Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses Shape Athens Economy

From coffee beans and beer to original art and gourmet pet treats, Athens is chock full of thriving, local, homegrown businesses.

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On Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 05:53

From coffee beans and beer to original art and gourmet pet treats, Athens is chock full of thriving, local, homegrown businesses.

People in Athens just seem to have a can-do attitude when it comes to starting small businesses. And these small, locally owned businesses can have a big impact on the economy through job and wealth creation.

With the folks at the Georgia Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia providing “expertise for entrepreneurs,” it’s no wonder that so many small Athens businesses have gone on to big successes. Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting Company, which opened its first shop in Athens in 1994, now has nine locations in the southeast and its products are sold in Whole Food Markets. And the beers of Terrapin Brewery, which only opened in 2002, have won national and international top honors for their pale and golden ales, which are also sold throughout the region.

There are plenty of places around town to sample the local wares. In fact, Athens was named one of the Five Greatest Unsung Shopping Locations in the country by Lucky magazine. Downtown, Five Points and Prince Avenue/Normaltown all have numerous unique, independent shops that attract residents and tourists alike, and a built-in customer base of University of Georgia students keeps the city’s shopping areas hopping.

Many American downtowns could more appropriately be called ghost towns these days, but not so in Athens. The pulsating downtown is alive with restaurants, entertainment venues and 65 unique shops, including Masada Leather, Sunshine Cycles and Good Dirt Pottery Studio. In Five Points, shops such as Slippers, which sells accessories, and Homeplace, which offers décor, help make this area the go-to place for serious shoppers.