Weekend city event lures community to Downtown Staunton for a second year
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
STAUNTON — Let the dining — and shopping resume.
As warm weather returns and spring flowers pop up, the Queen City’s Dine Out Downtown for 2021 began April 2.
But this year, the Friday-Sunday event will also encourage local shopping.
“We’re rebranding it as Shop and Dine Out Downtown,” said Greg Beam, executive director of the Staunton Downtown Development Association.
And this year’s recurring weekend event will not be exclusive to Beverley Street.
So far, Beam said, 13 businesses on Beverley Street, 6 on Central Avenue and 5 in the Wharf Area Historic District are registered to participate this year.
“A lot of our retailers stay open extended hours [for Dine Out Downtown],” Beam said.
What this year’s Dine Out Downtown, Beam said, “encourages folks to do is go beyond Beverley Street. Some communities have only a Main Street. We have this whole [downtown] district.”
Participants are also encouraged to visit Crack the Code Escape Room on Church Street, and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library on North Coalter Street.
“We’re going to try to add more signage,” Beam said of letting participants know which businesses are registered with the weekend event this year.
An updated shopping and dining guide is available online.
Sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dine Out Downtown brought the Staunton business community together last year during a time of hardship.
According to Beam, business owners held Zoom meetings to plan for Dine Out Downtown last year.
“So, there was this new kind of connection that happened. I’m hoping we can maintain that [beyond the pandemic],” Beam said.
The goal of the second year of Dine Out Downtown is simple.
Providing outside dining on weekends last year created extra seating for downtown restaurants, Beam said, “to continue to provide opportunities for these businesses to stay afloat.”
“We just want to continue to be able to provide safe opportunities for our community to come out and support their favorite businesses,” Beam said.
Last year also gave the community opportunities to get outdoors every weekend in downtown Staunton.
Beam said that participants are still encouraged to wear masks this year, social distance and wash or sanitize their hands as frequently as possible.
“As we’re moving toward being healthier, we all still need to be mindful of that,” Beam said of the CDC’s regulations in regard to the pandemic.
He said that the SDDA knows some community members are not ready to return downtown. He encourages them to reach out to their favorite downtown businesses, and find ways to still support them. Some downtown businesses still provide curbside pickup and offer delivery.
“I think there are still opportunities to support [local business if you are not ready to go out],” Beam said.
In late October of 2020, Yelping Dog Wine owners John and Nancy Reese opened CFO Trading Co., right next door to their bar and restaurant, which opened eight years ago this August.
John Reese said that the restaurant offered curbside pickup and delivery during the pandemic in 2020.
“Then the city came to us about outdoor dining,” Reese said.
And Dine Out Downtown provided the restaurant with 20 additional seats from May 2020 to early January 2021.
“It was a huge help for us,” Reese said.
The couple opened a retail space, CFO Trading Co., he said, because they realized “there’s really no place for men to shop [in downtown Staunton].”
CFO, named after the couple’s dogs, Charlie, Franklin and Oscar, can be entered from the sidewalk on Beverley Street or from Yelping Dog Wine, and offers men’s apparel, gifts, BBQ items, beers and mixology.
“It was outstanding both for the bar and the restaurant, and the retail,” Reese said of last weekend’s opening weekend of Shop and Dine Out Downtown.
Reese said that the community wants to get outside, and last week proved that.
“We were thrilled with the first weekend,” he said.
Reese added that he would like to thank the city of Staunton for approaching downtown businesses last year and asking what the city could do to help.
“The city has been phenomenal,” Reese said.
Kristi Gorny opened Design at Nine at 9 East Beverley Street 18 years ago at the end of this summer. The clothing and shoe store’s name came from its address, but the store moved to 7 East Beverley Street eight years ago.
“I am a big fan of Shop and Dine Out Downtown,” Gorny said.
Last year’s event allowed for Gorny to place merchandise on the sidewalk so that the community could “browse.” She said she noticed this caught the attention of anyone walking by who maybe did not know what her store had to offer. She also kept her front door open to further welcome visitors inside.
“I felt like it really made a lot of people feel comfortable about being outside, and eating outside,” Gorny said.
Last year’s event created “a really nice vibe” downtown with lots of food choices.
“It was wonderful. It gives the whole downtown a feeling that something’s really going on,” she said.
Gorny said she is thankful the event is during weekends only so that her customers who are handicapped are still able to visit during the week and park curbside.
“I think that’s perfect,” Gorny said.
Gorny said she is grateful that the city is allowing the event again this year, because she feels it drives foot traffic downtown.
“Last year, I felt that it probably helped save my business,” Gorny said.
The pandemic has still made business difficult, Gorny said, but showing her merchandise on the sidewalk attracted more attention for her store.
“Anytime you can just get it out right in front of their faces that helps,” Gorny said.
Shop and Dine-Out Downtown in Staunton will run Fridays-Sundays through October 2021.
For a complete shopping and dining guide, visit Shop and Dine Out in Downtown – Staunton Downtown Development Association | Staunton, Virginia .