VMS 2014 Summer Toolkit: At a glance

On July 15-16, Main Street organizations and community organizations gathered in Farmville, Virginia to learn more about how they could attract and support local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Training kicked off with a panel discussion with local business owners in Farmville: Caryn’s Bridal, Sandy River Retreat and Charley’s Waterfront Cafe. They shared valuable insight with the group into the passion, pleasure, and sometimes, frustration of local small business owners that really set the tone for the remaining training.

The group heard from resource partners, such as the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (DSBSD), Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) about opportunities they have to assist existing business owners or new start-ups. Throughout, participants heard what they, as a community, can do to support new business through mentorship programs, community incentives, creative financing and connecting businesses to each other and regional opportunities.

Outside of training, the participants were able enjoy the Robert Russa Moton Museum, High Bridge Trail State Park and wonderful eateries and shops in Downtown Farmville.

All training presentations and materials can be located on VMS’s Archive Training materials found here.

Virginia Main Street grants available

Henry Hotel (Uptown Martinsville)

The Virginia Main Street program has two grant opportunities available for designated communities. These applications are due by August 29, 2014. Applications must be submitted in CAMS.

Downtown Investment Grants (DIG) will help local Main Street organizations accelerate the economic revitalization of their historic commercial districts by allowing them to implement innovative strategies, plans and programs that boost and accelerate private investment on Main Street.

Downtown Investment Grants are not capped, but grant awards will not typically exceed $45,000. DIGs help Main Street organizations implement projects that:
1. Facilitate innovative means of encouraging private investment that result in measurable economic improvement in the Main Street district;
2. Directly support the community’s vision for encouraging the private investment necessary for the economic revitalization of the Main Street district;
3. Align with the Main Street organization’s mission and the board’s strategic planning goals for the Main Street district; and,
4. Develop volunteer leadership, capacity and expertise in the Main Street organization.

Financial Feasibility Grants of generally up to $25,000 are available to help Main Street organizations implement projects that:

1. Work with owners of “white elephant” buildings to identify the highest and best use of such properties;
2. Develop sufficient information to allow the owner or Main Street organization to “shop” the rehabilitation and reuse of the property to private developers and investors; and,
3. Fund development of preliminary engineering reports, preliminary architecture reports, market demand studies for an identified highest and best-use and gap-financing research.

The grant funds are not to be used for continuing operations, program administration, payroll, debts or any other operational expenses.  The funds are for use in projects directly benefiting the Virginia Main Street community, with a preference to projects involving multiple partners, and they cannot be used to cover marketing and printing costs.

All projects must provide a minimum of one-to-one leverage, in which in-kind volunteer hours can be counted. Projects must be completed no later than June 1, 2015.

Celebrate American Craft Week in your community and promote your local economy

The Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV) and ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network (RTM) are partnering with the support of the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) to celebrate American Craft Week on Oct. 3-12.

During American Craft Week, arts-and-craft-related events from throughout the commonwealth will be promoted in a robust and coordinated fashion on www.virginia.orgwww.americancraftweek.com, www.artisanscenterofvirginia.org, www.myswva.org and www.roundthemountain.org. The websites will feature local and regional events and the events of member businesses and trail-supporting hospitality businesses. Promotion of events is free for all ACV and RTM members.

So, how can businesses in your community participate?

  • Encourage businesses to have craft artisan exhibits or openings.
  • Virginia artisan craft- and agritourism-related businesses become a member of ACV or RTM, and promote your activities on the website. (Membership is inexpensive and a great value with many additional benefits. Participation in this strategy is just one.)
  • Open the doors of your community’s artisan trail in a tour. If you do not have a trail yet, you can still do this. Start with the willing businesses and a simple listing of open hours and addresses.
  • Have an artisan exhibit or demo in your local visitor’s center.
  • Include a wine tasting in an existing event (artisan includes agri-artisan).
  • Host a conversation of related businesses to help them plan an artist walk, crawl or afterhours event.

There are lots of opportunities, and if your community has not yet explored the strategies of the artisan craft and craft food movements, now is the perfect time.

For strategic guidance and good conversation on strengthening your local craft economy, contact:

South Boston project wins Virginia Main Street Special Achievement Award and VDDA Award of Excellence

Rehab Development, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based developer specializing in downtown Main Street revitalization, historic preservation and successful public/private partnership formation, in partnership with Destination Downtown South Boston, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer-based Virginia Main Street Organization dedicated to the economic and cultural revitalization of downtown South Boston, has won the 2014 Virginia Main Street Special Achievement Award and the 2014 Virginia Downtown Development Association Award of Excellence for the New Brick Historic Lofts project.

We are so excited that this project received statewide recognition. Finding a developer like Rehab Development was a dream come true, as they shared our desire to preserve a piece of heritage unique and authentic to South Boston. We got to preserve the building plus get market-rate apartments in downtown. This project is a shining example of how our small community is restructuring its downtown economy for the 21st century. — Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston

New Brick Historic Lofts’ heavy timbers, vaulted ceilings, abundant skylights and hardwood floors are brilliantly contrasted with modern design to provide high-end living spaces for its residents. Located at 701 Jefferson Avenue in the heart of downtown South Boston, the historic tobacco warehouse features 27 apartments for lease, including both one- and two-bedroom loft units.

“We are extremely grateful to both Virginia Main Street and Virginia Downtown Development Association for the wonderful recognition of our New Brick Historic Lofts project,” said Patrick Reilly, principal at Rehab Development.  “We would also like to thank Destination Downtown South Boston and the town of South Boston for their vision and support. Their hard work and commitment helped save this beautiful historic landmark, which has once again become a tremendous asset to downtown South Boston and the greater Halifax County community.”

Recently restored by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Rehab Builders Inc., the lofts boast large windows, designs that take advantage of the 17-plus-foot ceilings, exposed heavy timber truss system, beautiful hardwood floors, historic brick, granite countertops, ceramic tile backsplashes, energy-efficient stainless steel appliances, energy-efficient heating/air units, washer/dryer hookups, extra locked storage space, gym, community laundry room and more!

 All-inclusive, furnished units are now available.  More information about the lofts can be found at www.newbrickhistoriclofts.com 

Culpeper Renaissance Inc. hosts free seminar for historic property owners

culpeper buildingCulpeper Renaissance Inc. (CRI) and Culpeper Architectural Review Board (ARB) hosted a free seminar entitled Tips to Maintain Your Old Building on June 25.

The goal of the seminar is to provide owners of historic homes and buildings with a basic knowledge of issues related to restoring and preserving their investment.  Culpeper Renaissance Inc. maintains its strong commitment to providing tools and knowledge to businesses and property owners to enable them to prosper and contribute to Culpeper’s economic vitality.” — Chris Martin, Chair of the Culpeper Renaissance Inc. Economic Restructuring Committee

Kathleen Frazier, principal of Frazier Associates, presented Maintenance of Downtown Buildings.  Frazier has extensive experience in historic preservation and is familiar with historic tax credit funding mechanisms. She currently oversees the design services for the Virginia Main Street Program, and she is an affiliate of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center.

Christopher Hamilton presented Understanding Old Brick and Mortar, with a brick care demonstration.  Hamilton is a class-A contractor specializing in older buildings. He also is a committee member of the CRI economic restructuring committee, member of the State Theatre board of directors and chair of the ARB.

Michael Lysczek presented Understanding the Role of the Architectural Review Board in Maintenance, Preservation and revitalization. Lysczek is the owner of Michael Lysczek Architect and board member of the town of Culpeper architectural review board.

Kelsey Carlson, president of Culpeper Renaissance Inc., discussed services that are offered to downtown property owners through Culpeper Renaissance Inc.

Supporting business development in Gloucester

** Guest blogger Margie Johnson, Shop Talk

In recognition of Virginia’s Business Appreciation Month, I would like to share a little bit about how the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust, an affiliate of Virginia Main Street, supports and strengthens local Main Street businesses. Throughout the last three years, the trust, under the leadership of Executive Director Jenny Crittenden, has worked closely with Shop Talk to implement creative ways to develop and maintain a strong business community along Gloucester’s Main Street.

It has been very rewarding to reflect on the success of Gloucester’s business support initiatives. I am especially pleased by the new momentum for business development along Gloucester’s Main Street, the increasing sales that local businesses are achieving, the positive outcomes of one-on-one consulting and the creation of an active restaurant cluster that has brought restaurant owners together as a cohesive group.

Gloucester Main Street merchants and restaurants have been very responsive to the assistance that has been provided to them. A series of quarterly group/cluster education sessions have been implemented and very well attended. Workshop topics have included:

  • Winning Strategies for Uncertain Times
  • Retail Realities and Trends
  • Creating Visual Magic on Main
  • Low Budget, High Impact Marketing Strategies
  • Let’s Get Social (online marketing exchange)
  • At Your Service for Restaurants
  • Managing Your Restaurants Momentum
  • Is 2013 Your Year for Plan B?

These sessions have created a sense of engagement that has spread throughout the business community. These initiatives have helped to create a more informed and active group of business owners working together, not just for their own success, but also for the overall success of Gloucester Main Street.

Shop Talk also helped the trust develop an interior visual merchandising grant program, the only such grant program in the Virginia Main Street community, and it has worked with local businesses to maximize their visual appeal and even helped design new stores in the Main Street district.

Contracting with Shop Talk Inc. and Margie Johnson, throughout the last three years, along with our façade grant program, interior grant program, beautification efforts, multiple plans developed for the downtown, and continued marketing efforts, the Main Street Preservation Trust has created the ultimate recruitment tool. We are able to offer an unparalleled support system to new businesses and those already located on our Main Street.  We believe that this support system has led to a very low vacancy along our Main Street and gives our businesses the upper hand in dealing with an ever-changing economy.” — Jenny Crittenden, Executive Director, Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust

Shop Talk has enjoyed being a strategic partner in the development and support of Gloucester Main Street’s business community, and we look forward to the continued growth and success of Gloucester’s beautiful and unique Main Street district.

Virginia Main Street Summer Toolkit


July 16-17, 2014

Charley’s Waterfront Café
201 Mill Street
Farmville, Virginia

At the core of any downtown revitalization effort is understanding the need for unique and local shopping and dining opportunities, which are owned by local entrepreneurs. Often times, these business owners and potential business owners need encouragement, support and assistance to make their dreams a reality.

How can Main Street organizations really support these entrepreneurs and small businesses? Entrepreneurship and Downtown: Supporting and fostering local entrepreneurs, the 2014 Virginia Main Street Toolkit, is designed to help communities focus the Main Street Four Point Approach ® on exactly that question.

Join the state’s engaged network of downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers for this fast-paced, interactive event.

For a full conference overview and agenda, click here.
To register, click here.

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