When Katie Ragan took over as Executive Director of the Crossroads Downtown Partnership in February, she had no idea what she was in for. No one did. A month into her tenure at the nonprofit promoting Morristown’s downtown Businesses, business was closed down as the COVID-19 global pandemic reached our shores.
With only essential businesses open, Ragan had to expand her own role and navigate a Downtown business community in lockdown.
“I remember in my interview I said I like to be challenged and here I am facing one of the biggest challenges,” Regan said. “It’s been great with my board. They’re all so helpful and key players in my job. If I have a question, they’re only a phone call or a text message away. They’re vital in helping me get my footing.”
The good news for downtown and Ragan is with the phased reopening comes the opportunity to throw a party. On June 20, Crossroads and the downtown businesses hosted the “It Takes A Village Party” to celebrate the community’s response to local business during the COVID-19 shutdown and reopening.
“It’s a way for the downtown merchants and crossroads to give back to the community and show thanks for the support they’ve shown downtown during COVID,” Ragan said. “Whether it’s online orders or curbside pick ups, anything and everything, it was good to see people walking downtown and being outdoors.”
The opportunity to plan an event, even one that required nearly 100 vintage cars to throw, was something that Ragan relished.
“Honestly, it felt so good to finally be able to give back to the community,” Ragan said. “That’s why I like planning events. It’s not about me. It’s about those that get to enjoy the event. I’m excited to see it all come together. The biggest reward is seeing everyone enjoy it and the smiles on their faces. I feel like we really need that right now. I’m ready to see it.”
In the meantime, Ragan was able to expand her own role, transition her office and do more behind-the-scenes work as Tennessee continues to expand what businesses can do amid the ongoing coronovirus pandemic.
Events planned for March and April haven’t been cancelled, but postponed as Crossroads and the Downtown business community strives for some kind of return to normalcy.
Still, there’s no doubt that missing nearly two months put Crossroads behind. Ragan was instrumental applying and receiving an East Tennessee Foundation Grant, but nothing would be better for Crossroads or Downtown than to be open for business.
“That’s why we put this event together,” Ragan said. “Everything on our calendar, we’re planning on doing. I want to keep putting on events for our community. That’s one of the reasons we’re here. That helps our Downtown. We’re going to keep pressing on.”
Part of that is the refinement of the Downtown Morristown App, a resource already available that gives users a virtual tour, links to Crossroads, a calendar of events, photo sharing, contact link, business directory, coupons, parking and business map.
The next step for Ragan is assessing the new needs of Downtown and filling up empty spots with businesses that benefit the community.
“My biggest goal is to go through Downtown and see what’s vacant, what’s for sale and start filling up Downtown a little bit,” Ragan said. “There’s a lot of missed opportunities there and I think I can help in that area.”