Downtown Lynchburg: Where the Makers Are

The Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) knows how to lift up their community. Right now they’re raising awareness of the hardworking entrepreneurs who, with their own hands, are making downtown the destination for local shopping.  Our guest blogger, DLA Executive Director Ashley Kershner, gives us the goods.   

As part of our overall marketing strategy this year, Downtown Lynchburg Association wanted a campaign that would do three things: feature the fabulous businesses that make our downtown unique, position downtown as the local choice for shopping, and most importantly, attract new visitors. With a multi-year downtown construction project looming, we knew that a strong marketing effort would be needed to get our businesses through the holiday season.

The concept of “makers” is a world-wide movement – artisan crafters, handmade goods, chefs sourcing from local ingredients, and makerspaces.  We set out to develop a concept that would align Downtown Lynchburg with the movement, and that would promote it as a place to where quality, originality, and art are valued.

“Where the Makers Are,” is a series of six videos featuring diverse downtown businesses – a skate shop that makes gifts from recycled boards; a pottery shop with handmade items; a bakery that starts baking at 4am; an 85-year old jewelry shop; a specialty chocolatier; and a children’s museum that creates its own exhibits. In each of these videos, we see close-up footage of these makers creating. We hear them talk about why they do what they do, and equally important, why they choose to do it in Downtown Lynchburg.

We have only released two videos thus far, but the response has been overwhelming. The first video alone was viewed over 34,000 times, and we received almost 2,000 video reactions, every single one of them positive. With negativity reigning in social media, this campaign has proven that people are looking for a way to express pride in their community.

With four more videos to go, we look forward to the potential impact this campaign will have on Downtown Lynchburg this year and into the future.

View the “Where the Makers Are campaign here >>>

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Start With “Why”: Creating Purpose-driven Special Events

On October 24, 26 and November 8 in St. Paul, Franklin, and Ashland, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up workshops will equip your Main Street program with the tools you need to develop events that add up to meaningful change.

When taking on a special event or festival, what guides your allocation of limited financial and human resources?  Is that resource allocation strategic?

Simply put, why does your event exist?  Your goal is an authentic Main Street with a vibrant downtown business environment, and special events can support this mission; however, not all events are created equal.  Given the investment of time, energy, and resources it is essential that you take the time to reflect and evaluate the investment and the event. Why is this the event to impact your Main Street for the better?

Join us for a half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring, and entertaining! Collaborate with community revitalization leaders, network with peers and explore ideas in the interactive sessions.  Learn:

  • To think strategically about events, before, during and after;
  • How to evaluate events for strategic improvement, deletion or handing off to a partner organization; and
  • Successful event ideas that connect to your organizational priorities or Transformation Strategies.

Registration is free. Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event.  Registration for each Rev-Up session closes one week prior to the event, so register now to reserve your spot!

 

Train Day – Ashland Main Street Association

Five Things your Economic Vitality Committee can do Today to Support Downtown

In my Virginia Main Street wanderings and conversations with directors I’ve been hearing a common refrain – “What should our Economic Vitality committee be doing?” A thought provoking question that I am sure goes unasked more often than asked. As fate would have it I recently participated in a Hillary Greenberg webinar on supporting small businesses that provided me with a “lightbulb” moment. Sometimes our boards and committees get caught up in thinking big and miss some of the small, every day, right-in-front-of-your-nose kinds of things that could yield big results for the district.

    1. Is your downtown business friendly? The EV committee can review municipal codes, fees, permit processes and timelines – anything that pertains to establishing or growing a business in the Main Street district. Identify anything that would be a detriment to starting a business or fixing a building then work with the municipality on a making the code friendlier to small business.
    2. Help new businesses navigate the permit process. Now that the EV committee has a thorough understanding of all of the local hoops to jump through to open a business downtown, turn that information into a step-by-step guide for new business owners.
    3. Survey retailers and business owners. In person, with a flyer, online – ask the questions. What would help you to improve your business? Have some check boxes –
      • website development?
      • access to capital?
      • cooperative advertising?
      • loan pool?
      • new signage?
    4. Hold Retailer Round Tables. Use those survey responses to generate topics! One month bring in a marketing guru to discuss website content. The next month (or quarter) have the Promotions committee members come to talk about, and get feedback on, upcoming retailing events. Bring in an accountant to give a Quickbooks lesson. Respond to the retailer’s needs to help them grow their businesses.
    5. Create a Mentorship Network. Every district has those retailers and restaurateurs who are knocking it out of the park. Set up a network of successful business owners to work one-on-one with those that are struggling.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are ideas that can be quickly assigned and implemented by a motivated EV committee that can make a real difference on the ground.

Does your EV committee do something innovative to improve downtown? We want to hear about it!

A Tale of Two Community Engagement Events

As an inherently grassroots movement, effective community engagement is an essential component of any successful Main Street program. Without it, organization’s cannot effectively plan their work, recruit volunteers and board members, promote the district, or communicate impact. Main Street must be community driven.

This week I had the opportunity to participate in two very different community engagement events organized by Main Street organizations. One was an informal and ongoing, with a minimal agenda but strong interaction and conversation. The other was a highly planned, one-time “idea pop-up” that was focused on activity, imagination, and a critical mass of feedback from the community at large.

SDDA Monthly Round Table at Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares

Staunton Downtown Development Association has instituted monthly round-table discussions that draw about 25 stakeholders. Held in the evening at local restaurants, it is an opportunity for the board and staff to introduce specific topics to the public, get feedback, generate ideas, and impart information. The format and feel are informal and conversational, with new topics every month.

A small piece of HDR’s Idea Incubator

By contrast, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance held an interactive idea pop-up event that drew hundreds of enthusiastic participants over a three hour period. There were multiple stations for idea generation, sharing, comment, and creativity. This included an idea incubator, a pin board of urban design, mad-libs for visioning, and a physical chat room where the public could visit with board members to brainstorm together in real time.

I was blown away by both events – the energy, the participants, the enthusiasm, the snacks! Look for both Julie (Staunton) and Andrea (Harrisonburg) to walk us through their planning, their events, the impacts, and the outcomes in future blogs.

If your community wants to up its engagement game contact Virginia Main Street.

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!

 

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 >>

 

 

Discover What’s “Wythein:” Downtown Wytheville’s Vibrant New Website

DiscoverWytheinMain Street program websites come in many shapes and sizes.  The challenge is to create a simple and fresh website that promotes the Main Street organization and local brand while showcasing the unique charm of downtown and all it has to offer.

Downtown Wytheville Inc. recently updated their online presence with a website refresh that provides an informative, enticing and interactive experience for the user.  The site offers useful tools and information to its visitors, such as an easy to navigate, interactive map with a wide variety of filters from dining and shopping, to local community resources.  It appeals to entrepreneurs looking to locate in downtown by delivering a welcoming message, business investment guide and information on incentive programs.  It showcases the Main Street program, its mission, and ways to engage in support of downtown; and with mobile devices accounting for an increasing percentage of web traffic, Downtown Wytheville’s website can attractively acclimate to any screen resolution.

Learn more >>