THOMASVILLE — Downtown merchants are not in a coronavirus crisis, they are defeating the crisis.

So said Andrea Collins, Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce executive director.

People who live in other communities tell Collins, " ' I love Thomasville.' " The reason is obvious — a quaint, historic downtown, vintage brick streets, unique shops and amazing culinary experiences, Collins said.

"This pandemic has proven downtown Thomasville is more than what most see," she said. "It is a collaborative effort of small business owners taking risks to pursue their passion. It is the camaraderie and support for one another during times of joy and uncertainty. It is creativity in its rawest form, developing new methods of serving customers while maintaining social distancing."

Thomasville City Council member Jay Flowers is encouraged by the traffic in downtown retail stores and restaurants.

"As the governor continues to open up the state, Thomasville will benefit more than most," Flowers said. "Our diversity of shops and restaurants that are locally owned has always been a big draw for people from our neighboring communities. Let’s openly embrace our retail friends while respecting the safety of all.

"Wear your mask," Flowers added, "and bring your wallet."

While recognizing ongoing challenges of the virus, the time has come to return to shopping and dining in downtown Thomasville, the city council member said.

"We are blessed to have dozens of locally-owned shops and restaurants that employ many of our families and friends," he said. "Quite frankly, much of what draws people to Thomasville is embodied in our friendly, open embrace of our history of hospitality. Grab your masks and let’s get out to support our friends with our shopping budgets. Just about every shop is open in some way. Reach out and help your community."

Thomasville is known for downtown's beauty and "walkability," along with its high-quality shops and restaurants, said Shelley Zorn, Thomasville Payroll Development executive director.

"I have been so happy to see our downtown merchants and restaurants pivot so quickly during this crisis, using online sales, curbside pickup and social media marketing," Zorn said. "What I love the most is how Thomasville citizens have supported our downtown businesses during this time, ordering online, shopping by appointment and using curbside pickup. It shows how much we love our downtown and want to see it survive and thrive when this is over."

Thomasville City Council member David Hufstetler pondered what the council could do to encourage a measured, careful re-opening of downtown Thomasville. He said it occurred to him that if the Billiard Academy, a downtown icon, reopened, it might encourage or inspire others to reopen.

Billiard Academy owner Trip Brock had valid concerns about his employees' and family's health, Hufstetler said, but agreed it would be a service to the community to reopen.

"So beginning this past Monday, he did reopen, and I really think we’re beginning to see the results," Hufstetler said. "We are so grateful to (Mr.) Brock for his efforts. I hope others will follow suit. The council and staff are committed to do all that is possible to reopen all of Thomasville."

 Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820 

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