By Kristi Kates
Barrios, quarters, districts, arrondissements, neighborhoods. No
matter what you call them or what geographic location youre in,
chances are if youre reading this, youre part of a neighborhood in
your own community.
While some neighborhoods are planned far in advance and others simply
evolve, others are crafted as an answer to a communitys need. Such is
the new SoBo locale in Boyne City.
Lake Street Markets Liz Glass and Cindi Malin of CindiFrancos Cool
Stuff are considered the founders of SoBo, which at first was
conceived as a marketing idea to put focus on the south end of Boynes
downtown area and give the area its own identity.
The original concept was SoBo Transition (a play on the word
Transit), Cindi Malin explains, helping people to make the
transition from Water Street onto Lake Street in downtown Boyne, to
show that there is more to Boyne City than previously thought.
As the region quickly grew, Freshwater Studio, Lake Street Market, 220
Lake Street, a range of new galleries that sprung up in 2009, and the
BAC (Boyne Arts Collective) helped SoBo grow, too, as Freshwater
Studios Robin Lee Berry points out.
We officially became SoBo The Arts District, says Berry, who runs
Freshwater Studio with her husband, artist Anthony Williams.
All that remained was a logo for the new neighborhood - which ended up
being an adaptation of the New York subway station logo, perhaps
befitting the additional borrowing of New Yorks SoHo neighborhood
name. Malin - who briefly lived in New York - says that the SoBo name
is also partially cribbed from a West Coast community.
It was Liz (Glass) who conceptualized the logo, she explains, but
it can also be a takeoff of SoDo in Seattle, which stands for south
of downtown. Boyne has a great downtown, and SoBo has successfully
expanded it - as for the logo itself - well, it just worked, and gave
us more of an urban feeling. The colors are great too.
SOBO FOR EVERYONE
While the concept of SoBo may at first sound exclusive or cliquey,
Malin and Berry say that its precisely the opposite. They - along
with Glass - explain that theres no official membership to SoBo;
instead, they want the artsy SoBo region to be just as much a part of
Boyne City as any other part, a blending of neighborhoods as opposed
to a segregation.
We arent trying to segregate anyone, Malin emphasizes, Boynes
downtown is bigger than most people realize. SoBo exists to bring
attention to the off-the-beaten-path part of downtown Boyne. For
years, there was a long, dark stretch of empty facades on Lake Street,
but with the opening of Freshwater Studios and the BAC, we have seen
increased traffic in this area. Again this year, I have had dozens of
people through my shop asking how long we had been open - and they
were surprised when I answered eleven years!
Our hope, Berry adds, is to highlight a district of focused art,
entertainment, dining, and shopping that has historically not gained
attention - but we do not wish to separate this area from our friendly
People have been really supportive, Malin says, if we grow
downtown, then everyone benefits - its the if you build it, they
will come concept.
NEW AND IMPROVED
As Boyne City continues to enjoy an upswing, the SoBo strategy is
being credited for helping revitalize the town as more shops and
artistic ventures fill up the previously empty spaces.
We have gotten a lot of media coverage throughout the state, Malin
says, so people are excited to visit. We have several new businesses
in town this year, too; the B.B.Q. (formerly Lesters) re-opened,
Imagine Music and Art Supply has joined Sweetgrass Framing, the BAC
has expanded their hours, and Freshwater Studios filled a formerly
vacant building after 30 years and brought over 95 local artists
works into the mix. CindiFrancos and Lake Street Market freshened
their exteriors, and we even have a Pocket Park.
Music is part of the SoBo mix, too, most notably via the first SoBo
Arts Festival (July 25-26 2010) which featured the likes of Chris
Bickleys Bay Area Big Band alongside an art fair, author signings,
mimes, and even more music on the streets. SoBo plans to continue that
momentum this winter with more live music events.
The addition of a concert venue at Freshwater was particularly
enjoyed during the winter months last year as an edifying experience,
Berry says. And it also created a comfortable social gathering in
SoBo. The plan is to feature six concerts in the winter of 2010-2011.
Things are looking good for both Boyne City and SoBo as 2010 passes
the halfway mark and SoBo itself heads towards the end of its first
year. The combined enthusiasms of Malin, Glass, Berry, and Williams -
along with the many other people that have been working towards
publicizing and sharing the word about SoBo - are perhaps the biggest
part of SoBos success, and their dedication ensures that SoBo will
continue to grow and support the rest of downtown Boyne City.
The press that Sobo has gained in its first year of promotions has
turned the lights on for businesses in other communities that Boyne is
a very desirable and lucrative business opportunity, Berry says. We
offer extended shopping hours, small town appeal, a shoreline thats
available to the public for comfortable walking and sunset viewing,
plus great hiking and biking and camping as well as the largest inner
city park in the whole state of Michigan.
A plethora of restaurants and the new One Water complex also add to
downtown Boynes appeal, as do SoBos own plans for the rest of the
year, which will kick off by saying goodbye to summer.
We have our Dancin in the Streets event scheduled for the last
Thursday of August, Malin says, The SunDogs are a popular crowd
favorite and will be playing a wide range of dancing tunes; well
grill corn, and some shops will set up tents to bring their shop into
Freshwater Studios, as mentioned above, plans to expand their concert
offerings as well, and many of the other participating businesses have
their own artsy agendas - but for the most part, Berry explains, the
residents of SoBo plan to focus mostly on one specific factor of what
the SoBo revitalization has brought to the downtown area.
Well just be here enjoying the traffic! Berry says
The SoBo Arts District is located in downtown Boyne City near Lake
Charlevoix on the south end of town on South Lake Street between Water
and Pine Streets. For more info, visit www.soboartsdistrict.org