From the Red Righter
I went to a show in Pitman, a small New Jersey town. The village is about the size of Elkton, but its downtown district was busy, vibrant and alive, with hundreds of people strolling its streets. Several dozen shops—including hobby, antique, specialty, game, and clothing— were open for business. The restaurants were full, with waiting lines extending out their doors.
I couldn’t help comparing the congested scene on Broadway, Pitman’s central thoroughfare, to Elkton’s Main Street. Of course, the reason for the heavy foot traffic was the Jersey town’s anchor, the Broadway Theater—a restored showpiece featuring live programs throughout the year. During our visit, the 1,100-seat venue hosted another sold-out audience. The local patrons, and others from nearby states, browsed and spent money in the town before and after the performance.
Multiply this ripple effect of foot traffic and tourist spending throughout the year, and it’s easy to see how a well-operated cultural anchor can turn a dying town into a destination location, supporting numerous other downtown businesses.
Anyone who has visited Elkton knows there’s not much in the county seat to attract tourists or locals. Attempts to create an artistic center are slow going, and many shop owners are hoping for an upturn in the economy. Of course, it didn’t help matters when county decision makers—the smartest folks in the room—relocated a significant portion of Elkton’s downtown workforce to the new administration building built off Route 40.