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OUR TURN: Residents return life to Historic Main Street

It’s been a long time coming, but there seems to be a renaissance on Historic Main Street in Marble Falls. Not more than two years ago, one could stroll down the street and find only a few shops open, the rest shuttered or with for-sale signs in the window.

Now city officials and Main Street merchants say the shops, bistros, bars and other venues have reached 99 percent capacity. The only major building still unoccupied is the former Patton’s on Main.

While it’s true the nation remains mired in a recession with high unemployment, Main Street seems to be breaking free of those chains. A new piano bar has debuted and the 2nd annual adult Soapbox Derby in June drew bigger crowds than the year before, despite a record heat wave.

Sales taxes have either slightly risen or at least not dropped too far, depending on the season. If businesses aren’t flourishing, at least they are staying open. A kind of energy, a current of hope that hasn’t been seen in years, has returned to Main Street.

A lot of people and organizations want to take credit for what appears to be a turnaround. And most of their claims are valid.

A concerted campaign by the members of the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce to attract out-of-city visitors seems to have paid off.

More musical acts at the Uptown Marble Theater, such as the recent series of bluegrass performers, hasn’t hurt either.

The tireless work of Main Street promoters including Russell Buster, Grant Dean, Ron Wall and a host of others have apparently born fruit.

At the same time, partnerships created with the City Council, Mayor George Russell and City Manager Ralph Hendricks — among others — have helped create a synergy that is starting to pull Main Street out of the doldrums.

Promotions such as Moonlight Madness added to the critical mass of Main Street’s resurgence, orchestrated by local merchants and sponsors including this newspaper.

But none of these people, groups or initiatives can take all the credit.

Anecdotal evidence, surveys and just a plain gut feeling indicate the credit for the return of a prosperous Main Street really belongs to one group — the people of Marble Falls and nearby communities.

Even when the chips were down, they continued to shop local and patronize their hometown stores. They didn’t need an ad in Southern Living to tell them what they already knew. Stories and displays in their local media informed them of the many bargains and sights to see in the downtown district.

Locals always know good meals, good music and good times are down on Main Street. Their loyalty hasn’t wavered, nor their commitment to put back dollars into their community. And even as thousands throng from Austin and San Antonio to give Main Street a much-needed economic shot in the arm, the true lifeblood of the district remains the locals.

Neighbors never gave up on Main Street, even when times were lean.

Thanks to them, Main Street is up and running. And in time, perhaps the city will be able to report 100 percent of the buildings are occupied.

Now wouldn’t that be great news?