A community is only as good as its people allow it to be, and the folks living west of Broad on South Street have taken this notion to heart.
Both the South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) and the South Street West Business Association (SSWBA) are extremely active in the area around Graduate Hospital, with events and gatherings throughout the year that encourage community building and interactions with local businesses.
“It brings neighbors together that might not know each other, so it’s a great way for people to get familiar with one another and hopefully work together,” said Abby Rambo, executive director of SOSNA. “We always like to make sure that we’re supporting our local businesses, whether it’s the people of South Street West participating in Sprung or other businesses in the interior of the neighborhood.”
The Springtime Pub Stroll, also known as Sprung, is one of the many events created by the South Street West Business Association in alignment with SOSNA that helps promote communal relationships. The organizations have partnered up with several bars and restaurants willing to lower prices for the event —rewarding the businesses with new customers and giving the area an engaging atmosphere.
“The idea is to make people more aware that we really do have a nice collection of restaurants and bars west on South Street,” said SSWBA Steering Committee Secretary Marcus Ferreira. “By having this one conjoined event, maybe someone who’s a fan of Grace Tavern may not have been to Jet Wine Bar and enjoys it…it promotes new experiences.”
The Jet Wine Bar is a notable business involved with both SOSNA and SSWBA. It’s one of the restaurants involved with South of South’s Happy Hour program, where on Mondays of certain months, businesses are highlighted through community themes. In late April, the bar will be hosting a “LGBTQ Neighbor” happy hour for the area, helping SOSNA promote the neighborhoods’ diverse population and true sense of equality.
“We really appreciate how these organizations look to highlight the local businesses around us,” said Jessica, a full-time bartender at Jet Wine Bar. “We’re always excited to be included in that.”
The mutual participation by businesses and local organizations in the area around Graduate Hospital is crucial for making the neighborhood an appealing place to live and enjoy.
According to a 2014 Economic Development Survey conducted and released by SOSNA in 2015, 89 percent of those polled supported more restaurants in the area, and 54 percent cited the proximity of the restaurants and bars as one of the best reasons for living in the neighborhood. With roughly 75 percent of respondents in the survey under the age of 44, a fun atmosphere through community engagement is the key to keeping the neighborhood active.
Events to help promote an active neighborhood happen year-round for both SOSNA and SSWBA.
Cheer, a promotional holiday shopping event created by South Street West, allows for participants to receive discounts at local stores included in the event. The annual Bloktoberfest, a joint effort between SSWBA, SOSNA and Bella Vista Beer Distributors, is a non-profit, free-for-all-ages event that showcases neighborhood food vendors, hometown bands and of course—locally-brewed beer.
According to the event site, proceeds from beer sales directly fund a “variety of neighborhood initiatives addressing education, green space and public safety.”
Attended by more than 20,000 people, Bloktoberfest, along with seasonal jazz festivals and pop-up gardens, bring new people to a growing neighborhood with developing local businesses.
“It’s about connecting newcomers with that business owner, and getting them to know each other on a more personal level,” SOSNA’s Rambo said. “We would like them to know who that local business owner is, and what they are trying to bring to the community to help foster our neighborhood’s economy.”
A great example of the community’s connection to its local business owners is SOSNA’s newly launched multimedia program, SOSNA Business Spotlight Series, which focuses on the individual behind a unique business in the neighborhood. With a deal from the business included in the promotion via the use of SOSNA’s neighbor promo code, South of South organizers are able to track the success of program and gauge community interest.
The development of The Triangles on Grays Ferry Avenue, both as a peaceful green space and as a place for events, was another successful venture spurred by members SOSNA and SSWBA.
Through the fundraising efforts of years-past at their Plazapalooza event, both organizations are proud of the new area.
“Part of our ongoing partnership between SOSNA and SSWBA was to highlight the triangle as a potential pedestrian-ized plaza,” said Ferreira of South Street West. “Now we’re there, but it’s still nice to have [Plazapalooza] as a reminder for people that this is a place that’s here for you.”
That seems to be the trend for these two organizations — creating a neighborhood atmosphere that will continually make anyone feel welcome. Whether it’s a stroll down the street for a quaint pub crawl, or buying that handmade scarf, it should be done as a community.
“When you have all of these things happening — the amount of redevelopment in the area and so on — we have seen foot traffic increase exponentially,” Ferreira said. “There’s a sense of momentum here.”
— Text, video and images by James Orlay