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Get Yourself to Downtown Oly Every First Friday

by Roxanne Lane, 12/2/09

What’s with all this buzz going around about First Friday? Well if you haven’t heard of it, then you’re truly missing out. First Friday is a monthly community-building event that is sure to leave you grinning.

First Friday was created as a means of promoting locally owned downtown businesses by extending the business hours of participating stores once a month and inviting the public in to ‘taste what downtown has to offer’; perhaps with a small in-store event. However, as anyone who has experienced a First Friday first hand knows, it has become so much more.

Working in downtown Olympia, I see more smiles and more community interaction on First Friday than I do any other day of the month. The amount of business traffic in the store I work in is amazing, and everyone is happy and excited to be out ‘after hours’. But it’s about more than staying open to sell more crap.
It’s about bringing our fellow Olympians together to enjoy each other, their city, and their families by experiencing downtown through a series of safe and welcoming events and environments.

First Friday began in December of 2007 at the hands of business owners Mathias and Trixy Eichler. “We love our community and wanted to create an event to invite the community to experience downtown at night,” said Mathias. First Fridays have been successful across the country and the Eichlers were “surprised that Olympia didn’t have such an event.”

“My initial intention was to market my business through experiences, rather than discounts or sales or big ads somewhere.” The point was to make things better for everyone and to bridge the gap, so to speak, between the general public and the people behind the counters. “I wanted to create a more urban downtown, where you can come and have dinner and browse around a bit in the evening by redefining hospitality, engaging, and connecting with the community,” said Mathias.

The community response has been fantastic and the list of participating businesses changes and grows each month. Customers come down to shop and mingle, and enjoy the safe spaces that have been created for them and their families.

“People love hanging out with us. We chat, we connect, we let the kids run around the store…” said Mathias, and the customers love it.

So what can you expect from First Friday? Artist receptions, live music, great promotions, creative events, local produce, and fun holiday-oriented events have all been part of past First Fridays. You can expect to have fun, connect with your neighbors, and enjoy all of your favorite shops, galleries, and restaurants all evening long.

“All my life I want to inspire with everything I do,” said Mathias. Inspiring everyone around him to be happy, enjoy each other, think positively, and look for beauty in every aspect of life has always been “at the core of everything I do.”

First Friday will hopefully go beyond inspiring joy and unity. By showing people that the downtown population can be family friendly and community oriented, it is possible that the way the average person views downtown may be reshaped.

Might people start to see downtown as a safer environment because of First Friday? Mathias certainly hopes it will!

“It’s not big like Artswalk, but it is more intimate, more meaningful. I wanted to invite everyone, not just artists, for conversation, food, and fun. First Friday for us at einmaleins is bigger than Artswalk. It’s great to be able to invite our customers down to the store to engage, build community and share life,” instead of with a big ‘SALE’ sign, Mathias said.

It is a wonderful thing to see people smiling and laughing, participating in silly events like the Pumpkin Pie Contest that was held at einmaleins for First Friday November. It is plain to see that First Friday has inspired people in many different ways. It’s more than a sale, it’s more than playing games; it’s an eye-opener to what is actually important, each other, and a distraction from the things that stress us out in day to day life.
Let’s bring the community together to “break bread, share a meal, enjoy each other, and the city that we live in as a way of giving back to this awesome town.”
If you would like to participate in an upcoming First Friday, contact Mathias Eichler at (360) 539–6175, or swing into einmaleins, located on the corner of Washington St. and State Ave. in downtown Olympia. ◙

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