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Antiques, boutiques fuel Cave Spring renaissance

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Travelers and shoppers don’t just stumble into Cave Spring. Even though the city sits at the crossroads of U.S. 411 and Ga. 100, neither route, at least not in Cave Spring, draws as many through travelers as log trucks. That has not hampered recent redevelopment efforts in Cave Spring. The downtown district has become a destination full of eclectic boutiques, antique shops and places to eat.

A concerted effort on the part of community leaders, which started with the creation of a Downtown Development Authority, has promoted the resurrection of downtown Cave Spring.

“Downtown merchants support each other. Our restaurants stay open late so the merchants stay open late,” said Sandra Lindsey, director of the Cave Spring DDA. “People love to come to Cave Spring for our festivals and events. We know that when people come for the day they will return.”

Christa Grant, who has owned Christa’s etc. at 10 Alabama St. for 30 years, echoed some of Lindsey’s thoughts. “We try to have different stuff to sell than the other shops, of course with antiques nobody can duplicate what everyone else has,” Grant said. “If I don’t have it, I’m going to work myself busy finding somebody else here in town that does have it.”

Grant has a passion for antiques that goes well beyond the average collector or seller. “I’ve got so much now that a lot of it is actually in storage because I don’t have room to put it out,” Grant said. “I want our young people to understand that all of this is somebody’s history. If they don’t start learning something, their history is going to be from China.”

Rip Montgomery has done so well with his antique business at The Peddler, 22 Alabama St., that he bought a second building on the square and opened Antiques on the Square, 22 Broad St. Montgomery currently serves as chairman of the Cave Spring DDA and takes great pride in the fact that every building on the square is full. “I had someone to come in last week from a little town down the road and they said the talk of the town was what Cave Spring was doing,” Montgomery said.

“The weekends seem to be really thriving,” Montgomery said. “Mondays

are very unpredictable, you never

know who’s going to show up on Monday, but Monday has turned out to be the best day of the week every now and then.”

A town that thrives on tourism, Montgomery said he gets a lot of bus traffic during the week. “We get a lot of bus groups, 18-20 people at a time,” Montgomery said.

Lindsey said motorcycle clubs have also discovered Cave Spring and that on pretty weekdays, particularly during spring and fall, it’s not unusual to see a bunch of motorcycles parked around the square.

“They love the small town Americana ambiance when strolling through downtown,” Lindsey said.

One of the newest businesses on the square, Tara’s Treasures & Gifts, 20 Broad St. is owned by Tara Brock. She actually bought her building on the square and relocated from a much smaller space up U.S. 411 near Six Mile.

“The move has really been great. We’re thrilled,” said Brock. The new shop offers 2,000 square feet of space, almost double her previous location. Brock leases space to other dealers in addition to having her own merchandise.

One of the oldest businesses in town, the Cave Spring General Store, 2 Rome Road, has a relatively new owner. Charles Ledbetter has had the shop for about two years, taking it over from longtime owner Gayle Godfrey.

“I was retired from the sheriff’s department, and I got tired of being retired,” Ledbetter said. “I used to do this as a kid with my father and I enjoyed it. It’s a lot of antiques, some hardware type things, just a combination of everything.”

Baker’s Boutique, 6 Alabama St., is a joint venture of Melody Noyes and Joni Baker Canant. They offer the latest in women’s fashion and accessories, along with a special cupcake and dessert counter.

The one mystery for Lindsey and others in downtown Cave Spring is the Creekside Restaurant building. It’s been through a number of operators in recent years and is on the auction block for Sept. 28. Lindsey said a number of folks who have been really great cooks have tried to open home-style meat and three vegetable-type places, but just haven’t been able to make a go of it. Lindsey suggested the problems range from lack of working capital to lack of actual restaurant management experience.

She suggested that a restaurant with a different menu or theme could potentially do well at the property, which overlooks Cedar Creek. She thinks a sports bar and grill might work, or a place with an Italian or seafood menu might be worth a try.

Linde Marie’s Steakhouse has developed quite a following, Local Joe’s is a relatively new barbecue restaurant that is doing well, while Southern Flavors has a loyal home-style dinner and breakfast base of customers. “Something different would be great,” Lindsey said.

Other businesses, on or just off the square, have also survived over the long haul in Cave Spring. The Tumlin House Bed and Breakfast, Blue Willow Antiques, Cave Spring Antiques, Joe Hill’s Lawnmower, KCs Grocery store and LaCabana Restaurant are also mainstays of the Cave Spring economy.

Cave Spring has also become a major player in the world of leisure and competitive cycling. Events bring hundreds of riders to the town on an increasingly frequent basis. It will be a pit stop on the three-day Bike Ride Across Georgia between Chattanooga and Atlanta on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Lindsey said she learned just last week that Cave Spring would be on the route of a 2,213-mile ride from Houston to Orlando in 2018. It will be the 37th year for the event, sponsored by the Houston Police, and is a fundraiser for leukemia research.

In 2017, the event rode from Houston to Montreal.

Lindsey and Montgomery have each said one of the great aspects of having an economy that is largely dependent on tourism is that people come to town, spend money and then go home without requiring a whole lot of city services. It’s a recipe that seems to be cooking in Cave Spring right now.