Updated, Jan. 28, 2016: After publication of the story below, one business owner reached out to say that while she thinks music is a good idea for the town, she and other business owners haven’t seen the same financial slowdown.
“It’s such an easy place to enjoy an afternoon,” said Dina Michael, owner of Winters Past Vintage Boutique, regarding Micanopy’s charming ambiance. Her store is located just down the street from Mountain and Phillips’, but her business hasn’t seen the same financial troubles that others say they are facing.
She recently moved her business from McIntosh because she decided it would fare better in Micanopy, and it has. “I’ve gotten a good mix of people. They all love to come and enjoy the town, and walk and browse. It’s terrific.”
While she doesn’t think antiques are dead, she does agree that the town could use more nightlife to add to the thriving daytime restaurant scene. “There isn’t too much going on in the evening unless you want to get a pizza. But we can always use more fun and interesting things to do.”
She wishes there were more restaurants open at night, but other than that, thinks a new music space could help draw more attention to the town.
“If customers come and shop, they can get pizza and then go to her music venue. I think that’s a fun day. People would be happy to do that.”
Original story, Jan. 25, 2016: Micanopy’s business owners say they haven’t made a profit in several years due to the lack of foot traffic.
“They roll up the sidewalks at 5 o’clock. It’s dead,” Bonnie Mountain said.
Has one storeowner found an answer?
Mountain, owner of Micanopy Canopy Connection, said her ancestors helped settle the town in the 1830s. As her antique store approaches a decade in business, Mountain wonders how long the slow season will last.
“Every month you’re holding your breath wondering how you’re going to pay the bills,” Mountain said.
Over the years, she’s seen the town go through phases. Other antique storeowners in Micanopy’s Historic District have seen the same.
Mountain said economic activity died down in the 1950s and peaked in the ’60s with the arrival of “hippies” and counterculture music.
Then it slowed again.
She said several movies have helped keep the town on the map, but it hasn’t been enough.
“Business was OK for a while,” Mountain said. “It was going really well, but it’s been on the decline for the past couple of years.”
Rent has been too high for vendors to participate, and as a result, many businesses are forced to pay out of pocket to building owners.
“It’s frustrating,” Mountain said. “All the merchants are singing the same song — that business is bleak and things need to change.”
But as Mountain stared out the window of her historic building toward the dirt roads on Monday around lunchtime, she elaborated on a plan to revitalize the area.
“Bring the artists back. The musicians back. The community needs cohesiveness, and music is universal. It makes people smile,” she said.
Mountain has pushed for a public hearing with the city council to discuss rezoning her building to allow it to become the town’s newest music venue. Others are unsure if her effort will be the solution to bringing in new visitors.
Kevin Phillips, of The Garage in Micanopy, credits the decline to a lack of advertising, and the mild winter that has seemingly failed to draw the snowbirds.
Phillips said it’s hard to tell exactly what the town needs because they don’t know what people are looking for.
“There are people who still like antiques,” Phillips said. “But a lot of them don’t even know this place exists except by word of mouth or by stumbling across it by accident.”
“Music could help. I don’t think it’s going to bring in all the big foot traffic, but it could help,” Phillips said.
Phillips said he’d rather see more of an outreach on why people should visit.
“There’s a lot of culture, a lot of history and odd things,” he said. “It’s an open and friendly town. The people keep me here.”
The few who were browsing through the stores don’t know if the changes will bring in more customers.
“I don’t think music is the niche that they’ll find,” town visitor Alu Soto said. “Gainesville is just 15 minutes away and they bring in a lot of big musicians. As a 20 year old who lives on my own and works and goes to school, I wouldn’t drive out here.”
Mountain’s recent post to a community Facebook page drew more support than she expected. She hopes that people will further support her proposal at a workshop with the town commission and town planning board on Feb. 2.
“I don’t even know a lot of these people but I was so appreciative of their support for this and I’m thinking,” Mountain said. “They need this more than I do.”