Marshall and Michael Thornton are renovating Wall Street in downtown Clinton, one property at a time.
The father-son team has been named the 2015 Clinton Main Street Champions, and were among the many recognized at a banquet this week for their contributions to the downtown last year. More than 40 volunteers and program partners were in attendance at the Clinton Main Street Program Annual Appreciation Banquet at Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano, at which 2015’s successes were reviewed and 2016’s goals were detailed.
Clinton Main Street manager Mary Rose gave the annual report, which included honoring Marshall and son Michael Thornton, of Clinton Realty, Thornton Homes and Ownership Opportunities LLC, with the Clinton Main Street Champion distinction. They will be recognized at the 2016 N.C. Main Street Conference in Goldsboro in March.
The father-son team are natives of Sampson County “with a desire to preserve and redevelop property,” officials said.
Their first endeavor in downtown Clinton was in Ownership Opportunities LLC, a partnership with past-Main Street Champ Vince Burgess responsible for the 2014 renovation of 119 Vance St. That site stood vacant for several years and is now home to Vance Street Market Flower Shoppe and Simply N.C. The Thorntons’ second downtown endeavor was the former Royal Furniture building, at 117 Wall St. A two-story, 8,000 square feet structure, the furniture building had been used for storage for more than 30 years.
Both buildings were completely renovated and now boast restored original hardwood floors with the pressed tin ceiling of the Royal building, now home to the aptly-named Royal Gifts and Fine China, kept intact.
This father-son team will be moving on to a third renovation project at 109-A Wall St. this year.
A successful 2015
The annual report from Rose updated the Clinton City Council, Sampson Board of Commissioners, Clinton Development Corporation Board of Directors and Main Street members, among others.
”The program continues to move in a positive direction by implementing downtown economic development initiatives,” Rose stated, noting the successes of 2015, its 33rd year as a N.C. Main Street community, having been designated as such in 1982. “As one of the first Main Street communities in the state of North Carolina, we take pride in our program’s continuous participation in the N.C. Main Street Program.”
N.C. Rep. William Brisson, County Commissioner Harry Parker, as well as City Council members Jean Turlington, Neal Strickland and Marcus Becton were in attendance at the banquet along with various event sponsors, business representatives and Main Street committee members.
Among the notable downtown news in 2015, a $200,000 grant was awarded by the N.C. Main Street Solutions Fund to Alfredo’s, whose project at the corner of Wall Street and Main Street will bring an expanded eatery, to include a downstairs restaurant, bar upstairs banquet facilities. Another grant of $100,000 from USDA Rural Business Development was awarded to address improvements to the ACE Plaza parking lot located off Lisbon and Wall streets.
With projects always an important part of downtown Clinton, the Clinton Main Street Program was also pleased to be the recipient of $5,000 from the Downtown Dash 5K, 10K, and Fun Run, said Rose. That money was used to install landscaping around the “Milling Around” art piece. A partnership between Sampson County Public Works and the Main Street Design Committee also served to improve a planter box between the courthouse and eextension building.
The Main Street program’s first commemorative Christmas ornament sold out quickly, with 144 quickly purchased and an additional 144 ornaments ordered. There are about 55 individuals on the waiting list to receive the collectible, Rose noted.
Main Street events were wildly successful and widely-attended in 2015. October’s Court Square Street Fair and Barbecue Cook-off boasted the highest-ever vendor participation and “Christmas in the City” also enjoyed increased attendance, a new partnership with the Clinton Kiwanis Club and the highest contribution to date to the Sampson County History Museum — $2,185 — from proceeds generated by the hayrides and carriage rides during the Christmas event.
At the banquet, History Museum President Kay Raynor and Museum Director Chris Woodson were presented a check from representatives of Phil Hudson Farms, Hubb’s Corn Maze and Clinton Truck and Tractor, who all sponsored the event.
The Main Street program also brought home its fourth N.C. Main Street Award last year with the recognition of George Wilson and Wilson Realty for Best Façade Rehabilitation Project for $15,000 or Less for the façade improvement project at 117 Vance St. It is a state tally Main Street officials are hoping to add to courtesy of the Thorntons.
Clinton Main Street Program and its committees are “leading the way” toward a continuously improving downtown Clinton,. Rose said.
“Special events, added incentives and physical improvements have played significant roles in the success of the Clinton Main Street Program in 2015,” she said. “The dedication of our committees, volunteers, partners and staff has been extraordinary in 2015. By continuing to expand our volunteer base and partnerships, it is our hope the Clinton Main Street Program will continue to maintain and grow the support of our community and county.”
Ahead in 2016
Along with the regular events, there are a few aesthetic and artistic initiatives Main Street officials believe will come to fruition in 2016.
The Design Committee will be moving forward with the revitalization of another section of downtown Clinton in the form of the Downtown Recycle Art Walk (DRAW) along Ferrell Street. With sections along the street already adorned with the art of young students, the committee will be contacting art teachers in local schools to provide additional artwork for the project, similar to what has been done in previous years in partnership with the Clinton Public Works Department and the Sampson Arts Council.
The Main Street Program will also be seeking grant funds in 2016 to support the DRAW project, while requesting proposals for the project from artists in the area.
A wayfinding project will also be completed this year, according to Main Street program officials. The city is currently working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to finalize wayfinding locations. As part of that initiative, the city will also be replacing facility signs, with the first new sign set for James L. Newkirk Park.
“In 2016, the Clinton Main Street Program will continue to place great importance on economic development by way of events, incentive programs, educational opportunities, aesthetics and partnerships,” Rose remarked. “We extend our many thanks to the Clinton City Council, Sampson County Board of Commissioners, sponsors, partners, businesses, property owners and volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.