BRISTOL, Tenn./Va. - It's great to see thousands of people flood downtown Bristol during Family Race Night, but how does this affect downtown businesses?
The event, a local tradition for more than 20 years, is geared towards NASCAR fans and ringing the masses to downtown to enjoy some of what Bristol has to offer, maybe even getting to meet a driver or two in the process.
You would think that having as many as 50,000 people downtown would mean a huge boost to area business, but for some the jury is still out.
Mark Canty owns Eatz on Moore Street. "We deal mostly with our regulars who come down here looking for us downtown. They give away so many free samples and folks will stand in line for 45 minutes for a chicken wing, but our regular customers will come down and eat," he told us.
So while Eatz might not see a huge boost in business, Canty does appreciate the long-term effect race weekend has. "We like the impact that it has for downtown, the exposure that it gives us, the dollars that it brings down here and just the overall atmosphere," he said.
That's exactly what Believe In Bristol director Christina Blevins says the downtown area needs. "The people come down here for Food City Race Night, they get introduced to what we have here in Bristol. This event may not be all about the shops, but we're hoping they enjoy coming to Bristol enough that they'll come back and support the local economy," she said.
Because Food City Race Night brings a crowd to state street that downtown businesses usually don't see, some stores don't know what to expect for their bottom line; but they do know race events are part of doing business.
"That's just an opportunity to be part of the neighborhood of Bristol," said Barbara Miller, owner of Pretty Girl Station. "If we're going to be part of this area then we have to participate in these events."
But other shops who have been in downtown for a while, like Uncle Sam's Loan Office, look forward to Food City Race Night. "We do see a little bit of a boost this weekend," said owner Jacob Stufflestreet. "I think it's partially due to the sale, and just all the people we see in downtown."
Our crews did notice one thing today -- not all downtown businesses are open. The ones that are open are having some sort of sale, whether store-wide or inventory out on the sidewalk.
Just about all business owners are trying to take advantage of the massive crowds.