- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

ANNA, Ill. (AP) - One current trend in business is to move downtown, as documented in a Smart Growth America report in June 2015.

Anna is also seeing this trend.

Along South Main Street, new businesses have opened in the past year. Also, several buildings have been sold, and work is in progress to prepare them for new businesses.

Moury Bass, co-owner of WIBH Radio, knows a little something about doing business in downtown Anna. His father moved to Anna in 1950 and opened a clothing store at 330 S. Main St. Bass took over the clothing store in 1984. In 1997, the clothing store was closed and the radio station opened in the same building.

“The downtown has had its ups and downs,” he said. “It was a really booming downtown in ‘60s and ‘70s. Through the ‘80s and ‘90s things drifted to the east side. The past five or six years people are opening downtown again.”

He credits Brick House Grill and Kiki’s Coffee for bringing people downtown again.

One of the newest businesses in downtown Anna is Jus 10’s Frozen Yogurt and Dessert, which opened Veteran’s Day at 334 S. Main St.

Bryan Miller, who owns the business along with his fiancée, Mary K. Harris, said he would see the number of children walking up and down Main Street and think it would be nice if they had a place to go.

“We really just wanted it to be a safe place for kids to hang out,” Miller said. “I really feel when kids - and even adults - come in at the end of the day, it is a safe, happy place to hang out.”

He said the business climate has been incredible, and the coffee house was one of the couple’s main inspirations. When they first seriously considered opening a business downtown, they sat at Kiki’s and watched the traffic after school. Miller said he counted about 40 children walking downtown. But business is good in the evening, too.

“At nighttime, the amount of cars on the street is impressive. One night, it was full up and down both sides,” Miller said.

Initially, the couple thought they would be flooded with children, but they actually have more adult customers.

“I feel we have really brought something special to downtown,” Miller said. “We definitely found a niche for the street.”

Bass feels like one of the keys to the growth has been preserving the feel of the area.

“Instead of totally modernizing the building, Miller kept some of the old-time feel to the building,” Bass said. “A lot of the businesses have done some minor things to their buildings to make them more appealing.

Others are investing in the downtown, too, like the city and Anna Chamber of Commerce. Miller said that when the city put sidewalks in, it gave the whole street a face-lift.

Bonni Littleton, director of Union County Chamber of Commerce, started just before Halloween.

“My goal while I am here is to perk up some of the businesses,” Littleton said.

“The want-to is there to bring it back. Where a whole lot of people are giving up on their downtown, our business owners want to bring it back,” Bass said.

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Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/2hTPSYc

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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