So far this year, more than a dozen businesses have opened or expanded in the River District, with more than half a dozen more expected to follow in the second half of 2022.
“They keep coming so fast,” River District Association chief executive Diana Schwartz said.
This, of course, is not a complaint on his part.
“It’s amazing how many people have realized how business-friendly Danville is for small businesses,” she said.
According to figures provided by Schwartz, there are more than 300 businesses with nearly 4,000 employees within a half-mile radius in the River District.
Charles Walker, co-owner of Ma’s Cakes on Main Street downtown, opened the business with his wife, Annette Walker, in late February.
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“We wanted to be part of the expansion of the River District region,” Charles said during an interview at their company on Thursday morning. “It’s growing fast. There are a lot of pedestrians. »
This type of activity is what Susan Moss likes to see out the window of Moss Mountain Outfitters, just two doors down from Ma’s Cakes. This foot traffic includes not only locals, but also those from other areas.
“We also see a lot of outsiders,” said Moss, who co-owns the business with his son, Landon Moss. They first opened at 543 Main St. in March 2021 before moving to 326 Main St., Suite 102, and expanding this month.
Within walking distance are many businesses, she pointed out, including Lizzy Lou Boutique, Dell’Anno’s Pizza Kitchen, Vintages by the Dan and Me’s Burgers & Brews.
In memory of the loss of Susan’s son, Ryan Moss, in a hiking incident in Colorado in 2016, she and Landon started a brand, Head Up Eyes Forward. Proceeds from sales of this brand go to local charities, Susan said.
The River District began to grow about a decade ago after city and business leaders began investing in the area to revitalize this part of town. So far, there has been $50 million in public investment and $252 million in private investment, according to figures provided by Schwartz.
Schwartz attributes the most recent surge to landlords developing more properties to allow traders to move in and open up.
Additionally, Danville is attracting a lot of attention due to the upcoming Caesars Virginia casino, the redevelopment of the White Mill building on Memorial Drive, and a planned riverside park.
Additionally, Danville’s Main Street was recently recognized as one of the top eight main streets in the country, Schwartz pointed out. The city was a semi-finalist for the Great American Main Street Award, which recognizes localities for preservation-based commercial district revitalization and is awarded by the National Main Street Center.
Since January, 14 businesses have opened or expanded in the River District, Schwartz said.
Two other businesses are slated to open in the second half of this year, including an exotic pet store, Bubbles Aquatics and Exotics at 535 Wilson St., and Temptations Gourmet at 208 N. Union St., she said. Five more are also planned for 2022, “but they’re not ready to announce yet,” Schwartz said.
An existing business on Main Street, The Brick, will expand later this year, she said.
‘Others are in the works’
Smokestack Theater Company, officially launched in 2018, just opened next to Funky’s Arcade and Bar on Lynn Street on July 7. The group had been scouting various locations for a potential home since 2017, before it was officially formed.
The group had held shows and other events at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company, and Crema & Vine.
“Our location is nestled right in the middle of so many great restaurants and other shopping destinations,” Lucia said. “We feel that we complement each other well. What better way to spend an evening than having dinner and drinks and watching a live show, all within walking distance and in historic buildings near the Dan River?
Within a 10-minute walk are more than 50 shops, restaurants and other establishments, he said.
“All of this, plus historic architecture, a river and Riverwalk trail and more,” Lucia said.
As for River District Association, it was organized in 1999 under the name Downtown Danville Association. In May 2015, the organization was renamed the River District Association to complement the city’s River District brand and is accredited by both the Virginia Main Street Organization and the National Main Street (Main Street America).
The group includes a volunteer Board of Directors made up of representatives of businesses and landowners from the River District, the Town of Danville and other community stakeholders.
He coordinates public-private partnerships to relaunch the Quartier Rivière de Danville. The group works with the town of Danville, area businesses and institutions to develop programs and events to get the community working; marketing the assets of the territory; get the neighborhood in top physical shape; and to attract and retain business, according to the River District Association website.
“We are excited to provide assistance to our small business community to ensure they can not only locate downtown, but can be successful when they do,” Schwartz said.
In 2021-2022, the Danville Group had a significant impact on entrepreneur activity, as well as business retention and design in the River District.
RDA’s Dream Launch Pitch competition has awarded more than $160,000 in start-up or expansion funds to businesses located in the River District. Over $40,000 in front grants were awarded to 10 businesses and $45,000 in grants up to $5,000 were awarded to 10 existing businesses to grow or “boost” their business with the Get Boosted grant program.
Charles Walker said the group, along with the City’s Small Business Development Center and Office of Economic Development, have “made some wonderful partnerships” to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs in the River District.
“They have a lot of tools to offer local businesses looking to start or grow,” Walker said.
His wife, Annette, loves to bake, Walker added, and “our business serves a demographic of 1 in 100. Your grandma or grandchild loves cake.”
“We love our city,” Charles said. “This is where we were born and raised.”