Constance Ruppender has conquered art. Now, she’s got her sights set on tourism.
Ruppender, founder of Art Gallery 21, located inside the Woman’s Club of Wilton Manors, wants to turn a portion of that building into a visitor’s center for the city.
She estimated it will be open by October and offer an “environment for people to come in and find out about Wilton Manors and what we have to offer. Hopefully, we’ll create a sense of place for people to visiting Wilton Manors.”
The visitor’s center, she said, will also improve the art gallery by allowing it to be open longer through a possible mix of volunteers and paid staff. “We have to sustain the visitor’s center, too.”
The details still need to be worked out but she thinks at least some of the funding will come from allowing business, bar and restaurant owners to pay to place pamphlets, menus and other promotional materials inside the center. Inclusion on a map of the city is also a possibility.
Business owner Nick Berry suggested the idea.
“Maybe it will drive tourists to go check out the businesses. It can’t hurt the business economy. It can only help the business economy,” Berry said. He said that people have wanted to create a visitor’s center but in their own businesses. Berry said the only way the idea could work was if it was in a city-owned property.
As the owner of Ed Lugo Resort, one of the most popular places for tourists to stay in the city, Ed Lugo does as much as he can to promote bars, restaurants and shops for his guests to patronize while they’re in town. He likes the idea of a visitor’s center but says the city needs to do more to attract tourists, including more festivals in addition to Stonewall and Halloween.
“The city can promote a lot of things we don’t promote.”