CAIRO, Ga. (WALB) – Downtown Cairo is growing. Four new businesses have opened up since November 2022. That means more than 23 new jobs.
Ansley Lacy started the Mainstreet Marketing Director job in November 2022.
“I took the job because I noticed the momentum and it’s just been growing ever since,” Lacy said.
Ed Robinson said the state of downtown in 1991 was in shambles. The community helped spark new energy into the area that year. He said the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors had a similar negative impact. WALB asked him if he sees a similar turnaround in 2023.
“Yep, I think we’re seeing a kind of revive to drive again. I think the last two years have been phenomenal for the growth of downtown. People are tired of shopping malls. They want to go back to mom-and-pop shops that are intimate and personal,” Robinson said.
The goal for him and other businesses is to help each other out. Robinson says he sees a future of different types of businesses to keep the small city alive at night. First and Broad opened in the old train depot. He says this addition has already brought life back to downtown Cairo.
“People Friday night and Saturday night want to go eat out. They drive to Tallahassee, they drive to Thomasville, they don’t stay in Cairo,” Robinson said.
Emilee Connell de Umanzor owns a business called Everhope Collective. She sells items from Honduras, where her husband lives. She has noticed the support year over year, from December 2021 to December 2022.
“With sales, we blew that out of the water this past summer, so exciting to see more support coming in,” Connell de Umanzor said.
Lacy has been connecting with businesses and showing them opportunities. She’s also been listening to their needs
“It’s really neat people really want to see how people really want to get involved in every way possible,” Lacy said.
She said Julian Brown, the city manager of Cairo, the Downtown Development Authority, and businesses have continued to drive the city forward. With the rural classification, businesses get tax breaks. That means the city has been able to attract more interest. Now, there’s competition.
“I think as a retailer, the more people we could have downtown area, the better for all of us,” Connell de Umanzor said.
Alicia Byrden-Gurley owned a boutique store out of the downtown area. She had dreams of being downtown and in November 2022, new city management came in and her wish came true.
“The local people, they come. If they come from a local business, they see that I’m here so it makes them want to come and shop. So the traffic has tripled from my last location,” Robinson said.
Downtown is not confined to the small strip. It extends into a large portion of nearby areas, so there’s room for growth.
“I think that we could add in some more retail. That’s something I’m working on. I’m working on murals. We’re working on streetscape. We’re working on parking. So we make sure we have a lot available when we get growing,” Lacy said.
Penny Hill is visiting for a few weeks and already sees the potential in downtown Cairo
“You can see it kind of has a retro feel and I love that. Sticking to the roads on one hand but being innovative on the other,” Hill said.