Q&A With Susan Ryles

The new Main Street Stone Mountain executive director envisions more art, restaurants and funky shops coming to Stone Mountain Village in the future. But first, finding funding for various initiatives is key.

Susan Ryles, the new executive director of Main Street Stone Mountain, recently shared her vision, hopes and goals for Stone Mountain Village with Patch:

Q. What are your top three goals as the new executive director of Main Street Stone Mountain (MSSM)?

A. Top 3 Goals

1. Find Funding

2. Find Funding

3. Find Funding  

It's like in real estate, they always say the 3 most important things are location, location, location. For Main Street and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) it's funding, funding, funding. We in the Village are not short on ideas to improve our fair little Village. Most of those ideas however, require funding which is in short supply. We will be exploring at a variety of funding options for Main Street and the Downtown Development Authority programs including tax incentives for businesses, grants, community fund raising, attracting sponsors and philanthropists and public/private partnerships.

Additional goals would be to:

  • Get & keep people excited about our revitalization efforts!

Sometimes negativity can derail best efforts and it seems to take forever for improvements to come to fruition. But... things are happening, big & small. From Big - Phase II of the Streetscape for Manor Dr. & East Mountain Streets is scheduled to start early 2013 and a new restaurant is coming to the old Sycamore Grill location. To Small - We have fun new ART Trees in front of all of the Arts Incubator galleries & are engaging more with the intown arts community through becoming a recipient of one of the new ART Boxes to distribute Atlanta Intown Newspaper. I would ask the Village to hang in there with us!! This is a marathon not a sprint!

  • Reassess & take a fresh new look at our efforts!

We hope to pull in local organizations to partner with us on Main Street projects. We have some really amazing local resources here. We have generous volunteers and folks willing to help who have phenomenal skills to offer. We would like to tap into that more.

The renewal of SMV [Stone Mountain Village] won't happen by a few people sitting in a room somewhere making big plans. Yes, we need great planning and vision but we need the community to embrace our efforts by staying positive, volunteering, buying local, locating their businesses here and in general supporting the effort. I believe thoughts are things, so we need to make them good and positive ones and let go of old negativity. Believe it SMV! We can do this!

Q: How is MSSM different from the Downtown Development Authority? Is there much overlap?

A. Main Street is a unique economic development tool set up through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Main Street Four-Point Approach® is the foundation for local initiatives to revitalize their districts by leveraging local assets—from cultural or architectural heritage to local enterprises and community pride. The 4 Point Approach includes focus on these 4 areas:

-Organization - fund raising
-Design - addresses the overall aesthetics of the physical changes
-Promotions - promotes the downtown area through events & activities
-Economic Restructuring - responsible for rebuilding the downtown into a commercial hub, attracting new businesses, etc. The DDA is a recognized city authority & our organization for accomplishing this.

See link for more info:

Q: What are your biggest challenges?

A. Too much to do, too little time & money. Negative perceptions. Organizational roadblocks.

Q: What projects or initiatives would you like to see launched in Stone Mountain Village?

A:  I'd like to see us really embrace our cycling community here. They are here anyway. We just need to claim them and begin really [to] embrace their presence by providing goods and services which would cater to them.

More public art. We were fortunate to have a world renowned muralist, Eric Grohe come and speak with us at the ART Station last Saturday. I'd like to see us really go after some serious murals for our community. Really great art can be a source of pride in a community and can be a tourist attraction as well. Great cultures are always known by their art.

I'd like to see us go ahead and move the Visitor's Center over to the historic old Depot ASAP even though we don't yet have all of the funding for its renovation. I hate to see a great old historic building sitting empty. It could be used as it is with clean up and minor changes. It is larger, more highly visible, easier to locate and will house a museum exhibit which be an additional draw to tourists coming in to the Village.

Q: How do you see Main Street in Stone Mountain Village looking a year from now?

A: I envision more high end, funky retail shops on Main Street along with a green market, a general store and a book store. I see more restaurants, coffee &/or tea shops and a live music venue. I see a cleaned up fresh face on the Village. I see other new businesses locating here. I see building conversions with mixed use residential & business. I see more local people on the streets embracing this as their home town. I see buildings fully leased with tenants who love Stone Mountain Village! I see us embracing our history. I see young couples locating here and raising their families here so they can walk to local businesses and feel a sense of real community. I see SMV as being a fun & funky little Village where everyone wants to be! OK --- maybe not all in a year from now, but it's coming!

Little Kiln July 24, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Good luck to Susan in her plans for our little village. I know, with support, she will achieve all of her goals. Again good luck!!
CottageResident July 25, 2012 at 02:14 AM
This is a great article. As a Stone Mountain Village resident I agree with what Susan says. I'd like to see a national brand store set up here. It would have to be a store that does not compete with the current independent businesses. Perhaps a Trader Joe's or a Dairy Queen. I would LOVE to have an art house cinema here too. This is the right town for all of this!
sharon mccarthy July 26, 2012 at 02:30 PM
GOOD LUCK TO ALL - I know Susan will accomplish her goals ;) Love you Sis, Sharon


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