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Longing for a place to drink java - Greg Gelpi

What is there to do here?

That is the question I've posed to several people who I have had the pleasure to meet since moving here just three weeks ago.

To my surprise and without fail, young and old alike all answered the same way: Well, Atlanta is just a few minutes away.

Humor me one final time as I compare the town that time forgot, the place I called home prior to my move here, to the city that sits tucked in the shadows of the big city of Atlanta in which I now call home.

Literally, that town has five telephone prefixes, while Jonesboro has three area codes. You can imagine the population difference between the two locations.

With such a disparity in the number of people, I would never venture to think that there is more to do there than here, particularly in downtown.

There mom and pop restaurants and cafes add charm to downtown amongst the usual law offices and businesses.

Meandering through downtown Jonesboro, though, I'm reluctantly coming to terms with what so many have told me.

Wanting to grab a cup of coffee or a quick lunch, downtown turns into a ghost town at lunch as employees pack up and seek nourishment elsewhere and essentially shuts down after business hours.

How many times can a tourist visit the Gone with the Wind Museum, much less how many times can a Clayton County resident visit, without exclaiming in frustration Rhett Butler's famous line?

I wouldn't mind seizing one of the historic looking buildings as my office, but an office is an office and can be put just about anywhere and still function effectively.

A town, though, only has one downtown, and you can't exactly pick it up and move it.

Regular visitors or Clayton residents would never find themselves wandering downtown unless using a government office or in need of legal assistance.

I'm not suggesting a megaplex of flashing neon lights and booming stereo systems. What I am suggesting is something, anything to make Jonesboro's downtown a place that folks can sip a cup of coffee over a book or spat over the latest happenings on their favorite soap opera. Nothing fancy, but often a little can go a long way.

Filling the belly of the big city beast, hard-earned Clayton County wages stream from would-be local merchants to the masses to the north.

With the proximity of so many key government offices and architecturally beautiful buildings, the downtown area begs for a place or places for business people, politicians and regular folks to relax and take a breather.

Maybe there really isn't anything to do here.

Greg Gelpi covers schools and government issues for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.