A little (Bella) Love Revives Cornelius

CORNELIUS, NC (WBTV) - There's no denying that downtown Cornelius could use a lift.

Located along Lake Norman, there are some very tony neighborhoods nearby. But back when Birkdale shopping center was built a few miles away, downtown started to feel desolate.

That, however, is about to change, thanks to a new group of young, passionate people.

Case Warnemund has started an initiative called Bella Love to stir up the soul of Cornelius...to create a strong sense of community there.

"The timing couldn't be more perfect," Warnemund says. "The town is behind us,, the police department. Every business, it's unbelievable really. Everyone is already game."

And, frankly, that's because they need the help. Lavinia Adkins co-owns The Olive Branch, a boutique on Catawba Ave.

"We've tried everything possible to just bring people downtown here," she says, such as riding the so-called shop small wave - that big, country-wide push to promote small businesses. It wasn't enough. To really transform this area, they need a local guru.

"Bella Love is an awesome business that is new to the area," Adkins says, "and they've put enormous effort into getting everybody, all the local businesses, the cupcake place, the KadiFit place, to promote local."

Kadi Dickson owns KadiFit, now called just Kadi, and she's definitely on board, helping Bella Love to organize downtown networking, shopping and artistic events.

"We linked them all into one spot," Dickson says. "It was just like a magnet to everybody around the Lake Norman area who felt like they needed something awesome."

The first gathering - the 'Tawba Walk Art Crawl - attracted over 800 people. Next up, a holiday festival scheduled for Sunday.

"Creating these events, creating some culture, building a vibrant community here is exactly what the local small businesses need," Warnemund says.