Written by Arkansas Real Estate
- Published in Northwest Arkansas Downtown Culture
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Downtown Bentonville Inc's logo affixed to their office located at SW A Street
It was not long ago that Downtown Bentonville, Arkansas and particularly the Downtown Bentonville Square, was just a quiet neighborhood where one could go and have a leisurely walk without much to do. My, how times have changed. Today the Downtown Bentonville area and the Bentonville Square are vibrant and have become points of destination for many that want great entertainment, good food, and a variety of activities throughout the year. Much of this change came as a result of the magnificent Crystal Bridges of American Art. However one organization which has contributed tremendously to the success of Downtown Bentonville and Square area, is Downtown Bentonville, Inc. or as many refer to is DBI.
Before many people wake up Friday mornings the DBI Team has been hard at work preparing the square for First Friday.
We wanted to know about DBI so we spoke to Monica Kumar, DBI Executive Director, who along with her extremely capable and dedicated staff, has worked hard to make DBI a tremendous success. Monica and her staff are the people behind the scenes that put together activities that both locals and visitors have come to expect in the Downtown Bentonville. Monica informed us that DBI actually began as part of the Main Street Organization which preserves the histories of local downtowns. About six years ago it was decided that the DBI would be formed to find ways to bring entertainment to the area and encourage business growth. At that time Daniel Hintz, with prior expertise in revitalizing downtowns, was hired as DBI Executive Director. Hintz is credited with initiating the First Friday events and establishing a relationship with the James Beard Foundation with the goal of bringing experienced chefs and restaurants to the area. And then there was the Crystal Bridges Museum………. The opening of the museum was the game changer and, according to Monica, really changed the caliber of events in downtown Bentonville.
Executive Director Monica Kumar helps unload tables on the square. On First Fridays it is "all hands on deck."
DBI is a nonprofit organization in charge organizing events at First Friday. First Friday events (held the first Friday of every month from April through November) require coordinating with vendors, food trucks, entertainment, traffic rerouting, among many other necessities. The DBI staff plans all of this several months in advance and on the day of the event they get to work at 5:00 AM. Funding for DBI comes from Visit Bentonville and the Chamber of Commerce. All of these organizations realize the tremendous value in increasing the tourism dollars to this area.
Corprate sponsers such as BOOMCHICKAPOP. (pictured above) help fund DBI's Downtown events.
Additional funding and sponsorships come from Wal-Mart and corporate sponsors. Since this is the home of Wal-Mart many of these corporations realize that becoming involved with DBI and its activities is a very positive way to further their own relationship with Wal-Mart.
Hundreds of NWA residents flock to the Bentonville Square to experience First Friday thanks to DBI's efforts.
As for Monica Kumar, she was not looking to get the job as DBI Executive Director, rather, the job found her. A lawyer by profession, whose background was with human rights law and how community development affects its members, made her a natural to lead the DBI. A DBI board member recognized her aptitude for this position and the rest, as they say, is history. Currently there are eight staff members at DBI. The hope is to get additional funding to expand the number of events. The DBI does have a board comprised of business and community leaders. The DBI Board reviews all programs at the beginning of each year. Furthermore DBI has a list of 200 members from the business community and many non profit members as well. This list is ever growing. The Downtown Bentonville area has seen tremendous change and growth in the past several years due to many factors including the opening of Crystal Bridges and many new businesses in the area. Added to that success is the hard work of Downtown Bentonville Inc, and its staff and director Monica Kumar.
To learn more about Downtown Bentonville Inc visit their website: http://www.downtownbentonville.org/
Also check out more pictures from First Friday below!