The following is a statement from Roswell Inc Executive Director Steve Stroud. This article can be found in the Aug. 12 edition of the Roswell Neighbor.
Since Alive After 5 in Roswell began, nearly a decade ago, it has become a staple event in the metro area. In the early years, when many of the Canton St. businesses closed by 5 PM on weekdays, this event offered Roswell residents the opportunity to gather and enjoy this historic part of town after normal business hours in a casual, walkable setting. Those in attendance were likely families with Roswell mailing addresses. Within the first few years, we saw a few hundred people at each event. It was like a big block party for the city that drew attention to some of the lesser known restaurants and retail on Canton St.
Now, Canton St. is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the entire Atlanta area and Alive After 5 is the hottest ticket in town. Thousands upon thousands of people come in from all over the city, the state and even the Southeast. Roswell Inc conducted a survey a couple of years ago that suggested more than half of the visitors at Alive After 5 were from outside of the city. Now, I’m willing to bet that number is even greater. Keep in mind that this growth occurred with relatively little in the way of advertising. Alive After 5 has largely been a word-of-mouth phenomenon. It didn’t take long to realize we had hit on something really special.
Prior to Alive After 5, Canton St. had only a few restaurants and a handful of retail shops and galleries. Successful businesses such as The Chandlery, Raiford Gallery, Go With the Flow and The Fickle Pickle helped to anchor the street during the economic downturn and set a tone for the businesses that would follow. Canton St. today boasts an ever increasing number of independent gourmet restaurants, unique artisan boutiques and a wide variety of fine art galleries. Lately, it is also becoming a hub for alternative health providers such as Gallery Spa, Chill & Body and Sacred Mother Healing Center.
In recent years, we have been able to utilize the impact of Alive After 5 to generate traffic for Roswell businesses in other districts. Local vendors have been able to set up tables and distribute samples of their wares to a wider, more diverse audience than they would be able to reach otherwise. Roswell Inc has introduced a “Restaurant Corner” on the main part of the street, which is now closed off to vehicle traffic during the event, and has seen great success in bringing recognition to Roswell restaurants that reside off of Canton St. Participants in the restaurant corner include Taqueria Tsunami, Slope’s, Public House, The Counter, Pure, Brickhouse and Lucky’s. These restaurants are different concepts in different parts of town. When visitors see them and try their food at Alive After 5, they realize that the restaurant scene extends way beyond the perimeter and help Roswell continue to make a name for itself as one of the foodie capitals of the Southeast.
As the crowds at Alive After 5 continued to grow exponentially, community leaders recognized the need to add an additional venue. Thus, Alive at the Square was created to help maintain balance.
“Alive at the Square has always been popular and well attended,” event manager Tom LaDow said. “Because of the neighborhood demographics and physical characteristics of the Square, ‘Alive at the Square‘ has always had a very strong appeal to families with younger children. Entertainment, sponsors, vendors and merchants are oriented toward the young family market. In addition to the popular amenities (food trucks, bands, kids games, face painting, etc) we have added children’s theater, dance exhibitions, photo booths, charitable donations, and more games and food.”
The event at the square has been an invaluable addition that allows families with young kids to enjoy the event without having to worry about the somewhat more adult atmosphere among the bars on Canton St. Roswell Inc sponsors two trolleys that circulate between Canton St., the Square, City Hall and other parking lots in the area so that everyone can get the full experience without having to spend too much time walking. We have also teamed up with American Family Care to provide a First Aid Station to help keep everyone safe and well.
From an economic development standpoint, Alive After 5 has been a tremendous asset. It provides good, organic PR for Roswell businesses and encourages visitors to stay and spend money. Many of them come back, even outside of the event, to see what else Roswell has to offer. Major local companies such as GM, Yardi, TechniPower and AirWatch use the event as a recruiting tool for new employees. The energy of it helps to draw talent to the area. The Fulton County Development Authority even used footage of an Alive After 5 event to represent economic development in Roswell.
An event like Alive After 5 serves to showcase the Roswell culture as it is today. We celebrate our historic roots and we enjoy the charm of our suburban lifestyle. Yet, we keep both eyes on the future when it comes to supporting our business community and promoting innovation in economic development. We are a forward thinking community with abundant opportunity and this event has helped us put the word out to the rest of the state and beyond.