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District hoping to spark business

Sunday, October 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:22 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The Central Columbia Association wants you to discover the District of Columbia, but you’re more likely to see Booches than the Bushes.

The new advertising campaign, “Discover the District,” is intended to lure more people to visit downtown and its shops, restaurants and events. Sponsored by the CCA, whose members include downtown businesses, the campaign’s logo features a downtown skyline against a sunset. Businesses were given pins and window decals with the new logo as well as “talking-points” — explanations of the changes — to inform customers about the campaign.

“The goal is to get people downtown,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations.

Downtown merchants have mixed opinions about the campaign. Many would like to see more business but aren’t sure if the new monicker will draw more customers.

“It’s nice that they’re trying to do something to improve downtown businesses,” said Bill Bellinghausen, an employee of Ninth Street Video. “However, I don’t really think it will change anything.”

One thing that has changed is the way workers at Shakespeare’s Pizza answer the telephone. “Shakespeare’s located in the District,” the caller will hear. An employee said Friday, however, that he didn’t have time to talk about the switch.

The campaign began a few weeks ago, but most people shopping Friday were unaware of the new name.

“I haven’t heard a thing,” said Alan Norton, who comes to the District three or four times a week. “It doesn’t make a difference to me.”

Others thought the campaign was aimed at changing downtown.

“It makes downtown seem like a more business-oriented place, not a culture-oriented place,” said Katie Brueggenmann, an MU student who also works in the District.

Some suggested the campaign should focus on culture.

“I think it’s important that we maintain a good image and that we keep it fresh in people’s minds,” said Stephanie LaHue, merchandising manager for My Secret Garden. “The marketing research showed that people associate downtown with art, creativity, entertainment, uniqueness and culture. The new logo doesn’t represent that. It doesn’t show all those things. It’s generic, and I like the old one better.”

The new logo and image are set to appear soon in store advertisements and business fliers. The Central Columbia Association has also changed the look and address of its Web site. Those who want to check it out can do so at www.discoverthedistrict.com.

“I’ll be interested to see if it works,” said Bill Sloan, an MU student taking a break at the Kaffeehaus.


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