Closed Businesses and Fires May Have 'Ripple Effect'

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Two of five Front Street businesses damaged by fires this weekend are open again, but some are concerned the remaining closed signs will have widespread effects.

"When there's a fire or a flood, or anything that impacts one business, it does ripple to the others," said Charlotte Keim, President of the Marietta Chamber of Commerce. "Not as many customers will come when they know there's a section of that business community on that street that's closed for the day."

Jeri Knowlton, Executive Director of the Marietta/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau acknowledges there is potential for that to happen.

"[But] what I would like to encourage is as Mariettans and Washington County residents and even the Mid-Ohio Valley as a whole, we need to come out and support these businesses."

It's something she thinks locals will do because they consider Front Street store owners friends and neighbors.

As far as general tourism goes- both women hope the remaining stores will reopen before the annual influx of tourists- usually in spring.

Two of the remaining three shuttered shops say they'll be up and running again soon.

But what about new businesses' attraction to the area?

"If this were the very first break in and arson, I think people would say, okay, it happens, it happens in every place."

But, it's not. Two years ago, the Wine Cellars fell victim to the same crimes Austyn's did Sunday morning, and in 2003, a fire set on Front Street's two hundred block damaged three businesses there.

"I think that the criminals are seeing this as an easy mark," said Keim. "They should not."

The arsonists were caught in both of the last decade's Front Street Fires.

Keim believes that will deter future criminals and keep a pattern- one that would potentially scare businesses away- from forming.

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