CRESTVIEW — Almost two dozen Main Street merchants who gathered at Casbah Coffee Tuesday evening were diverse in their businesses and ideas but united in their vision for a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, attractive historic district.

“It’s the merchants that provide the goods and services that bring people downtown,” organizer Megan Bowersox, owner of Megan’s Sunshine Cafe, said.

Her co-organizer, Main Street attorney Nathan Boyles, said those attending the meeting were the start of a business owners’ advocacy group, or “a voice for those who want to have a voice.”

Boyles emphasized the group, tentatively called the Main Street Merchants Association, is not a rival to the Main Street Crestview Association.

“The Main Street Crestview Association has a very important role,” Boyles said. “What this group may do is something complementary, not to exclude the Main Street Crestview Association.”

‘THE NEXT FAIRHOPE’

Boyles said Main Street’s preservation of a classic American downtown shopping district and being easily accessible to State Road 85 are two of its biggest assets.

“I believe downtown Crestview can be the next Fairhope,” Boyles said, referring to the Alabama shopping town near Mobile Bay’s eastern shore.

“If we’re properly positioned so we can be a place where folks can come to, we can be a destination in ourselves, whether for someplace to go on a rainy day at the beach or on the way through” to the beach, Boyles said.

“We want Crestview to be a drive-to, not a drive-by destination,” said Stephen Smith, senior account executive for the Petermann Agency, the Community Redevelopment Agency’s marketing consultant.

SMALL-TOWN VIBE

“We have a vision for the future of Main Street that’s pedestrian, that brings people back,” Casbah co-owner Bill Toannon said. “You know, people want a place to congregate ... They want what we’re providing. It’s part of what we do.”

“We’re at a point now where people are more interested in the small-town vibe that we can provide to our customers,” Bowersox said.

With the group’s general agreement to form a merchant’s association, Boyles offered to contribute $500 toward incorporation while Smith offered his agency’s help in establishing a Facebook page.

As an initial project, the group agreed to address Main Street’s visibility by working with the CRA board, City Council and Petermann to erect “gateway” signage at both ends of the street.

“It’s the first step,” Main Street Suites owner John Colby said.

“Now we’re stakeholders,” Boyles said. “Now we have a combined voice. Together we’ve got some clout.”