Main Street Pizza Co. will be busy during this weekend's Blue Plum Festival. (Madison Mathews/Johnson City Press)
Busy. That’s how downtown Johnson City businesses describe the days — and, in some cases, weeks — leading up to the Blue Plum Festival.
Johnson City’s annual music and art festival typically brings an estimated 80,000 people to the downtown area throughout its three-day run, and downtown merchants are planning to meet the needs of attendees.
“We will do two weeks’ business in two days,” Numan’s Cafe & Sports Bar owner Dan Numan said.
To prepare for this weekend’s festival, which begins at 11 a.m. Friday, Numan has rearranged furniture on the first floor to accommodate more people, in addition to hiring about 15 extra employees to handle the volume of customers.
Numan’s has been around for every Blue Plum since it started, and it’s something the restaurant looks forward each year, especially with all of the positive changes that have taken place over the last year in the downtown area.
Every year, Numan said he gains long-term business from the festival in the form of people of who have never been to Numan’s before and decide to come back once the festival has wrapped up.
“It’s just a great thing. It brings notice to downtown. The crowd outside attracts a lot of out-of-state visitors, but it brings a lot of the locals in that haven’t been to downtown. All of these things help everybody in downtown,” Numan said.
The massive level of preparation continued up the street at Main Street Pizza Company, which is prepping for its fourth Blue Plum.
“It’s fun for us, you know. It’s a chance to kind of show everybody what we can do when they’re all downtown at once,” manager Elise Clair said.
Like many of the other merchants in the downtown area, Clair said Blue Plum is something they look forward to each year, as it is Main Street’s highest revenue weekend.
Clair said the restaurant is at capacity throughout the entire festival.
“You would think with all the food court vendors that we wouldn’t be that busy, but we stay packed the whole time,” she said.
The restaurant will be rolling out its new menu during the festival, which Clair said should be a good chance to grab some new customers.
“We’ve got a new cocktail menu and a new food menu that we’re going to be rolling out, so it’s kind of our chance to show all the people what we can do,” she said.
With all of the work the city has done to better downtown, it’s a good time to be a part of the downtown business community. That’s why Lucy Hull, owner of The White Picket Fence, is looking forward to her first time at Blue Plum as a merchant.
“It’s exciting to be on Main Street in Johnson City during Blue Plum. Can’t get any better,” she said.
The shop will be open and Hull will be serving food inside and on the street.
As one of downtown’s newest businesses, Hull is hoping the festival will bring more people to her door.
“I think Blue Plum is going to be great for that. Advertising is very expensive and just to be exposed during Blue Plum is going to be great. I think it will help all of the businesses downtown,” she said.
Last year’s Blue Plum was Holy Taco’s first experience with the festival, and owner Jesse Scott is excited to see how the business does this year.
“It’s a really good festival. I like it. I’m not into the music scene that much, but I do enjoy people coming to Johnson City because of the impact it has on us. I just hope it’s better and better each year,” he said.
Scott said the festival brings plenty of outside business to the city, which is a boost for downtown businesses.
“Even though the college students are gone, the money is still here with all the people here for the festivities,” he said.