Can “Open Late” increase “Shop Local?”

ClosedSignIt’s an old problem and a pervasive one. In Main Street districts nationwide, small business owner’s are reluctant to be open late or on the weekends. As a consequence those who work 9-5 jobs outside of the district are unable to shop local. A recent Wyoming Business Report article takes a look at how Main Street businesses’ hours of operation could be a catalyst for shifting economic progress.

Store hours come up in conversations with Main Street advocates across the state and nationwide.  It’s a discussion topic that often ends with a collective sigh.  It’s a challenge to convince independent business owners to change, let alone an entire consumer group.

Writer Joel Funk highlights solutions from several Wyoming downtown professionals and the National Main Street Center’s Matt Wagner.  Business owners need people downtown to make it worth their while to stay open and, equally true, shoppers need businesses to be open to make it worth their while to come downtown.  A successful shift of store hours is reliant upon a relationship between the owner and consumer, encouraged by the local Main Street program’s market awareness and perseverance.

70% of all consumer spending (both locals and visitors) takes place after 6 p.m.  Tourism specialist Roger Brooks suggests starting the shift by working with businesses to stay open on Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m. the first year, then add additional days as merchant confidence and consumer habits change.

Be that catalyst to shift economic progress.  Start the conversation!

 

My 2017 Virginia Main Street Resolutions

Happy New Year, one and all! After the hustle and bustle (and bronchitis) of the holidays I, for one, am happy to be back at my desk. The Virginia Main Street staff is in full-on planning mode for 2017. We are finalizing arrangements for the Directors’ Retreat in Lexington later this month, setting a date for a design oriented webinar with Frazier Associates for this spring, and working with potential key note speakers for Downtown Intersections this July in Winchester – just to name a few!

But before I was even back at my desk; before I was knee deep in calendars and travel plans and National Main Street services, I was thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and Virginia Main Street. As a planner and as someone who loves making to-do lists I get excited for resolutions every year. I can’t say that I’m always successful, but it is said that making your resolutions public is one way of ensuring accountability. So, here we go.farmville-love

 

I, Rebecca Rowe, Virginia Main Street state coordinator, resolve to

  1. Visit each and every designated VMS community this calendar year, meeting with the directors, board members and local partners.
  2. Provide training and assistance on fundraising, leadership, work planning for outcomes, and working with developers for our communities and partners.
  3. Take at least two (2) mini vacations incorporating at least four (4) VMS communities.

When I put the question of resolutions to the rest of the VMS super-staff, these were their responses.


Joy Rumley resolves tocar-show-photo-credit-sunny-reynolds

  1. Attend/participate in an event in each of her designated communities, supporting them with her time and money.
  2. Assist VMS communities in developing and implementing their Transformation Strategies, with a focus on qualitative and quantitative impacts.
  3. Introduce Transformation Strategies to Affiliate communities who are ready to pursue more focused, strategic work.

 

Kyle Meyer will

  1. Help the programs build strong, ongoing community relationships for inclusiveness and applying a collective vision for the benefit of the community.
  2. Make the Main Street methodology a widespread, “go-to” strategy for downtown revitalization.
  3. Make doing Main Street fun!

 

And Tory McGowan

  1. Seconds Joy’s resolutions on  Transformation Strategies creation and implementation as well as event attendance.
  2. Will increase his annual gift purchase from VMS communities, shopping “local.”
  3. Will work with communities on diversifying their funding streams to create more sustainable organizations and operations.

What are your 2017 Virginia Main Street resolutions?

 

streetscape at RIE

Congratulations to Virginia’s 2016 National Main Street Accredited Communities

VMS-logo-colorEach year, the National Main Street Center and its coordinating program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®. This year twenty-one Virginia Main Street Communities met the rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center to be accredited Main Street America™! Congratulations to:

Abingdon, Altavista, Ashland, Bedford, Berryville, Blackstone, Bristol, Culpeper, Farmville, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Luray, Manassas, Marion, Orange, South Boston, St. Paul, Staunton, and Winchester.

Each local organization’s performance is evaluated annually by Virginia Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

In 2015, Virginia’s designated Main Street communities sparked more than $43 million in private investment in their districts.  In that time, more than 325 businesses and 850 jobs were created, many of them on the entrepreneurial scale that our downtowns were founded.

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,000 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.

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BrewDog, Gloucester Wants You!

Guest Blogger Jenny Crittenden, executive director of Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust, started with Main Street in 2006.  Her leadership has inspired key partnerships and implementable growth strategies for Gloucester Village, including the creation of façade and interior improvement grant programs and an annual symphony concert that brings over 2,000 visitors to downtown. 

As we enter the holiday season and everyone is spreading cheer….here in Gloucester we’re thinking beer! 

Over the last few years, I’ve attended National Main Street Conferences and been fascinated with the concept of crowdfunding a project.  The nationally-utilized platform ties together a community in a way that a traditional approach to project funding does not.  We now have the crazy opportunity, through a national competition, to crowdfund a BrewDog brew pub – a whole new amenity to our rural community!  We are always thinking big and there’s nothing we aren’t willing to tackle; including competing on the level of cities such as Houston, San Diego, New York City, or Chicago.brewdogsocial

BrewDog is an irreverent Scottish craft brewer that loves American brew pubs and will be embracing these beacons of beery enlightenment by launching their very own in the United States.  They currently operate more than 46 BrewDog bars globally, from Tokyo to Barcelona, and now they are bringing the very first BrewDog venues stateside as part of the Equity for Punks USA campaign!

Why not Gloucester?  Exactly…why not?  Smaller communities can rally fast, build a grassroots effort, and get buy-in, not just financially, but that entire community-emotional-buy-in.  It’s what makes a small downtown so special.  We may not yet be on the leaderboard, a map that tracks the cities in the contest, but we have BrewDog’s attention.

BrewDog executives have seen our press release in the local newspapers and are watching our Facebook page, seeing that over 1,000 people are talking about the competition.  They even agreed to send a BrewDog representative and personal video message to Gloucester for our upcoming public meeting, for which we flew in beer from Scotland for tasting.  On site we will have laptops and tablets for on-the-spot investment.  We aim to take the leaderboard by storm!

If 500 people invest in BrewDog USA from GLOUCESTER, VIRGINIA, and our local partners, they will open a brew pub HERE!  Minimum investment is only $95.

Contribute and follow our progress >>

 

 

Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Grants Awarded

entrepreneur-ecosystemGovernor McAuliffe recently announced over $200,000 in Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant awards for eight projects in the Commonwealth. The BEE grant program provides funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for entrepreneurship programs aligned with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in distressed communities and populations.

“Small business development is a vital component of the new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant awards will support our homegrown assets and create new opportunities for economic diversification. By supporting small business programs in communities across the Commonwealth, we are building a strong entrepreneurial environment that will ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place for individuals to start and grow their companies.”

BEE offers two types of grants: implementation and planning. The implementation grants are awards up to $40,000 for projects that expand coverage for small business support services or implement innovative ideas that have already been funded and field tested through the BEE planning grant program. Planning grants are awards of up to $15,000 to research, develop and plan for a potential project.

The projects that were awarded funding include the development of a one-stop information, training and work space for entrepreneurs, an accelerator program and youth entrepreneurship programs. Planning grants were awarded for regional market analysis, the creation of an infrastructure network for entrepreneurs, and the development of a co-working space.

View the governor’s press release: http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18332

Funding for FY 2018 Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grants will open on January 1, 2017, and applications will be due on March 1, 2017. Click here for more information on the BEE program.

Innovative Models for Main Street Businesses

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Airstream Beauty Boutique, Harrisonburg, VA

In August of 2016 a local beauty boutique opened in Harrisonburg’s Main Street district in an unusual and fantastic location, a 1975 Airstream Land Yacht.  Airstream Beauty Boutique owner Irina Dovganetskiy needed a small space that would allow her to test the market and grow her business – handmade beauty products using natural and toxic-free ingredients.  She wished to belong to a community of small businesses on Main Street but, without an available downtown storefront, Irina had to dream up a new way of doing business.

Clever entrepreneurs have an opportunity to think outside the box and inside a truck, trailer, or any space with a critical mass of customers and a growing market.  Recently on the Orton Family Foundation’s Cornerstones blog, rural economy expert Becky McCray shared six ways for small businesses to consider doing business in small towns:

  1. Pop-ups – temporary businesses that may last from just one day to several months.
  2. Trucks and trailers – not just for food businesses any longer, service and retail businesses are catching on.
  3. Business-in-a-business – sharing space with several different businesses under one roof.
  4. Tiny business villages – extra-small businesses in tiny buildings located together as a temporary village in an empty lot or green space.
  5. Rural-sourcing – an online marketplace offers business owners to live in rural communities, but reach a global market.
  6. Omni-local – local bricks-and-mortar shops can use e-commerce to take orders online and on-the-go mobile sites, and even monthly subscription boxes.

Could a mobile business set up shop in your downtown district without delays?  What trends can your Main Street program embrace now to nurture a thriving market place?

Yuletide Destinations and Activities

In December, Main Streets across Virginia become the center of holiday festivities and the nexus of community gathering for celebration and shopping.  The historic charm, decorative lights, and independent shops wistfully spark memories mixed with fresh, 21st century rejuvenation.  It’s cool to ring in the old and new.

That charm is reminiscent of a scene in A Christmas Story, one of America’s favorite holiday films.  While the parade and holiday crowds hum in the background, Ralph presses a wide-eyed gaze against the decorated Higbee’s department store window featuring the coveted Red Ryder BB gun.  Scenes much like this kick off the first week after Thanksgiving in Virginia’s downtowns.  Yuletide festivities activate the business districts with parades, tree lightings, and retail promotions.

Check out the ten most enchanting, magical Christmas towns, of which seven are Virginia Main Street Communities or DHCD Commercial District Affiliates.  Virginia Tourism highlights many other holiday Main Street destinations, including Lexington, Staunton, and Woodstock, along with a list of holiday parades and tree lighting ceremonies.

Downtown Wytheville leads the Parade of Lights, a lighted parade with dignitaries, floats, marching bands, businesses and community groups, and, of course, Santa Claus.  Taking advantage of a captured audience, local merchants offer hot chocolate and Christmas activities for families and Downtown Wytheville Inc. holds a decorated window contest with prizes.

Following a traditional parade, the Gloucester Main Street Association organizes the Gloucester Village Holiday Open House to entice visitors to jump start the holiday shopping season with drawings and refreshments, topped off with free horse drawn carriage rides, roasted marshmallows, and blacksmith demonstrations.  The event wouldn’t be complete without photos with Santa, who makes a quick trip from Wytheville to thrill the kids.

Don’t stay home for the holidays, visit Virginia’s Main Streets! 

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Holidays in Manassas, Virginia