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Jax Pack: Downtown merchants on a mission
From left, Jay Harris, Jennifer O’Donnell and David Vincent. Harris and O’Donnell are founding members of the Jax Pack Downtown Merchants Association. Vincent works Downtown and is a member of the group.
The Jax Pack Downtown Merchants Association marked 11 months in existence with an open meeting Tuesday at The Carling.

Two of the founding members looked back on where the organization started and where it will be on its first anniversary.

"The organization is finding itself and establishing its vision. We were a group of people who came together with diverse perceptions, so we've been finding out what needs to be done and what we can do to get it done," said Jay Harris, owner of Strght & Nrrw Clothing Boutique and second chair of Jax Pack's board of directors.

The group is incorporated as a 501(c)6 nonprofit corporation and has adopted a mission statement:

"Jax Pack is a voice and resource for existing and potential business owners in Downtown Jacksonville. Jax Pack's mission is to build a strong and vibrant Downtown. We promote business opportunities for our members, provide a helping hand to new businesses in the core and support the growth of a residential population of our neighborhood by sharing our knowledge and resources."

Jennifer O'Donnell, manager of Chamblin's Uptown Bookstore and Cafe, chairs Jax Pack's board. She said while the members know the urban core is ready for development and growth, accomplishing the organization's mission won't happen overnight.

"We're looking at the long term. We want people to recognize there is a community of merchants Downtown. The association gives all of us the ability to reach out and get help if we need it."

Jax Pack is not a meeting-driven group. The members have businesses to run, so most communication is through social media, emails and text messages.

"One of the challenges we found was having time for meetings and still having time to sustain our businesses. I have a few volunteers who help out at the store, but I'm basically a one-man band," said Harris.

The membership includes retailers, restaurant and bar owners, attorneys and other professionals and artists.

"Jax Pack membership is open to anyone. If you're in business Downtown, you're invited to join," said O'Donnell.

Having a voice in decisions that affect business Downtown is an important element of Jax Pack's mission, O'Donnell said. The organization supports legislation to streamline the city's process for permitting events Downtown.

"It should have been done years ago. We've made enough noise for City Hall to understand we need to be included in decisions," she said.

Ordinance 2013-695, which would amend the city regulations for permits, responsibility and insurance requirements for the Special Events and Entertainment District, is the first step, but more is needed, said O'Donnell.

For information about the association, call (904) 416-4770 or "Like" Jax Pack Downtown Merchants on Facebook.com.

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