First, in order to cast a vision for the future of Weldon, we need to have an understanding of the past and how Weldon got to where it is now.
In the past, places like Downtown Weldon were the shopping centers of the area. People congregated on the downtown streets to shop, socialize and enjoy entertainment. Over time, and in the name of progress, shopping centers were built on the edge of town and they became the places to go shop.
So now we find our downtown living in the shadow of being 2 miles from Walmart. Business that are successful in places like Littleton, Jackson, Scotland Neck or Enfield, are successful because they are 20 miles or more from a Walmart. Businesses like drug stores, chain fast food restaurants and even banks will find it hard to make it in Weldon because they want to be located where there is more traffic and less competition.
Over the past 20 years or so of my involvement in Downtown Weldon’s revitalization efforts, we have had several studies done and talked with lots of people on what we need to do to make Weldon viable again. In nearly every case there have been two suggestions. Weldon will need to find a niche to make it unique and different from the shopping centers and to “work with what you have and make it work for you”. One study concluded that we should create Weldon into a tourist destination.
Finding Our Niche
We need to find a Marketing Niche to make Downtown Weldon viable again. We need to attract the kinds of businesses that will not be in competition with the interstate business. We will need to find our niche.
Going with the idea of “work with what you have and make it work for you”, the most popular types of businesses that are successful around Weldon, would fall into a category of bargain or thrift shops. We could take that theme, push it with marketing and Weldon could become a “Treasure Hunting Paradise”.
What do we have to work with. Already there are several thrift/bargain shops open in Weldon. There is Riverside Mill Antique Mall, Crafters Gallery, outlet shop of TV channel clothing and Furniture. There’s an auction house in Weldon and Weldon Town Center, Shops and Flea Market is now open.
I can envision downtown being filled with bargain shops of every kind and customers finding great Treasures.
Weldon, A Tourist Destination
A few years ago the citizens of Weldon spent over a year working with the NC Rural Center in developing a Small Town Economic Prosperity (STEP) plan. It was determined and decided upon by the citizens in the work group that the best hope for Weldon would be to develop Weldon into a Tourist Destination. Weldon would need to capitalize on the the many sites to see and potential things to do to attract people to the downtown area.
That program provided Weldon with $100,000 to implement the plan. Some of the projects that were accomplished with that money were the new entry signs coming into town. It bought the BIG FISH as you enter Downtown Weldon. Streetscape improvements were made in the 300 hundred block of Washington Avenue where utility lines were removed and historic lampposts were installed. But project to develop the sites to see and potential things to do have not been pursued.
Now would be a good time to pursue a variety of projects to develop Weldon into a tourist destination
There are many points of interest for tourism development with the river, railroad, canal trail, historical homes and downtown buildings. Many of these assets have been worked on and improvements made to areas such as the river front. Other projects could be pursued to push the idea of making Weldon a Tourist Destination. With some imagination we can come up with some other things that will add interest in the area that will attract people to Weldon.
Let’s imagine we have a brochure rack of Weldon’s Sites to See and Things To Do, I can image these brochures being on that rack…
Adventure Fishing Trip Guide Services Canoe, Kayak, Tubing Rentals and Guide Services Adventure Day Camps with Zip Lines and Wall Climbing Jet Ski Rentals on the river River Boat Cruises Things to See and Do Ghosts Walk Civil War Cemetery Historic Walking Trails of the Early Transportation Systems (Canal, Railroad, Steamboat, Highways) ATV Trail Rides Geocaching Train Watching Locations Photographer's Scenic Locations
Putt Putt, Skating Rink, Go Cart Eateries 51 Sycamore and Rockfish Bar Hot Dog Stand
Craft Beer Brewery
Winery (to play off Weldon’s History in the Wine Industry) Lodging Bed and Breakfast Inns RV Park and Cabin Rentals Houseboat Rentals Night Life Venue for Local Bands Venue for Blues and Jazz Club Venue for Classic Country and Bluegrass Shopping Riverside Mill Downtown Business Guide
Treasure Hunting Map of Antique and Craft Shop, Flea Markets and Bargain Shops
I can envision there being a building near the river that serves as a business incubator of tourism related businesses. I can envision a large RV park on the river with hundreds of people spending a few days to enjoying the area. I can envision several restaurants with live music with Weldon being a type of entertainment and restaurant district. I can envision every building downtown with thriving businesses supported by the people coming to enjoy Weldon. I can envision every house in town being occupied and well maintained with healthy property values.
What will it take to get there.
Belief... that it can happen,
People…. willing to start businesses to make it happen.
Investment….in developing the sites to see and things to do,
And marketing... to get people here.
Well...Call me crazy, but for Weldon to be a vibrant downtown, it will take some crazy ideas and hard work to get there.