Last week, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce announced the Toad Suck Daze Festival would remain in downtown Conway after a group of downtown business owners circulated a petition asking for the festival to be moved.
With the announcement, the Chamber’s Board of Directors implemented a plan to address business owners’ concerns.
Part of the plan includes adding two downtown merchants to the Toad Suck Daze committee.
After the Chamber’s statement was released, two names began circulating among downtown business owners: Colin Stanton and Erik Sward.
Stanton is co-owner of Blue Kite Boutique with wife Marla who spoke in favor of TSD remaining downtown during petition circulation.
Sward is co-owner of Bell & Sward, which is housed in a space on Oak Street owned by TOC Development LLC, incorporated by Chamber President Brad Lacy.
Both businesses opened within the year, and experienced their first TSD in May.
Many business owners were under the impression that the Chamber had already selected the two downtown business representatives.
Lacy said the Chamber has not yet selected anyone for the TSD Committee, but plans to have two people in place “at some point this summer.”
Lacy said Sward and Stanton “are the only two names [the Chamber has] seen at this point,” as both men have expressed an interest in serving on the TSD Committee, but Lacy said the Chamber is interested to see if there are other people who may have an interest in representing downtown business owners.
Stanton said he first found out there would be an opportunity for downtown business owners to serve on the TSD Committee when he read the details of the June 19 Chamber Board meeting in the Log Cabin.
“I have expressed interest in helping the Chamber work with downtown businesses going forward regarding TSD however is needed,” he said.
Sward said he has also expressed an interest in being a part of the TSD Committee.
“I have expressed an interest, but I have not been told or discussed anything formally and to my knowledge, the TSD Committee has not discussed my interest,” he said.
Lacy said the two individuals will need to attend committee and sub-committee meetings, be accessible during the festival weekend and help communicate with other downtown merchants.
“I think the most important piece is talking to potential representatives and going over the time commitment required and making sure they want to give that much time,” Lacy said.
“It is critical that these two individuals be active participants,” he said.
In addition to the two downtown merchant representatives, Lacy said, the Chamber is also working to form another group of downtown retailers who will help to create the “Oak Street Retail Experience” for next year’s festival.
“This group would work to help us target vendors/artists for the area and would help jury that process,” he said.
The Chamber will probably limit the size of the group, Lacy said, but has yet to determine an exact number.
“We will utilize Chamber members only,” Lacy said.
Since the TSD Committee is a branch of the Chamber of Commerce, Lacy said, the committee is governed by the Chamber’s rules, which requires people who serve on a Chamber sanctioned committee to be Chamber members “in good standing.”
“We aren’t ‘penalizing’ anyone for signing the petition,” he said.
The Chamber has not yet set a timeline for downtown merchant nominations, Lacy said, but downtown business owners are welcome to nominate people to serve.
The Chamber has scheduled a meeting for July 21 in which representatives from the Chamber Board and Toad Suck Daze Committee will sit down with downtown business owners to discuss possible solutions to their initial concerns.