Local entrepreneurs plan to open a general store downtown by summer.
Keith and Jennifer Keathley have cleared some legal hurdles and have begun work painting and installing shelving inside 209 E. Broad St., which they plan to call Keathley's General Store.
The couple sees a store as the next necessary step in the revival of downtown.
"We can see the changes and are trying to anticipate the future needs," Keith Keathley said. "There are lots of people who live, work and play downtown and a general store is definitely needed. There are lots of good happenings going on down here and every day it seems like something new is opening or coming soon."
Exactly what the store will offer remains to be seen, though the plan is to start with "the basics."
"Of course we all want the really cool soda fountains and the roasted peanuts and the old school general-style feel, but in reality we have to just start from the ground and work our way up. We're really excited to see what the people of downtown would like to see and what we can do within reason. We don't want to go too big too fast," Keathley said.
Since the announcement of the store Sunday on Facebook, people have shown a lot of support and excitement, Keathley said. An opening date is difficult to specify, but he expects to be in business sometime this summer.
"We want to see the store open just as bad as everyone else, so we are trying our best to get it done ASAP," he said.
The Keathleys have obtained city occupancy permits, and the building has passed code inspections. Getting health inspections, food-service permits and state registration remain.
The city Board of Directors' emphasis on increasing foot traffic downtown is paying off, City Manager Kenny Haskin said.
"We are terribly excited about the investment and will continue supporting those who want to be a part of the solution. Now it's time for all of us to rise up and support this new business," Haskin said.
Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell echoed Haskin's enthusiasm.
"I'm just as excited as I can be," she said. "Right now and for years, we've had nothing but ghost-like structures standing there reminding those of us who are old enough to remember what downtown used to be. We don't foresee that ever coming back, but we just want to see it renew itself."
Planned development of the Grim Hotel and former Sears building at Third and Pine streets; 1894 City Market at Olive and Front streets; and the former Coliseum nightclub at East Broad and Walnut streets together are expected to add more than 160 apartment units downtown in the next few years.
On Twitter: @RealKarlRichter