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!

 

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Three Steps to Refresh Your Main Street Strategies for Visible Results

How can your local Main Street program better use limited resources to create vibrant, people-centered places?

The Main Street Approach has been a successful model for NMSC06_WEBBANNER_F_APPROACHolder commercial district revitalization for more than 35 years and is used to revitalize and manage downtowns in more than 2,000 communities across the U.S.  The Four Point approach offers a simple guide to comprehensively address a complex and sometimes chaotic downtown environment.  While that is true, it is a challenge to get the equation just right to catalyze reinvestment, create jobs and create a better quality of life, and especially to do it just right.

Throughout the past few years, the National Main Street Center has conducted surveys, convened a task force of experts and engaged closely with the Main Street network to develop a revised framework.  This revision, called the Four Point Refresh, is the same approach, just sharpened, made more strategic and with a focus on visible results.

  1. Identify the Community Vision for Success – This essential step provides a foundation for outlining the community’s own identity, expectations and ideals, while building off of market opportunities.
  2. Create Community Transformation Strategies – Work together to identify strategies that provide a clear sense of priorities and direction.  These strategies align with the four key areas: economic vitality, effective promotion, quality design and a sustainable organization.  Typically communities will find two to three strategies to help reach a community vision.
  3. Implement and Measure – To succeed, the effort must be able to demonstrate the wise use of resources, which translates to real change on the ground: new jobs added to Main Street, new businesses open, buildings redeveloped and certainly other metrics of success.

Find out more about how to make your local revitalization efforts better, stronger and faster by coming to the next Virginia Main Street training. VMS offers trainings throughout the year, and there is sure to be one near you.

 

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

Check the local news stands: Virginia Main Street in Southern Living

In the September 2015 issue of Southern Living, you will find a spread highlighting travel destinations across the commonwealth, including a special nod to our beloved Virginia Main Street communities.  Thank you to our partners at Virginia Tourism Corporation.  Web links direct readers to a list of the designated communities and points travelers to the heart of each community, its downtown district.  Turn up that smile and cool down the taps, the neighbors are coming!

Virginia is for Main Street Lovers!

Celebrate Downtown with Virginia Main Streets - September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

 

 

Virginia Tourism is way ahead of the pack…again.

One of Virginia Main Street’s most prized relationships is the one we have with Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC).  We often plan our strategies to complement theirs and they often ask us what’s going on downtown that they can use to better market Virginia.  They believe in Virginia’s historic commercial districts as tourist attractions to the point that they designed a special category of their Passionality quiz called Small Town Hound.

Many of the really exciting innovations at VTC have been ways to get your information out to travellers, whether they be from out of state or just down the street.  The Richmond Times Dispatch published an article touting VTC’s new iPhone app.  The application allows small businesses to directly reach travellers in a number of ways by self posting information about their businesses in a way that the app users can find them while they are travelling.

Features of the Virginia is for Lovers app include:

• a “near me” feature which finds all attractions within a 15-mile radius;

• directions and mapping for every listing;

• direct access to making reservations via phone or website;

• customer reviews of restaurants and lodging properties; and

• pet-friendly attractions listed by locality

The Virginia.org website has many tools to help local businesses and organizations promote their events and products.  You can go here to add your events now or you can contact a VTC representitive here.

Virginia Tourism’s wine tweets win award

Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) has a track record of excellence in tourism marketing. The agency recently celebrated 40 years of the longstanding Virginia is for Lovers campaign. While they’ve maintained that well loved umbrella brand, they’ve also successfully continued and grown a host of niche marketing efforts, speaking to the specific tastes and demands of travelers.

A recent Twitter campaign used the social media tool to promote wine travel and won one of 12 U.S. Travel Association awards for top marketing initiatives in the country. Their Vintage Tweets reached more than 43,000 consumers in under 24 hours. Read  Governor McDonnell’s annoucement of the award here.

VTC puts a lot of energy into the marketing state’s growing wine industry, and with good reason. Virginia is now home to 160 wineries and 16 wine trails,  and it was recently named one of the top five up-and-coming wine destinations in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine. 

There’s bound to be a winery near you.  How does your downtown connect with it?  In Harrisonburg, Cave Ridge Vineyard has opened Wine on Water, a downtown tasting room. This year Woodstock, held its first wine festival and a local entrepreneur began a limosine company to transport visitors to the nearby wineries.  In Abingdon, the farmers’ market showcases wineries of the region.

October will be Virginia Wine Month. If you haven’t fully explored how you can tap the marketing muscle of Virginia wine and make it work for your downtown, now may be just the right time.

What you can (and should) do now

There is a lot of new information that indicates that the economy may be nearing recovery.  Although layoffs continue, home sales are increasing,  construction is up ever so slightly and energy prices are rising, too.  

All three are indications that people have adjusted to the recent changes and there is some pent up demand.  Add to those three indicators the news that many industries that slowed or stopped production now have low levels of inventory, and one might think happy days are here again.

So, what should you be doing to strengthen your business or organization now?  We’ve written about some of these before, but Entrepreneur magazine offers 14 Things Smart Leaders are Doing Right Now, while Inc. magazine offers 30 classic examples of innovation

Now is a great time to get your Web site in top notch order, as the last thing you want is for it to go down for repairs or updates when the hits are coming in from new customers.

Of course, maybe you have recently lost your job.  Businessweek says that recessions may be the perfect time to start a new business and offers advice on how to grow your startup in tough times.

Right now may also be a good time to investigate some new technologies and see if they fit your needs.  Inc. magazine has a few ideas to knock around like these Web sites that may help, or Ten Ways Texting May Help Your Business

If you have a little downtime, this is a long article about one of the most innovative and succesful entrepreneurs of the past decade, Tony Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”), of Zappos.com.  It’s definitely worth the time to read, as his approach to decision making is a little extraordinary and extremely interesting.  Here is another interview with Hsieh.