Wednesday, July 11, 2012
By The Downtowner
A well known music store is pulling up stakes in downtown Augusta in the wake of the violence that marred this past First Friday celebration. Rock Bottom Music, with its iconic electric guitar sign, has been a fixture downtown for 10 years. Located at 758 Broad St in the Johnson Building, the business primarily sells musical instruments such as guitars and drum sets, as well as accessories like amplifiers and speakers.
Owner, Jonathan Karow, responded on the Augusta Today Facebook group and cited numerous issues for contributing to this decision. Karow mentioned that a co-worker was robbed at gun point on Ellis St, he has had windows broken numerous times, has had a problem with inventory being stolen, and his sign and window frame have bullet holes through them. "If you think I'm jumping ship..... Its because it is 'safer in the water' at this point," Karow wrote on Facebook yesterday.
On his business Facebook page yesterday evening, Karow also explained why his business was leaving downtown, specifically citing the First Friday violence:
"Rock Bottom Music is MOVING out of down town Augusta, GA due to the First Friday shootings, lack of support from property manager, etc. WE ARE HAVING A GIANT MOVING SALE ON ALL INVENTORY! Rock Bottom Music Augusta will reopen in a new location with more lesson space & better parking. Hurry in and SAVE BIG TIME! "
Karow also mentioned difficulty with resolving issues with the property manager for The Johnson Building as another factor contributing to the decision: " the roof leaked a few weeks ago and we (and Furman's Jewelry) lost thousands $$ in inventory. Even worse, we lost some very rare vintage items and Furman's had damage to grandfather clocks! I lost hundreds of personal records including Beatles albums I've had for almost 40 years ."
Karow said that it was difficult to leave his friends downtown but that it was time because it has been "10 years down town with many promises, talk and very little progress... I know who has truly dedicated their time, energy, heart and soul! "
Other businesses have also expressed a frustration in the direction of downtown and wonder how much longer they can stay under current conditions. A recent report in The Augusta Chronicle revealed that the number of businesses downtown decreased by 27% over the last decade.
Bonnie Ruben, who owns thousands of square feet of rental space downtown, says that news like this makes it even more difficult to get space occupied downtown. She says she has tried unsuccessfully to market her properties to potential investors and the kinds of incidents like what occurred this past First Friday are scaring away customers and potential investors.
Other business owners cite an overall lack of direction and leadership for downtown pointing the finger at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). In fact, their frustration with the DDA led to a group of downtown property owners and businesses to re-activate the Downtown Advisory Panel, in order to go around The DDA and directly to Augusta Commissioners with their concerns and recommendations.
But for now, an iconic business is leaving downtown Augusta and many observers wonder if it will be the first of many more.***