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Springfield, MO

SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton

A Conversation With … Bradley Jackson

President of Historic River District Inc. and Owner of Hometown Sports LLC

Posted online

The Historic River District is working to revitalize downtown Ozark to cultivate residential and commercial business. What’s your biggest challenge?
We’re not really strong in mercantile, at least on the square, because we have many other uses in our storefronts – whether it be a newspaper office, a bank, lawyers, E-911, we have space being used by juvenile detention. You have to get a buy-in from all the property owners downtown. They want whoever will sign the lease and pay the rent. I get it. But long term, the more businesses we have down here that will cross-market each other, the better we are.

There’s been frequent turnover in some storefronts with retail and coffee shops. Why is that, and how are you filling those spots with retainable business?
Everything is a challenge – parking is a challenge, having your center city area dominated by the court system. We’re trying to find the desired businesses we want, [asking] can we help that property owner make that property into something we want?

What does the community want?
They want retail, they want dining options. Those are tough, though, because if the building is not already set up, it’s a huge investment for somebody to come in and set up a restaurant. They require so much funding and have perishable products. Would they survive? We hope so. What I’ve been preaching here lately is: You want a restaurant to come to Ozark? Support the ones that we already have.

Some of the homes downtown have been renovated to create a cohesive aesthetic. How important is this to the overall mission?
If everything looks neat, people want to be a part of it. Our goal is to eventually have a fund balance where we can provide some incentives for people to apply for a grant to maybe paint their house or take some trees down, fix their fence or something. 

How will projects be funded?
Right now, we’re looking for private donations. We had the first contributor, last week, who wrote a $500 check. We also are planning some fundraising events.

What are you doing to garner more traffic downtown?
I want to get the farmer’s market back downtown … we’re talking about having a market day. Statistics show when people visit for events, the businesses in the community may not have a spike in sales that day. But a week or two after, they have a spike in sales. People come back.

What about residential space?
We want to have as many people living downtown as possible. But that’s a double-edged sword because if you don’t have anything for the people to do, why would they be here? But if you don’t have people to do things, why would the businesses be here? Every big business wants to know what the population is. If there’s not enough density, there’s not enough customers. They don’t realize sometimes that we don’t have that kind of density, but our people will come.

Residential areas surround downtown, though.
We’re still not that dense because we have large lots with single-family homes.

Are there any new businesses coming downtown?
The old church on Elm Street is going to become a restaurant and pub. They’re going to have a speakeasy in the basement. The Pentecostal church that was a museum is now an antique shop. We just have to create our own destiny with the thought process on marketing the properties.

Bradley Jackson can be reached at historicriverdistrict@gmail.com

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Randy Baker

Brad is a visionary. Good leader for this group or any group for that matter. The Ozarks needs quality young people who will invest back into the communities where they work and live!

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