Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Trade Street was a run-down, seedy part of downtown Winston-Salem. It was a place you didn’t visit, day or night.
Downtown Winston-Salem, for that matter, suffered through a period of empty office and warehouse buildings, and was completely abandoned by the retail industry. These were changes brought on by the changing economical environment of the city. The city center was once dominated by banks, office buildings, retail stores, and factories and warehouses that were part of thriving tobacco and textile industries. Fortunately, a revitalization program gradually took hold, and Downtown Winston-Salem is now bustling with activity.
The Arts District has benefitted from the efforts to revitalize and reinvent downtown. In recent years the area has undergone a dramatic transformation into a vibrant community of restaurants, residences, shops, studios, galleries and service-oriented businesses.
However, there are many long-time residents of Winston-Salem and suburbs that seem to be totally unaware of the changes. A few months ago, an out-of-town visitor to my shop said that her host told her “oh, no, we don’t go downtown” to shop or dine or anything else.
I, for one, AM TIRED OF HEARING THIS from long-time residents.there are some people in various parts of greater Winston-Salem that seem to be totally unaware or simply refuse to believe that Downtown Winston-Salem could be so different from what it used to be.
So this blog is an effort to spread the word a little further that it’s OKAY to go downtown, that it’s possible to spend a delightful afternoon shopping and dining along Trade Street instead of being stuck in traffic along Hanes Mall Blvd. The portion of Trade Street that runs through the Arts District contains a wonderful collection of restaurants, galleries, studios, shops, and other businesses, as well as residential lofts, apartments and condos.
In addition to the terrific variety of shopping and dining venues, Trade Street has become a very popular place for events and street fairs. First Friday Gallery Hops, sponsored by the Downtown Arts District Association (DADA), are a tradition dating back to the 1980’s, when a handful of studios and galleries began to schedule their exhibition opening receptions for the same night. The year-round event, scheduled for the First Friday of every month, has experienced dramatic growth that mirrors the growth of the Arts District itself.
The Summer on Trade Music Series owes its existence to the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership (DWSP) together with Truliant Federal Credit Union and other corporate sponsors. The series of free music concerts happens on Saturday evenings throughout the summer months. It just floors me when I learn that there are city residents who are completely clueless about the event. There are so many incredibly talented musical groups in the area, and this event is a chance to enjoy them FREE of charge. There are some people who happen upon the scene quite by accident and they want to know if it’s a gallery hop.
Then there is the more recent Arts on Sunday Festival series, founded by the AFAS Group (Art for Art’s Sake). This series began several years ago as a handful of artists scattered along the sidewalk that stretches between Finnigan’s Wake and 6th and Vine restaurants, in a joint effort between AFAS and the restaurants to promote new Sunday brunch offerings. Due to increased demand for artists’ exhibit space, it has expanded its footprint to include the 500 and 600 blocks of Trade Street and the 200 block of 6th Street. It has grown into a highly successful series of Sunday afternoon street fairs during the months of May and October.
To the casual observer, perhaps it makes little difference which letters of the alphabet are used to designate the sponsors of any of these events, whether it be DADA, DWSP, or AFAS. Art, music, dining, and shopping can be fun regardless of whose name or initials are on the promotional poster. And each organization has promotional and distributional channels of getting the word out to their members and/or supporters.
In more recent years, such organizations as Bookmarks and Habitat for Humanity have moved their annual festivals from other venues to Trade Street. In 2012 Krispy Kreme chose Trade Street as the location for its 75th birthday party. The merchants and businesses along Trade Street view these events as a means of introducing more people to the Arts District, especially those who might not otherwise venture into town from outlying areas and suburbs.
More and more, however, people want to know what’s happening this week or this month in the Arts District. There are several excellent sources of area events online and in print: Smitty’s Notes, a well known on-line calendar of events; Relish, published every Thursday by the W-S Journal; and YES Magazine, published in Greensboro, have extensive calendar listings for Winston-Salem and Northwest North Carolina.
There is nothing, however, that focuses solely on Trade Street and the Arts District. As the owner of a studio/shop on Trade Street, I have a vital interest in keeping up with all the events taking place and in encouraging people to come to Trade Street. Being open every day of the week, I get people who come into the shop seeking information. I try to explain DADA and AFAS and DWSP in 25 words or less, knowing that there is little chance of a normal person retaining the info I give them once they walk out the door.
The best solution I can come up with is the Trade Street Tracker, my effort to establish one source of info for all things Trade Street. The blog now has a companion Facebook page which gets frequent updates concerning lunch specials, sales and other special events at various shops and galleries. It is my hope that 2013 will see a calendar of events, an e-newsletter, and perhaps even a printed version of a news bulletin or poster.
Thanks for reading!
Trade Street Tracker
213 West 6th St
Winston-Salem NC 27101