Our town: Stone Mountain Village

There’s more to the small town than living in the shadow of a huge granite rock

Octoberfest in Stone Mountain Village

Noon - 6 p.m. today; 1 - 6 p.m. Sunday, Main Street, Stone Mountain

Free admission

Beer tasting: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. today, Village Corner Restaurant, 6655 James B Rivers Memorial Drive; $30

770-498-8984; www.stonemountainvillage.com

Visitors to the village of Stone Mountain this weekend will find the historic community awash with beer, brats and bands. The settlement at the base of the great granite outcropping is a favorite destination for events such as the Octoberfest taking place this weekend.

But the town of about 6,000 residents that marks its 175th anniversary this year is also working to become a destination for businesses and buyers who want to make Stone Mountain their year-round home. Part of that means coming up with ways to create a distinct identity that separates the village from its neighbor, Stone Mountain Park, a major recreational attraction.

“We’re not just that giant, mysterious area people identify as Stone Mountain,” said Mechel McKinley, executive director of the city’s Downtown Development Authority, a post she’s held since March. “We’re a town that gives people the opportunity to live in a small, quaint community where people know each other. As we continue to revitalize the downtown district, more people will be attracted to visiting or moving here.”

A number of positive signs point to the town’s steadily growing popularity, among them four new businesses opening this summer, with another several anticipated by the end of the year. Plans are underway to renovate the vacant train depot that dates back to the late 1890s for community use. And the debut of a farmers market during the summer brought a surge of new traffic into the village.

“The market has been a tremendous win for us,” said McKinley. “The village is in a food desert, but now we have vendors bringing great produce, cheeses, baked goods and more to Main Street from 4 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday. We’re now getting about 250 people who come downtown to do their weekly shopping. “

The village already boasts an active arts community that supports a number of galleries as well as Art Station, a performance venue and educational space. And throughout the year, a number of events draw crowds from across the region.

“We’re trying to do some new things while keeping many of our traditions alive,” said McKinley. “So along with the long-standing, traditional Christmas parade and fireworks show, we’re doing things like a ‘Trunk or Treat’ event on October 28 where people decorate the trunks of their cars, and kids can trick or treat in one place. In May, we had a cemetery tour. In June, we did a children’s festival and community concert that choirs from all our different churches sang in. It’s very important for us as a downtown to have those sorts of family-friendly events.”

Having Stone Mountain Park in the village’s backyard is a great amenity, but it’s not all there is, said McKinley.

“We’re a village that also offers the advantage of living in the metro Atlanta area,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds, and we want more people to discover that.”