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JFK Assassination Museum Beckons With Lattes, Wi-Fi

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JFK Assassination Museum Beckons With Lattes, Wi-Fi

Updated: July 22, 2010

AOL. News

[click on link to view photos]


By Linda Jones Contributor

DALLAS (July 22) -- Having spent her high school years in Dallas, Nausheen Ahmed is no stranger to the city's historic landmarks, including Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

But she never had any interest in visiting that popular sightseeing stop until after she had moved away to New Jersey and returned years later with her four children to attend a relative's wedding.

"I just took the place for granted when I lived here," Ahmed said recently during a break from taking her children on a tour of the Sixth Floor Museum, the repository of documents and artifacts from the Kennedy era. "Now that I'm a tourist, I'm acting like one."

Ahmed's story represents a conundrum that museum officials have long faced: With 325,000 visitors annually, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is the most popular tourist attraction in Dallas, yet it's often overlooked by locals. Less than a third of its visitors, in fact, are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The cafe at the Museum Store and Cafe, across the street from the Sixth Floor Museum, a repository of documents and artifacts from the Kennedy era, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, offers coffee, snacks and Wi-Fi.

Now, officials are seeking to remedy the landmark's relative obscurity among natives by luring them with a new store and coffee shop right across the street.

Opened on July 1, the Museum Store and Cafe represents a "strategic opportunity" to increase the visibility of the historic site, said Liza Denton, director of public relations.

"We believed this corner location, with commanding views of Dealey Plaza, would increase visitors' overall engagement to the museum and historic site," she said, "as well as attract those who live and work downtown."

Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, as his presidential motorcade traveled past the former Texas School Book Depository Building, which is now owned and operated by the Dallas County Historical Foundation, a private nonprofit. The museum is housed on the building's two upper floors.

Across the street, the new store and cafe -- outfitted with contemporary, loftlike decor -- is already receiving a steady stream of traffic and positive responses from the local community, with many residents paying return visits, Denton said.

Tourists sit in front of the grassy knoll on March 13 beside the former Texas School Book Depository Building, right, at Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Like the shop inside the museum itself, the store here is stocked with 1960s-themed merchandise, such as reproductions of Jacqueline Kennedy's three-strand pearl necklaces, as well as books and souvenirs. It also has a variety of items from local artisans that make statements about Dallas today, including jewelry and handbags.

Visitors can refuel with gourmet coffee, sandwiches and pastries at the cafe, which also aims to lure local workers with pre-ordered boxed lunches. Organizers hope that the cafe's free Wi-Fi will further draw in residents, and that the large wall screen showing continuous Kennedy film footage and photos will compel locals and visitors alike to settle in for a while.

"We want our guests to feel inspired from the moment they walk through the door," Denton said.

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