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Wed, Aug 20, 2014

Square nightlife grows more popular

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Square nightlife grows more popular | Business,JazzFest,Downtown,Square,Mike Zelenak

Maple Street Uncorked and Maple Street Grill, owned by Mike Zelenak, are part of the reason the downtown nightlife in Murfreesboro is growing. (TMP File Photo.)
When Mike and Debbie Zelenak opened Maple Street Grill more than five years ago, they joined the trend of downtown entertainment.

Over the years, Murfreesboro’s historic Square gained popularity as a hot spot for nightlife – whether for dinner or an after work cocktail.

The downtown area appealed so much to the Zelenaks that they opened a second venue, Maple Street Uncorked, to provide a wine and tapas bar for late-night patrons.

“We’ve always wanted to have a second venue somewhere, but it made sense to have it here because the nightlife is already on the Square,” Mike Zelenak said, adding that the laid back atmosphere caters to a slightly older crowd looking for a place to lounge.

Coupled with long-time staples like Marina’s on the Square and City Café, new restaurants like The Chef Place offer even more variety to the plethora of options. The same goes for retailers – Anastasia’s Boutique and The Attic have joined veterans like Sugarees and Trendy Pieces.

Even On the Rocks, which recently opened near Concert Productions, and Whiskey Dix have added new venue options to the already thriving nightlife entertainment.

Bluesboro has also been a prominent fixture on the Square – taking a couple years off only when the business changed ownership and was renamed Blue Rooster. It, too, has been so successful that it prompted owner Rob Fortney to open 3 Brothers Deli & Brewhouse on the Square with his brother.

Fortney attributes the surge in popularity of the Square to its proximity to nearly everything.

“You’re in the city’s center, so from almost any point in Murfreesboro, it’s the same distance,” he said. “You’re downtown, and I think that’s probably more attractive than anything. And there’s the walkability of the Square. It’s an absolutely beautiful downtown.”

He also pointed to the local aspect of the Square – the business are all owned by neighbors.

“It’s not corporate; these are hometown folks who have put their money in and invested it downtown. Downtown Murfreesboro is about local people trying to be successful. And the money stays here,” Fortney continued.

“It’s always been a gathering point for people to come and meet … we’ve created as much traffic during the night as we have in the day. It’s a downtown business district as well as a downtown entertainment district.”

This is exactly the direction the square needs to be going, according to Kathleen Herzog, director of Main Street: Murfreesboro, a downtown revitalization program.

“One of the goals, and obviously one of the four legs of the stool of all Main Street programs, is economic development, so if you can have these buildings alive 24 hours a day, that’s what we want,” she said.

“In the final phase, we’d like to see more living space available, then you would actually have a 24/7 Square. You’d have people working, office jobs, retailers, restaurateurs, night life, and you’d have residents.”

One example of the residential investment on the Square is the Jones home, which is nearing completion near the corner of Maple and Vine streets.

“That someone is investing that much in downtown Murfreesboro is really a statement about downtown Murfreesboro,” Herzog said. “What we’d really like to see is residential space upstairs … the few apartments upstairs that are available that I’ve been in are just beautiful.”

She added that with career, dining, entertainment, shopping and residential opportunities on the Square, people are traveling to Nashville less and instead, staying local.  MP
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