Since 2013, Barbara Garrow has been working to make downtown Morristown the best possible place for Lakeway Area residents to visit, shop and eat as the executive director of Crossroads Downtown Partnership and general manager of the Morristown Farmers Market.
However, that chapter is slowly coming to an end. Garrow is retiring from the position in January, but the 74-year-old said she will still work until her last minute on the job, though another chapter waits.
“I’ve worked since I was in high school,” Garrow said. “My husband and I have a lot of things we still have to do, and I can’t do it while I’m working.”
Garrow thanked the board of directors at Crossroads – as well as the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce - for supporting her over the last six years. She said she is stepping down because she and her family want the enjoy the mountains they grew to love since moving to the area in 2002 after selling their environmental and cultural resource consulting firm in Atlanta.
“We have always liked it in East Tennessee – and it is gorgeous,” Garrow said. “I’m retiring because I’m 74, and even though I can still do the job, I just don’t want to haul tables and chairs anymore.”
Crossroads is a 501(c) 3 organization certified by the State of Tennessee that was once a city-sponsored program before it was converted into a community nonprofit in 2013. The programs’ mission statement is to help certified Main Street programs operate on a four-point approach of economic revitalization, organization, design and promotions and use these four points to incrementally accomplish overall goals.
The strategy helps Crossroads leverage the many assets Morristown already has including historic, cultural and architectural resources to local enterprises and community pride. These assets help downtown compete for businesses, jobs, tourists, and customers.
According to Crossroads, from 2013 to 2015, 23 new jobs were created, eight new business located, ground floor vacancy decreased from 20% to 13% and rental rates increased 21% under Garrow’s watch. Nearly $2 million in private investment was made in downtown Morristown, and 6,792 volunteer hours were donated at a value of $160,000.
“There’s no other place around like this. There’s no other place with the architecture and the history downtown Morristown has,” Garrow said.
While some tax dollars are allotted to the program, grants and donations make up the vast majority of funds the events it holds, including concerts and festivals, as well as beautification efforts in downtown Morristown.
“We didn’t have as many businesses (in downtown), and even though there was a merchants’ organization before, the merchants felt like they needed more of a voice – and I think they have that now,” Garrow said. “I think Crossroads Downtown Partnership continues to help support the economic viability of downtown.”
Garrow is proud of her service to the organization – and the community it represents.
“When you get older, you want to give back to a community, and that is the economic revitalization of this community,” she said. “I think we’re on our way.”
Growing up in Nashville, Garrow attended Antioch College, a private liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, from 1963 until graduating in 1968. During those years, she worked in cooperative programs in several cities across the country, including Atlanta, Orlando, Florida, Chicago, New Haven, Connecticut, Bethesda, Maryland – and her hometown of Nashville. Garrow later attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she earned a master’s degree in planning.
“I thought (the work) was extremely important. (The 1960s) were formative and turbulent years in this country’s history,” she said.
Garrow said downtown Morristown has been bettered with the opening of unique businesses such as Barkery Tails, a store specializing in dessert treats for dogs. Also, more residential spaces are being added to the area, which should further growth.
“(Barkery Tails) is the kind of niche business you won’t find in a mall,” she said. “Once we have more residential spaces, you’ll find places where people will want to come to in the evenings.”
No successor for Garrow has been named at this juncture, with the selection process still underway. Garrow said she is part of the process, along with the Crossroads Board of Directors and the city of Morristown, but she will not make the final decision.
For now, Garrow will be planning the Downtown Christmas Parade and drawing up event and fundraising strategies for 2020, as well as leaving a positive legacy for the person who follows her.
“My job isn’t about me. It’s about Crossroads, and making downtown a vibrant area,” she said. “The next person will be able to take downtown to new heights, and make it the best place it can be.”