Tips for a Wonderful Experience at Downtown Intersections, Staunton, Virginia

Guest Blogger Julie Markowitz, director of Staunton Downtown Development Association, started with Main Street in 2006, armed with 10 years of experience in mall marketing and promotions. Staunton Downtown Development Association is delighted to host the first inaugural Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections workshop in Staunton, Virginia on July 11-13, 2016.


Welcome to Staunton, Main Street friends! I am so excited to have all of you here in our fair city. I hope you get a chance to enjoy shopping, grab a locally-brewed beer or a glass of wine or experience one of Monday’s field sessions, so you can enjoy all of the new businesses and cultural happenings that Staunton has to offer.

We tried to select some activities that will give you a chance to relax, wander aournd and get acclimated before the event begins.  Like most Main streets, Mondays are quiet, but there is still plenty to do in and around downtown. If you want to grab lunch or dinner on Monday, here are some options:

  • American Café (lunch only)
  • Baja Bean Company
  • Bricks Restaurant and Pub (dinner only)
  • Byers Street Bistro
  • Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery (lunch only)
  • Clocktower Restaurant and Bar
  • Depot Grille, Mill Street Grill (dinner only)
  • Sorrell’s Lounge at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel
  • The Split Banana for locally-sourced gelato

There are several different areas for shopping and site seeing within our downtown.  You can start by checking out the train station, then climb the stairs to the Sears Hill Bridge for the best view of downtown.  After the view, wind your way down to the Wharf and the Byers and Lewis Streets shops, where you will find Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing. Walk a short block past Wilderness Adventure to the Lewis Creek Market, then double-back to Pufferbellies Toys and Books and the shops on Beverley Street. End your stroll by heading up Augusta Street to visit LTD 7, a unique, cooperative gift store.

You will get your exercise and along the way, you will find charming shops and restaurants, beautiful views and friendly people. I hope you enjoy your visit to Staunton!

Get the complete list of stores and a handy map here.


Pulaski highlights “The Way We Worked” Smithsonian Exhibit

The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Service program, Museums on Main Street, brings exhibits to small towns across America. The most recent exhibit, “The Way We Worked,” showcases various working environments of American citizens, within the United States. This exhibit highlights the journey, struggle and triumph of the American workforce. One of Virginia Main Street’s Commercial Districtway we worked Affiliate partners, the town of Pulaski, currently  has the exhibit at The Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum through Aug. 15, and then it will travel to the Virginia Main Street designated community of Wytheville. Having a traveling exhibit in your community is a great way to bring “pop-up” vibrancy to a space, provide local citizens with Smithsonian-quality cultural heritage displays and get your community talking about its own stories.

Staunton Has a Story to Tell: Celebrating 20 years of Main Street

How would your Main Street organization celebrate years of making downtown a social and investment hub?

As a kick-off to their 20-year anniversary, the Staunton Downtown Development Association (SDDA) hosted “Staunton Stories,” a one-day event to celebrate and document the people that make downtown Staunton a dynamic and diverse community. The event was held at the R. R. Smith Center in March and received almost 70 stories and items of memorabilia. During the event, local residents and business owners were invited to bring up to three original photos or hand-held items that told the story of their connection to Staunton.

The stories, images, and videos collected at the event have become part of the upcoming exhibit and an online archive housed on the SDDA website. “The Staunton Stories Exhibit” is being organized in partnership with the Historic Staunton Foundation, NBC Channel 29, Virginia Eagle Distributors, the Artisan Loft, Flying Warthogs Film and the city of Staunton’s IT Department, with a grand opening that happened on Friday, June 17.

“It is an honor to be part of the 20-year anniversary of SDDA and to honor those people and organizations that make this community thrive,” says Julie Markowitz, director of the Staunton Downtown Development Association. “Everyone is invited to come and celebrate with us at the Artisan Loft, a new gallery space located above the Staunton Antiques Center at 19.”

The Staunton Stories Exhibit is partially funded by a Downtown Investment Grant awarded by Virginia Main Street and is part of a series of activities and special promotions that not only commemorate the 20-year anniversary of SDDA, but are designed to connect the Staunton community to downtown.

Staunton Stories Exhibit Graphic

Staunton Stories Exhibition, June 17- July 31, 2016

Leverage your marketing dollars!

One of Virginia Main Street’s strong partnerships is with the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC). Through their grant offerings and programs, our local designated Main Street communities and commercial district affiliates can leverage local dollars into more for their project.

The Marketing Leverage Program is designed to stimulate new tourism marketing programs through the creation of tourism partnerships  and leverage limited marketing dollars, resulting in increased visitor spending. A minimum of three Virginia partners must partner financially in the application. The VTC Marketing Leverage Program applications are now open.  Applications are due on June 28, 2106. Learn more about this program here.


The Virginia Tourism Growth Fund (VTGF) is a VTC program established to grow tourism development projects in the commonwealth of Virginia. Eligible projects include new or expanded facilities or venues for lodging, recreation, entertainment, epicurean, cultural or destination retail products or services designed to attract travelers to the commonwealth. VTGF applications are accepted at any time, so learn more here.

The Virginia Tourism Development Financing Program (TDFP)  provides gap financing for larger tourism development projects. More information about this program can be found here.

Crowdfunding for Main Street

Local CrowdAre you looking for new and exciting ways to raise funds for a civic project, your Main Street organization or entrepreneurs in your community? The Local Crowd is a new crowdfunding platform that has been developed to help communities raise support for local businesses and projects.

The Local Crowd can help you do several things for your community:

  • Support local small business capital needs
  • Raise money for civic projects
  • Provide needed funding sources for local nonprofits and charities
  • Connect the economic development resources in your community with the people that need the capital

The Local Crowd is a crowdfunding technology that can help businesses and organizations in your community gain access to the capital they need. The Local Crowd platform combines the power of internet crowdfunding with a strong educational focus, designed to increase the knowledge and sophistication level of rural entrepreneurs and financial contributors.

The Local Crowd is looking for communities that offer great networks for businesses, entrepreneurs, residents and community leaders that embrace the tenets of buying, shopping and investing locally. To learn more about the power of investing in community, contact the Local Crowd to apply for the opportunity to become a demonstration community here.

Overnight Success, 20 Years In The Making

Guest Blogger Ken Heath, Director of Community and Economic Development, has been working for downtown revitalization since 1994 with the Town of Marion. Read his inspirational words and how it has taken over twenty years to get where the Town is today. Working hard at revitalization every day, and the job is never done. 

It’s nice to be in the catbird’s seat.  I remember starting as Marion’s first Main Street manager in November 1994, when none of us had a clue what we were doing – especially me!  My board was great.  They had drawn the proverbial line in the sand, decided our downtown was worth saving, set up the fledgling finances, and, crazy as it sounds, they put their faith in me to figure out how to turn things around.  Virginia Main Street was a Godsend!  The training, networking, resources gave me a channel for my unbridled passion for my hometown, and we thought we were off to the races!

Downtown Marion. Photo credit: Ken Heath

Downtown Marion. Photo credit: Ken Heath

But reality was waiting on our Main Street.  Almost daily, another mom and pop shuttered their doors, closed shop.  We were on the ropes, staggered by the national economy and our own community’s tendency to take what money we had out of town to shop.  Marion, as we knew it, was circling the drain.

We survived, thanks to a lot of hairdressers and folks like me who didn’t know better but were willing to give it a try.  We programmed special events – not because we loved grilling hot dogs, but because we needed the community to come back downtown for ANY reason at that point.  We believed if we could get our community to love downtown again, we could get business back downtown again. And then we could get visitors to come, and more businesses.  But we had to first stem the tide, help us believe again.

By good luck, by providence, by stumbling into it, Marion has held it together through the dark times.  We – our community – celebrate our successes, share our heartaches, and wear our passion on our sleeves.  We take audacious dreams and help foster them, incubating them with our energies and resources.  We don’t say no, we say “how can we help make this happen”.  And through it all, we believe.

When folks come to visit our downtown for “Song of the Mountains” or to come back for a class reunion, we’re flooded with such nice, kind compliments about our town.  Our downtown is nearly full.  Soon, we’ll be a beehive of activity, with another round if Streetscape improvements, new private reinvestment to repurpose historic buildings into new downtown living, new shops and restaurants, summer concerts and farmers market and shows at our Lincoln Theatre and classes at our Wayne Henderson School of Appalachian Arts and another semester of college at our downtown Summit Center for Higher Education.  Folks compliment us on doing it “overnight”.

Anything but.

Marion’s success is part training, part providence, part luck, and part stubbornness.  We didn’t know better.  We didn’t know not to dream big.  We took the tools and resources and blessings offered and went to work, only pulling our noses away from the grindstone long enough to set our sights toward the next mountaintop we wanted to climb.  We worked together, sweated together, cried together.  And through to all, we learn, we strengthen, we come together.  And we dream.  Audacious dreams.  Bold dreams.  Crazy dreams.

For everyone believing in the overnight success, keep on believing.  It’s dawn again in Marion.  And the sun keeps coming up, every day, to something else new and exciting.

If it can happen in Marion, it can happen in your town.  It takes faith, pride, believers and schemers and dreamers.  It takes a strong constitution, a hard head, a bulldog’s tenacity to never let go.  It takes a team.  And it takes a leader.  Someone who’s very life and breath and soul is in your downtown.  It’s somebody who can shoulder the criticism, listen to the complains, nurture the ideas and hopes and dreams, orchestrate it all to be a beautiful symphony while helping each musician believe it to be their own idea.  Maybe it’s your mayor, your Main Street director, your shop owner.  Find your spoon.  Give them the training and resources, share your audacious dreams.  And support them.  With time, finances, vocal support.  Make it happen.

And come see us in Marion.  Come back often.  Good times are here.  But the best is yet to come.  (And always will be!)

Hello from Milwaukee: Main Street Now Conference this week


Beginning May 23-25, Virginia Main Street (VMS) staff and more than 25 staff and volunteers from the VMS designated communities are in downtown Milwaukee for Main Street Now, the National Main Street Center conference. Main Street Now is the largest nationwide gathering of commercial district revitalization professionals and community leaders in the nation. This year, the conference will bring together more than 1,500 dedicated professionals, boards, municipal staff and other key decision makers from small towns, mid-sized cities and urban neighborhood commercial districts.

The Virginia delegation is excited to bring back new ideas and solutions for asset-based revitalization, including building local business leaders, creative place-making and new trends in retail planning and development. Check out the sessions offered, and get inspired for the 2017 conference.  The location is still a secret, but word is it will be easy driving distance from Virginia!

To feed the anticipation, follow the conference excitement on Facebook.


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