What has four block parties, 30-plus musicians, dog park, skateboard demos, local artists and craftsmen, food, boutique shopping and Ron Chane smiling?
The new and improved Fondren After 5, of course.
Always the first Thursdays of each month, the next Fondren After 5 is Sept. 4 and will feature a dog park and the “live” wall painting with a local DJ pumping out music.
For those unfamiliar with one of Jackson’s most historic neighborhoods, Fondren was once considered the suburbs in the early 1900s. Over the years, it has evolved into a progressive business/residential district and a platform for artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and foodies.
Chane, who owns Studio Chane in Fondren and is a tireless promoter of the iconic neighborhood, remains ecstatic by the enthusiasm generated in 2014 for a monthly event that had become almost passé. He opened Studio Chane in 1996 and has witnessed the growth and transformation within Fondren’s confines, including the rebirth of Fondren After 5.
“Fondren After 5 had become a drink that had lost its fizz,” he said. “The last couple of years, the wheels were beginning to come off.”
Enter Chane, a long-time Fondren businessman and competitive skateboarder. Last February, the south Jackson native offered to revamp the Fondren After 5 format after the event had underperformed in past years. With the help and blessing of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation, Chane believes he’s on the right track.
“When I approached the Foundation about reviving After 5, I was willing to go at in a rogue fashion,” he said. “We wanted to make this not so much an event but a humble brand.”
In February, the “new” Fondren After 5 debuted on a rainy evening when the temperature dipped to 29 degrees. Despite the inclement weather, Chane was encouraged.
“We actually attracted a huge crowd that evening and it’s picked up steam from there,” he said. “All the ingredients are here to be successful. Our next step is to take this ‘humble brand’ and turn it into a ‘creative revolution’.”
Preparations for FA5 occupies a lot of his time. Chane estimates that he spends approximately 80 hours a month to put together the Fondren showcase.
“In August, we booked 37 musical acts and we’ll probably have at least 30 or more Sept. 4,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and that’s not counting the 55 hours a week operating Studio Chane. Jackson deserves this event and it’s certainly worth it.”
The city of Jackson has been “totally cooperative”, added Chane.
“I can’t say enough good things about the Jackson Police Department, specifically Commander McGowan and his officers. From police to permits, the city has done an outstanding job in helping make Fondren After 5 a success each month.”
Cindy Hatten Smith, manager of Fondren Art Gallery, said the event has only gotten better since Chane took over last winter, adding that part of the gallery’s contribution to the celebration is giving away mini-prints of owner/artist Richard McKey’s unique watercolor birds.
“(Fondren After 5) has always been lots of fun but the event has really ramped up the past few months,” she said. “We’ve seen more music, more people and more participation. For the Fondren merchants, the event is all about making relationships.”
Smith, who grew up on nearby Meadowbrook Road, says the once-a-month celebration attracts an eclectic crowd to the Fondren streets.
“There’s a broad spectrum of people that come here from around the surrounding communities, from families to students to young professionals,” she said. “Many have only heard about Fondren but then they experience Fondren After 5 and want to return.”
Elise Russell echoes Smith’s sentiments.
“The event has certainly brought out a lot of new people to district,” said Russell, who serves as general manager of soon-to-be-opened wine bar Caet. “Once they get here, they find out how nice it is.”
Using social media has proven invaluable in promoting Fondren After 5. But an old-fashioned flyer campaign in several sister cities surrounding Jackson is equally important, said Chane.
“Word travels fast in the metro area and we’ve flooded the tri-county area with posters and flyers to remind folks from all over about an upcoming Fondren After 5,” he said. “And, on the nights of the event, we leave flyers with redeemable coupons on the cars of people attending that say ‘thank you’ for coming.”
Chane believes the key to FA5’s past and future success is keeping it fresh.
“I like going for the ‘out of box’ experience in Jackson and changing things up each month,” he said. “But we’ll always keep the core element and that’s the charm of Fondren.”
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