price was good for the quality and quality of food offered, and the service always met my expectations. But the normal lunch hour downtown work crowd cannot afford such dining often which reduces its potential. I will miss it.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

I cannot help but wonder if there has been a "summit" or "beer garden meeting" gathering together business owners, downtown landlords, commissioners, and the elusive-sounding Aaron Blair to discuss issues and concerns to make downtown work. The article make it sound like the business owners are hanging by themselves when all of the identified parties have a stake in what needs to be done. There has got to be a cohesive effort to get things going or a decision to fold the commercial tent for retail stores and all but a few essential eateries.

Is there a written plan of any type on downtown commercial development? I don't know of any plan we are working towards. No old ATI or Buie papers, please. And in my opinion the answer is not to sink tax dollars into a handful of loft apartments. Most lofts constructed in old buildings become so expensive that the market for rent or sale is outstripped, as even Thomasville with its quality and vibrant downtown has learned..

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

Recurring ebb and flow for years. Inescapable conclusion is that the local market will/can never support the kind of traditional business mix downtown that the city envisions, especially with continuing new construction out the 82 and 19 corridors. Just watch when the economy improves and the Oakland Plantation commercial development explodes. Old school textbook redevelopment concepts downtown that don't match with the realities of the Albany metro demographic and other factors result in a continuing floundering project. There are better answers with a much higher likelihood of success.

BTW, Dale was paying a percentage rent from the first dollar. If it is high, it is because he is grossing a high number. Dale got a great start in a built-out restaurant space in a very good location for his business with a relatively very small investment with the cooperation of his landlord. Don't kid yourselves, he made money. Where do you think all those trucks came from? He was a good start-up operator and worked hard, but he got his start with the financial help of others and didn't have to give up any equity. All things considered, he is a very good operator.

The city needs to be a bold and brilliant master planner and almost all the players have not had that skill set or vision or courage. Basically, every few years, they retry the same tired model effective other places as if it is a new concept. But for several reasons, that model alone does not work in Albany. You all may scoff, but the "public official" who came the closest and was the most effective was Tommy Chatmon... yes, not quite the solution, but closest to the pin so far.

There is a plan that can work, but it is not in the current city playbook. In the end, the city people will finally conclude that their recurring forays are ineffective and only this master plan or something very similar will work.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

Did Tommy's plan involve primarily public money?

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

I wasn't in the mix on the funding, but I think Albany Tomorrow's and the project funding was both public and private with the working capital money coming from enthusiastic private donors initially. Georgia DNR gave $30M for RiverQ construction, SPLOST funded ACRI, Thronateeska planetarium, Radium Springs and several more, local bank loans - $5M - provided the senior debt of the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center plus HUD money came into the mix, donated time from Junior League and kids ornamented Turtle Park and so forth. To the thrust of your question, certainly the public sector either provided the most money or provided needed credit support. It was an appropriate mix, given the relatively small philanthropic (especially corporate) in this community compared to a Columbus and others...although many people were generous locally, yet even bigger donations were placed outside the community by local philanthropists. But there was a start that was very real and initially compelling. Consider even the $3M Ray Charles donation that finally had to be paid back in substantial part, but it was there initially.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

Pumpkin, you of all people are in a unique position to comment on these matters. So, are the downtown rents a deterrent to setting up and sustaining a business or are such claims more a matter of an excuse? Is it more a matter of the businesses conjured up are not offering what people want? Is public safety more of an excuse than it is a problem? What is needed to get a "bold and brilliant master planner" into the mix? How much public money is needed to make downtown work?

The "venues" we planned to draw folks from far and wide such as the RQ and ACRI haven't even drawn flies and are a burden on the taxpayer. The parks and trails are nice but not commerce generators. Most of what is downtown is government related and not generators of revenue. Development so far seems to be "helter skelter" at best and certainly does not give the appearance of following any plan and discourages those who provide tax money to support its development. Where do we go from here?

Are community development block grants available for such use and if so, should we allocate some to development of downtown rather than the normal use in development of more subsidized housing? What has come out of the TAD that was so highly touted? Should we just sell or give the downtown to the Hospital Authority to give to Phoebe sooner rather than later? Or perhaps, is it time to brick up the front of buildings and paint murals of happy bustling shoppers on them? So many questions, so few answers--that make sense these days.

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

Hello Whattheheck, I like the quality of your questions. Thank you. You have given the matter some depth of thought. Paradoxically, downtown is both a complex issue and a simple one. Let me see if I can toss out some thoughts in a short space here.

How's this? Downtown rents are low, too low, any way you look at it. I takes a minimum amount of cashflow for maintenance, taxes, debt service, profit etc. I spoke with 40 private investor/developer types pitching downtown. I had conferences with real deal developers in Atlanta pitching Albany. I personally spent $80K advertising downtown development opportunities to the commercial market nationally. When I confessed I was getting $6/ft OR LESS gross on a good day until people stopped paying altogether, of course, there was a quick end to the conversation. Any real estate investor or developer laughs at that. HIGH RENTS ARE NEVER THE PROBLEM IN A MARKET. I thought rents of $50/ft on Michigan Avenue were high until they jumped to $200. In time, if too high, rents meet the market, but even that has not helped businesses succeed in our downtown. No one ever got evicted or closed because they could not keep up where they had no business. Subsidizing a promising start-up with initial low rent is one thing or providing abatements to a desirable tenant to get them to move, but rents must rise to a reasonable level overall at some point for a healthy marketplace. Rents are not the issue in downtown Albany...they are probably, in fact, too low for these properties to be sustainable. I had businesses leave downtown and I charged them ZERO or took whatever they gave me. Recently, the Pizza Shop couldn't make it despite the landlord laying low for 6 months.

Presently, public safety is not an issue at all. Yes, there are some street folks and stuff gets trashed overnight, but every city has that and somehow deals with it. Albany can solve that once there is more vibrant commercial activity and people around. Webcams and other devises are now available to provide some excellent passive security systems. Solvable problem.

(more to follow)

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

There are always collateral issues, but they are not the driving factors here. Globally, we have a supply-demand problem, a path of development issue, and a market income issue and lots of competitive cheap space issue WHEN trying to adopt a "traditional" New Urbanist/Neighborhood Redevelopment model. I figure Albany west of the river and Ledo Rd have added about 5M sf of competitive commercial space since the downtown was last vibrant in the early 70's. And the metro population has gone up about 30K people in that time with the city itself maybe even shrinking. In raw numbers, Albany is overbuilt and there is no rehab culture. Path of development is NW and N and land and construction are relatively cheap. the poverty donuts around downtown and around Albany as a whole limit the ability to attract population shifts. Plus many people don't have a lot of money for small businesses type products and they are family people who don't go out like they do in Atlanta or New York. Given convenience of location, parking and other factors, it is IMPOSSIBLE to shift consumers on a large repetitive scale away from their neighborhoods and into the downtown on a regular sustainable basis. The market has proven that. No matter how great it is, how many times will the general local population go to the Riverquarium....or to the Louvre in Paris or to Sea World or to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago or go from Long Island to Manhattan for that matter... all great places, but not a weekly visit for the general population.

Was the plan "helter skelter?" maybe...but to be respectful of the efforts, it did tend to follow a written study done by a big name, but it was cookie cutter for larger markets and perhaps some of those didn't fare that well after all. Nevertheless, some of the projects that have been developed here in Albany are viable for another plan.

Knowing what you know, if you were a Simon Properties (a huge national mall developer/operator) and were given downtown Albany and HAD to make it work, what would you/they do? First they would look at the numbers and ask, "Where are enough heads with wallets to keep businesses going?" Locally, you would see I-75, maybe Tallahassee, maybe Columbus and then Atlanta. Beyond that is the rest of the world. So we have a bunch of buildings mixed in with government stuff, one downtown hotel, some development pads, some TAD and SPLOST money, maybe a few HUD bucks. So what can we build that brings them from Atlanta, New York and Berlin, if we want to attract consumer type spending?
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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

Getting the plan that puts people in stores and restaurants and heads in beds downtown in a city that is surrounded by little target population, and is 45 minutes from the interstate and 200 miles from Atlanta is a challenge, but there are one or two that might work and there probably is substantial private and national/state funding that can make it a reality.

We started on this plan, but it was a bit late in my process and learning curve and I took a costly detour and, well, it didn't happen. But, after substantial on-the-job learning and now having no stake in it, it still is the best solution that I know and I have relationships that can make things happen. I am reluctant to post it here because I don't want to do so incompletely and for other reasons. My instincts tell me to talk with you privately. Not sure how to hook up...email JD Sumner and I will do the same and ask him to give you my email address and telephone. If you wish.....

I

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

Not to say that the city's approach is totally wrong. But there needs to be an added factor that gives profound direction and identity to the entire downtown space if a consumer/general population economy there is desired. The present governmental involvement is secondary and in many markets that is all that is all the stimulus that is needed. The Albany market needs something more from private or public leadership. it has been a complex set of issues, but there is an answer that will not only move around dollars from within the Albany market, but that will bring NEW dollars into the Albany economy.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

I think this comment is getting more to what I was trying to get to and didn't do well, Pumpkin. Commercial development for some type sustained revenue generation is what we need, not development of things to look at or to play with or to be entertained by. Your comment "there is an answer" is what we need to hear about since the general consensus seems to be "there is no answer". Albany property owners are choking on taxes, which cause us to be non-competitive when compared to others, so an increase in taxes to use for downtown development is a stopper for most.

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

I posted a biggie post, but I think I got deleted...you can contact me thru facebook if you want to talk plan. You sound interesting.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

Thanks, Pumpkin, I enjoy your writings. But recently, I decided to give up on trying to help Albany/DoCo, its inability to deal with the most basic issues involving the school system being the last of the many straws for me. In my opinion, Albany's best days were long ago and things have likely reached the point of no solution. For me, life is short and I would rather spend my time with things that are more productive.

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Clif 1 year, 7 months ago

Just keep dreaming, dreamers. When you wake up & realize that the world needs an enema, Albany will be the perfect place to stick it in.....

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Roger879 1 year, 7 months ago

Good one Clif.. and most likely you are right. Not to change the subject, but have you noticed lately that Blakely seems to be trying to improve itself. For years it was drab and falling in disrepair and on my bi-weekly trips thru there and Colquitt on my way to Tallahassee I notice that it seems to be catching up with Colquitt. I always thought it was a nice looking little town with its murals and the arts festivals. I notice Blakely is beginning to clean up the place so maybe one day it will have a pretty square like Colquitt has and those side streets won't look so bad. I have noticed the public housing for the most part is being kept in good shape in Blakely so hats off to the Authority.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 7 months ago

And you promulgated this report to demonstrate Blakely's employment is improving? The tax base expanding? School scores are adbancing? Tax payers money is being spent for nothing? What is your arguement?

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Jack_Frost 1 year, 7 months ago

Oddly enough, the only business I hear of Aaron Blair visiting on anything approaching a routine basis is Verge...which his wife owns.

A lot of downtown businesses that where there a year ago are gone, but not a word from Blair about any of it.

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whattheheck 1 year, 7 months ago

One of Albany's shortcomings is its general inability to discuss failures, like for example, problem things such as the DCSS and crime. Hence, do you really expect the business cheerleader to highlight failures?

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Jack_Frost 1 year, 7 months ago

No, but hearing something from him about how to prevent them sure would be a nice change of pace. Maybe something about what's being done to stop this string of failures?>

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wergood 1 year, 7 months ago

False statement, Really! Jack Frost.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 7 months ago

You must be in your own world because Jack's statements are very true.

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wergood 1 year, 7 months ago

It is always easy to criticize the Downtown City Manager when you can do so anonymously. As for BJ statement regarding Aaron Blair not eating at her restaurant that is a false statement. If your restaurant isn't making a profit it isnt unusual to have this struggle. Make changes and take responsibly for your own business. Didn't you decide to launch the business? Perhaps you need classes in business management, and cash flow, spend less on Eddie and file your own sales tax. Roll up your sleeves and do it. It isn't easy, I manage 5 businesses, from property management, retail, construction including a restaurant. See if the city will provide a Business Incubator - setting guidelines to help small owners and classes, a mentor program. Federal $ are available to cover the cost of a Incubator. Non of this will work unless you actually want the help.

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haryl87 1 year, 7 months ago

I'll say this, most of people on here voicing their opinion know NOTHING about Dtown Albany, why?! Because they never come downtown other than to court, tags, etc... So don't get on some website voicing your so called opinions, it helps NOTHTHING, what would help Dtown is for you to come Dtown and shop or eat!!! Granted that the people in this article work, owned businesses, and have other dealings Dtown, but the rest have no room to speak.

As for Aaron Blair he has been the BEST Dtown Mng we've had in years!!! He is making progress little by little. If the country as a whole states it may be 20yrs to get out of debt (which will never happen), how can a small entitlement city with over 47% poverty level revitalize in a couple of years???!!! IMPOSSIBLE!!! We have to be optimistic and help out, not sit back and complain. I was told last year to stop complaining about Albany and help things happen in Albany, and since then Albany is an AWESOME place to me.

So help the Dtown Mng make things better rather than just sit back and gripe and complain behind some user id because your real name isn't displayed (because if most of your names were posted you wouldn't post half of this garbage). Ask yourself, what have I done to support dtown Albany and Albany as a whole, because complaining isn't a resolution to the problem, it's what people do that are too afraid to get their hands dirty.

As for Donna Driskell, this is one women that knows her stuff! She was handed a failing business that I don't even think she knew was doing that horrible and attempted to bring it out of the black. I may not be a rocket scientist, but if you continue to throw your money into a endless pit, how can you ever get a return investment? YOU CAN'T!!! She also retained all of her employees from the location!

So in closing, my name is Haryl Dabney and I'll stand behind ALL of my words stated here!!! STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT WHAT THE ISSUES ARE AND GET INVOLVED. STOP SAYING THE DTOWN MNG ISN'T DOING THIS OR THAT, BECAUSE HIS DOOR HAS ALWAYS BEEN OPEN FOR ME AND I'M NOT A DTOWN BUSINESS AND HE DOESN'T CARE WHO YOU ARE, HE'S WILLING TO SPEAK WITH YOU! THIS GOOD OLE BOY SYSTEM AND THE POLITICAL RESTRAINTS HAS PUT A BURDEN ON THIS CITY THAT HAS BEEN HARD TO OVERCOME. AND I WILL SAY THIS I WILL MAKE IT MY MISSION TO CHANGE THIS AND ALBANY WILL BE REVITALIZE AND DTOWN WILL BE REVITALIZE WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.

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bigbob 1 year, 7 months ago

Lets face it these clowns like Blair could give a rats behind about downtown Albany, they just use it for income or free grants for as long as they can then move on. These 2 resturant owners care alot more about downtown than any downtown manager but they will realize its just easier to get out & leave it to be destroyed by the locals like the rest of Albany.

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Amazed2 1 year, 7 months ago

Downtown Albany has been a failure and always will be a failure. Too many vagrants, too much crime, too many cheap skates work downtown, there is no reason for people to drive back to downtown in the evening, politics and corruption abound. The potential customer base live too far from the area. As far as sustaining resturants downtown can maybe handle 2 or 3 with one or two being sandwich shops. Just the fact of life. It Aint going to consistently work

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 7 months ago

Amazed, you are be right, at least in part. I don't think that the run is over, but it might be. There have been missed opportunities and it is a shame for people to work so hard and lose their investment and savings. I saw how hard my friends at The Pizza Shop worked and how they struggled.

The city needs to think at a higher level as it did before Dr. Adams was elected. Not that Dr. Adams was a bad mayor, but he certainly did not cast the vision. The character of things changed and this city again needs positive momentum. Things might have begun to backslide no matter who was in charge, but it is a lesson for the current political and administrative leadership. This current mayor needs to have the confidence to set the bar even higher and needs to catch fire and rock this town. It is possible that the opportunity to bring people together and pursue a compelling direction might have passed by, but it is worth taking another run. Which leader is going to step up?

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Amazed2 1 year, 7 months ago

Pumpkin, yes still possibls but they failed to capitalize on early momentum. Some of that was the city some of that was normal failure some or a lot was a certain developer/ investor came in and tried to capture all the future opportunities by buying up a massive amount of properties. Basically he was responsible for keeping a lot of people out of downtown. Combined with his moves and bad management and corruption in the city programs the Fire went out. As you know the man with deep pockets that just had to block everybody finally figured out he cornered himself.

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Roger879 1 year, 7 months ago

Please do not forget to bring up the problem with the local air transportation. I always drive to Atlanta rather than take the flights from the Albany airport. They are too few and far between and prices are ridiculous. Four times since 1999 my flights either to or from Atlanta were late and I missed connections and once my luggage was lost. The airline had the nerve to call me the next day when it came in from Atlanta and told me I COULD COME AND PICK IT UP ANY TIME.....there was no way in hell I was making a 140 mile round trip to Albany to pick up a piece of luggage.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 7 months ago

What does your problem have to do with downtown Albany? Just curious...

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