HELENA - AL -
Tracy Robbins and her sister, Kim McCoy, brought the idea of a First Friday celebration from their days in Florida. Businesses would stay open late on the first Friday of every month. Vendors and food trucks lined the street./ Music and art are brought in. Residents are invited to enjoy it all.
"It was fun. We got great compliments. The city loved us. They supported us, gave us police officers, and trash pick up and all that good stuff," said Tracy Robbins. Her sister hoped that successful First Friday events would help generate foot traffic to her children's clothing store, "Tougie Baby." The store was not profitable, and Kim McCoy closed the store.
Robbins says former "partner" Alan Farmer pulled out in December 2013, long before her store closed. In a letter to the pair, Farmer wrote that several businesses are not pleased that the organizers were not "licensed nor insured, are not reporting revenues nor paying taxes to the city as we do."
Robbins says at no point was she notified about the city's policy that they were required to run a business in Helena in order to be authorized to run a business-generating event in Helena. "If the City did in fact have any concerns, had they informed us, we would have done what we had to in order to satisfy the City, without question. Yet, we were never informed of any issues."
Bob Van Loan, the Helena Business Association President indicated the HBA took over the event but was willing to do so, only if Robbins' organization no longer wanted to run it. "Trust me, we have enough balls in the air already! It's your gig until you decide otherwise," he wrote to her on May 19th, 2014.
Helena Mayor Mark Hall said, "the organizers were no longer licensed to do business in the City, so the Business Association then picked up the event, and are now sponsoring that event."
In November, 2013, as many as 75 vendors were represented at First Friday events. Friday, June 6th event has just a couple of dozen vendors signed up.
Robbins said, "They just took our idea. They staged a take-over."