A local business think tank, spearheaded by Economic Development Director Eric Van Otteren, has been meeting for close to a year now, focusing on the shops along Scenic Highway.
The initiative, called Shop on Scenic, is a partnership between the city and local businesses. As of now, over 30 business owners meet regularly the first Thursday of the month to discuss plans of how they can work together to improve the business district in town.
Branding will play a huge role in the marketing strategy.
“We’re trying to create that destination,” said Big Frog T-shirts owner Claude Baham. “We want Shop on Scenic to be the premier shopping area in Gwinnett County.”
Snellville is taking great strides when it comes to business development. Recently, the city was awarded the Regional Prosperity and Economic Development CREATE award by the Atlanta Regional Commission for its partnership with the Entrepreneur Alliance at South Gwinnett High School. The Shop on Scenic initiative is just the latest in a string of successful programs to encourage entrepreneurship and business development.
“We want to expose the fact that you can get anything you want on Highway 124,” said Stevi-Bs owner Michael Foy. “The tactic is to build a group of local merchants to support that goal.”
Foy believes that the direction that the city council and mayor are going in will bring back a strong sense of community to Snellville, and he and his family want to be a part of that. He notes that, back in the 80s and 90s, Highway 78 was the place where businesses wanted to be. The marketplace moved away from 78 and toward 124 a few years ago, and now, it seems to be migrating further north.
“There's a lot of growth going toward Lawrenceville,” he said, “which pulls the traffic flow that way.”
Taking a proactive approach to the direction the shoppers are going is crucial to the vitality of the city.
“We need a group that grows together and works together as a team,” he added.
Affinity marketing strategies and co-branding are among some of their ideas to tie the area together. Businesses involved could share advertising, and in a concept similar to one in Athens, Ga., put a sticker on their business windows that identifies them as part of the Shop on Scenic initiative.
Some other plans that have been discussed are walking paths in the area, trolley carts and distinct signage that identifies the area clearly.
Sam Thomas, owner of About Face Skin Care, has worked alongside Foy, Baham and Van Otteren to get this concept from dream to reality. Thomas grew up in Snellville, and now operates his business close to where he lived as a child. More than anything, Thomas said he hopes that this initiative will restore a sense of community to Snellville, something that Snellville Tourism and Trade has had a huge role in over the past couple of years.
"If you want that hometown feel," he said, "shop locally."