Monday, October 20, 2014 · 5:45 a.m.
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Last year, musicians set up outside some Southside businesses during Mainx24, an event that boosts traffic and sales for merchants. The event also brings positive exposure to the evolving Southside. (Photo: Staff)

The Southside’s business community has evolved in the six years since the inception of Mainx24, and local leaders said there is more to celebrate during the annual block party each year.

“It gets bigger because there’s more activity going on,” Ken Hays, Mainx24 co-chair and Southside resident, said. “Each year, there’s something new that’s in the equation.”

When the 24-hour party started, there were 22 events on the list. This year, there are more than 100.

For more information 

To visit the Mainx24 website, which has an event schedule, photos and other information, click here

The year of the first event, there was little more than a fire station. Niedlov’s was on Main Street, and so was CreateHere.

But Hays said many businesses, such as The Crash Pad, Alleia, The Terminal, Craftworks, Mean Mug Coffeehouse, HART Gallery Tennessee, Track 29, DeBarge Winery and the Folk School of Chattanooga have come into the area in recent years, fueling the spirit of collaboration that the event embodies.

Residents and merchants host and plan the events. Food trucks and vendors descend on the area, and many working parts come together into one 24-hour party.

“There are very few neighborhoods in the country that could do what our neighborhood does,” Hays said. 

And there are more businesses planned for the Southside, he said.

Leaders will soon break ground on the relocation of the Center for Integrated Medicine, which will go at the site of the former Discoteca bar.

There is also a grocery store, Enzo’s, in the works on Main Street, and leaders of The Crash Pad are planning a bar and restaurant called The Flying Squirrel next to their Southside hostel.

“In the two years we've been here on Southside, several cool new businesses have popped up,” co-owner of The Crash Pad Dan Rose said via email. “To me, the biggest deal right now is the construction of Enzo's Market, which is a huge missing link that will greatly increase quality of life for area residents.”

Hays estimated that four projects—the medical center, The Flying Squirrel, Enzo’s and the renovated Craftworks Building—are worth more than $20 million in new development for the Southside.

Jay Heavilon, who bought and developed the property where Hart Gallery is and whose wife is the executive director there, said that the event boosts traffic, but there is also value in the attention Mainx24 brings to the Southside.

He still hears people tell him they didn't realize the gallery is on Main Street, even after being open for two years.

But when people do come to the area, they are surprised by all the businesses and by the eclectic, diverse atmosphere, he said.

“We don’t have the notoriety that Frazier Avenue or downtown does,” she said. “Getting people to realize that there is a business district is a bit of a struggle.”

Sheldon Grizzle, co-founder of The Company Lab and who was also involved in CreateHere—which first started Mainx24—echoed the idea that the event gives the area good exposure.

The event draws people who may not otherwise come to the Southside.

There is a chicken-and-egg scenario going on—it’s hard to say whether the event spurred growth or if the business development has made the event bigger. It may be a bit of both, but either way, there is a correlation, leaders said.

“I think [Mainx24] has been a catalyst for the community,” Grizzle said.

Updated @ 8:29 a.m. on 11/28/12 to clarify the number of projects being developed for more than $20 million.

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