With the weekly COVID-19 numbers continuing to change in Eatonton, now might not seem like a great time to be focused on driving business downtown, but new Main Street Director Lauren Singleton is entrenched on the big picture and taking all things in stride, one day at a time.
Singleton, a native of Sharpsburg and Coweta County, took the reins as Main Street Eatonton director on June 1 and hasn’t looked back despite the obvious obstacles presented by the ongoing saga of the coronavirus and the impact it has had on local businesses and Putnam County.
A veteran Main Street director, having spent the last three years in Covington, Singleton is glad to be in Eatonton and ready for the inherent challenges.
“Things have gone very well,” she said on Friday. “I’ve been trying to get to know everyone, and I come in and we’re getting a new sidewalk. I was looking for a change of pace from the big city [offerings], and I have had my eye on Eatonton for quite some time now.”
Citing a great group of volunteers in the city, Singleton has been looking at ways to turn downtown around since the spread of COVID-19 has had an impact countywide.
“I am looking forward to working with the reputation long held by Eatonton,” Singleton, a graduate of Clayton State University, said. “We are trying to get things moving and working here again.”
During this volatile time, Singleton said it is important to help people recover and to help business owners downtown find new grants and loans, doing essentially anything to try and help citizens.
“We are all flying by the seats of our pants right now,” she said. “We are trying to find help, and it is important for people to feel comfortable coming back out to downtown. It is very difficult to change for all our downtown customers. Even though we can wear a mask, we all have to walk into these businesses. From a psychological standpoint, people are following the precautions, and we look for people to come back.
“Right now, we are just trying to show people it’s OK to come back downtown. We have to follow the governor’s orders the best we can. We are trying to make sure everyone is safe, and we don’t want to have an outbreak so we know we can do that. We are trying to keep an eye on things.”
And that is what Singleton is doing. With still so many uncertainties out there, Christmas planning is already on the table.
“There are uncertainties now, so we have to start planning long term because none of us knows what’s going to happen,” Singleton said. “There are a lot of things that have to have a ‘wait and see’ attitude. We have to start planning now and we’ll have to see what happens. Right now, we have to be as safe as we possibly can.”
With a diverse socioeconomic community firmly in place, Singleton is looking for those programs and activities to draw crowds.
“We are going to do our best to attract people and bring in the businesses people will enjoy,” she said. “We are using advertising and other means to bring people back to downtown. That is something that comes naturally to me. I am on the high end of social media, and I can bring a little bit of my millennial personality to town.”
Singleton says she takes daily strolls around town and believes the look of downtown can be a lot better just by adding benches and flowers.
“The message is: be patient. I know people want to get out and do things,” she concluded. “We’re not quite there yet. We have to be patient for the safety and health of everyone because we don’t want an outbreak here. We have a lot of plans and ideas, but it’s about fighting the coronavirus. Keep in touch; we’ll get back to work again real soon.”