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New businesses open in downtown Cairo

Train depot, airport under renovation
Posted at 6:06 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 18:22:29-04

CAIRO, Ga. (WTXL) — Leaders and entrepreneurs are working to bring more business to the Cairo area. Their plans include preserving the past while working toward a prosperous future.

From a saving a historical train depot to modernizing an airport, Georgia’s “Hospitality City” is growing new ideas to enhance its economy.

“Downtown has so much potential,” said Karen Holder. “I just wanted to be a part of it.” Holder owns what will become First and Broad Pizza Company in the town’s historical train depot. “We’re excited. We made it through the pandemic where we’re at. We’re super grateful to the community for continuing to support us.”

The decades-old depot used to house the police department. Once the project is finished, it’s going to be serving pizza, have an arcade and corn hole tournaments.

“Over the last year, we’ve actually had several new businesses open up in downtown,” explained Alyssa Blakley. She is director of marking for main street and downtown development authority. She said a new children's boutique, restaurants and dance studio have opened recently.

“Our rental rates are extremely low compared to other cities.” Blakely said commercial rent in the downtown Cairo area averages 40 cents a square foot. She said that’s lower than space along a major four-lane highway that may cost as much as $11 a square foot.

“It really is a special place,” added city manager, Julian Brown. “A lot of people think I’m crazy, but this was actually one of my dreams growing up.” He said he’s excited to be leading the community where he was born and raised. “I’d like to see more events,” Brown added. “I want to see Broad Street utilized. We’ve done a good job on a monthly basis doing it. I’d like to see more on a weekly basis.”

He also said they are investing in Cairo’s airport. They’re working to upgrade the terminal. The goal is to keep the city’s hospitality theme going and be more welcoming to executives flying into the area on trips to the nearby business park. The area already attracts out-of-towners.

“I would say 70 percent of our business is out of town,” said Robert Dykes, executive director of the town’s historical Zebulon Theater. “It’s the oldest single-screen theater in Georgia,” Dykes added. When people book tickets for movies and concerts, he said they will ask about shopping and dining in the area. “It’s just a treasure to have,” Dykes concluded.

That attraction is leading to a trickle-down effect for newly opened shops like Emilee Umanzo’s Everhope Collective.

“We work with artisans to give them a way to support themselves and their families,” Umanzo explained. She said those artisans are in the Cairo area as well as, “Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, lots of different countries represented. It’s a way we can shop local and have global impact.”

The idea is reaching beyond Cairo’s streets and designed to show more people what makes this town great.

“We have so much we want to do, and we decided to go for it,” continued Holder. “We just really hope that the city supports us.”