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Main Street shop owners want residents, visitors to get off highway

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — It might come as a surprise to many people traveling in and around Marble Falls, but U.S. 281 is not Main Street.

“When I owned Printworks years ago, I’d tell people I was on Main Street and they’d think I meant (U.S.) 281,” said Brenda Morris, the owner of Restorative Skin Care on Third Street, just a block off the true Main Street. “But even today, there are people who think that’s true.”

Business owners in downtown Marble Falls want people to know where Main Street really is and that it’s a thriving spot.

“I would never leave Main Street,” Debbie Brown said. “I love it here. I’m proud to say I’m here on historic Main Street Marble Falls.”

She and her husband, Bob, own It’s All Goode on Main Street. They recently relocated two doors down from their previous location, but it’s still smack dab in the middle of Main Street. The move gave them more space to expand their gourmet food selections, cooking instruments and ice cream bar as well as their fudge selection. They could have moved to another location all together, off Main, but it never crossed Debbie’s mind.

Bob Brown makes up a batch of fudge at It’s All Goode on Main Street, the store he owns with his wife, Debbie. While many people may travel up and down U.S. 281, shop keepers on Main Street and in downtown want locals and travelers to know the highway isn't Main Street and the area has lots to offer — including fudge.
Bob Brown makes up a batch of fudge at It’s All Goode on Main Street, the store he owns with his wife, Debbie. While many people may travel up and down U.S. 281, shop keepers on Main Street and in downtown want locals and travelers to know the highway isn’t Main Street and the area has lots to offer — including fudge.

“I’ve been a part of Main Street for 20-plus years in some form or another,” she said. “There’s just something about Main Street. It’s the heart of the town and community.”

She added that when she talks about Main Street, she means the entire downtown area for several blocks including Third and Second streets.

But Main Street, at least in some minds, suffers from an identity complex. With U.S. 281 stretching north and south through town, it’s easy to understand why people — even residents of Marble Falls — believe this highway is Main Street. The downtown retailers and supporters have fought this perception for years, often to the point they feel like they’re pounding their heads against the concrete sidewalk.

Still, downtown business owners would rather stay put than abandon the area. In fact, a quick look around Main Street and downtown reveals few if any vacancies – the most obvious being the spot out of which It’s All Goode recently moved. And that’s the point shop owners want people to know: Main Street is there and doing well.

“But we could be doing better,” Brown acknowledged.

With the exception of a few signs on U.S. 281, there isn’t much directing people to downtown or even letting them know it’s there. If, however, they do make their way to it, they might be amazed at what they find. In fact, many people make it a point just to come to Main Street and downtown Marble Falls to shop, eat and relax.

“There is such a variety here,” Morris said. “You have places to shop, eat and even stay. That’s one of the strengths of the area. And you find shops here you just can’t find anyplace else.”

At the corner of Main and Second streets, Marta Stafford of Marta Stafford Fine Art considers herself a relative newcomer compared to some of the other business owners. For her, choosing Main Street over another part of town made sense, all the way around.

“This is where it’s at,” she said. Stafford represents regional and national artists. Many of those artists have pieces in galleries in places such as Taos, New Mexico, and other prestigious art venues. But Main Street Marble Falls is where Stafford hangs her art.

“There is so much going on down here with all the different stores and events such as Sculpture on Main that all it takes is somebody to come down here and see it all. They’ll become supporters of Main Street and downtown themselves.”

One of the things Stafford noted was how Main Street regulars often become the biggest advocates of the area, telling friends and spreading the word about the area.

“They become docents for Main Street,” Stafford said.

Morris witnesses the same thing, both now and in years past.

“Once you get people down here, they’ll come back,” she said. “They realize what a great place this is. You have shops, the sculptures and rose gardens. Even on Sundays, when there are not many shops open, it’s just a nice relaxing place to walk.”

Along with customers talking up Main Street and downtown, the business owners and retailers themselves advocate for the area and each other.

“Main Street and downtown is like a family,” Morris said. “We all know each other and take care of each other. That’s one of the things that makes this area so special.”

Brown agreed.

Like many of the other business owners, she’s quick to recommend a shop downtown or a nearby restaurant when visitors stop in It’s All Goode. And that’s one of the great things about Main Street: The shopkeepers serve as their best information network. Brown noted that much of her traffic isn’t local people but folks driving through or in from other areas. One of the growing trends she’s seen is small groups hitting the road for a day trip, making stops in Marble Falls, Johnson City, Llano or other places.

“People are looking for those quick day trips, not just on weekends but during the week. And Main Street is what they’re looking for,” Brown said. “My mom and I used to take day trips to small towns and look for the unique, fun stores. And if you look around Main Street and downtown, that’s what we have here.”

The only caveat is Brown would like to see more activities geared toward steering people downtown and in a manner that they shop there and not just park to go somewhere else.

Stafford added that it’s not only important to draw visitors from outside Marble Falls but also to reacquaint residents with Main Street and downtown.

“We need people to be tourists in their own town,” she said. “Come down, park, walk around and see what’s down here.”

Sometimes, the best discoveries are found off the beaten path – or state highways.

“If people would just know that 281 isn’t Main Street, that would definitely help,” Brown said. “But they’re finding us. Then it’s up to us to keep them coming back. We just want them to know we’re here, and there’s a lot here on Main Street.”

daniel@thepicayune.com