After a hiatus that lasted a few years, First Friday has returned to Johnson City with a renewed mission of highlighting local businesses.
The Central Johnson City Alliance, a coalition of local businesses, is bringing back the monthly event to encourage tourists and residents to support restaurants, retailers and other establishments.
On the first Friday of every month, businesses will offer limited-time discounts and deals. The next slate of deals will be available Friday, April 2.
“It’s encouraging people to come shop locally or eat downtown,” said Kim Blaine, the owner of Downtown Yoga Center and the president of the Central Johnson City Alliance.
The Central Johnson City Alliance is a rebranding of the Johnson City Downtown Merchants Association. The organization also has a new board of directors. Blaine said the group will continue to organize the Little Chicago Festival, which the Downtown Merchants Association launched in 2016.
Blaine said leaders hope the changes can re-energize the organization, adding that the group’s new name reflects a desire to be more inclusive to businesses outside the immediate downtown area.
“We didn’t want them to feel like just because it’s not Main or Market Street they don’t belong,” Blaine said.
Although there may be some musicians and artists in the downtown area, Blaine said First Fridays won’t serve as a street party.
The focus will be on helping businesses. She added that the deals businesses offer will help complement some of the other events that occur downtown.
In years past, Blaine said, hosting First Fridays as a street party could be difficult to manage. As a downtown business owner, she recalls that attendance could also be low at times.
In a press release, the Central Johnson City Alliance said bringing back First Fridays is the first step towards connecting local businesses with citizens and tourists. As the organization continues to develop, they plan to create “impactful bonds, add more businesses and create new opportunities to shop local.”
“Our mission is to promote a positive image of downtown and promoting it as an exciting place to live, shop, and invest,” the organization said. “We are planning promotions and increasing our interaction with the public by sustaining and improving the appearance of downtown; and by strengthening and expanding the economic base of the Johnson City downtown area.”