Main Street and Wine; a Great Pairing

Virginia’s thriving wine industry is boosting the state’s economy and local Main Street districts alike with a total impact of approximately $1.37 billion annually, according to a newly released economic impact study. This figure is an increase of 82 percent from the last study conducted in 2010.

“…one of our top agriculture goals was to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism, and I am pleased our efforts are helping make this a reality,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities.”

The report showed that from 2010 and 2015, the number of wineries increased 35 percent, from 193 to 261. The number of full-time equivalent jobs at wineries and vineyards saw a 73 percent increase, from 4,753 to 8,218. Wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 87 percent during the same time period as well, from $156 million, to $291 million.

Tourism to Virginia wineries also showed impressive growth. The number of people visiting wineries grew by 39 percent, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015. At the same time, wine-related tourism expenditures grew dramatically from $131 million to $188 million, a significant 43 percent increase.

Culpeper’s Hoptober Fest 2016

Wine and Virginia’s downtowns make a great pairing.  Culpeper Renaissance Inc. expanded their wildly successful craft beverage festival to twice a year and the downtown features several shops that sell local craft beverages, Culpeper Cheese Company and Vinosity.  In Staunton eonophiles can visit Yelping Dog for a their wine fix, and don’t miss Saturday tastings at Vintages by the Dan in Danville. However it is done, Main Street recognizes the local economic impacts of partnering with regional craft beverage producers.

Check out the full 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia and don’t forget to visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office for more information on the industry statewide.

Make the Most of Heritage Tourism in Virginia

Did you know that the cultural heritage tourist typically spends more and stays longer than other types of U.S. travelers?

Preservation Virginia is co-hosting the 31st annual Virginia Preservation Conference in Charlottesville, an event that draws 200 community leaders, developers, architects, local planning officials and others from across the Commonwealth.   Following the release of the final phase of three interrelated economic impact studies, including Virginia Main Street, this year’s theme focuses on heritage tourism and the places that make Virginia unique and appealing to visitors.160908-program-cover_bleed2

The schedule includes a keynote address by product-development consultant Cheryl Hargrove; debut of the new study of heritage tourism in Virginia; DIY historic preservation research sessions; guided tours of the restored Paramount Theater and Charlottesville’s revitalized West Main Street corridor; and a Preservation Pitch contest, a spirited competition to win $2,000 in seed money for a preservation project.

The conference takes place Sunday, October 16 and Monday, October 17 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Learn more >>>

 

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’s Appalachian Trail Communities

The Appalachian Trail Community™ designation program is a new program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The program serves to assist communities with sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation while preserving and protecting the A.T.

Completed in 1937, the 2,180-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the longest, continuously-marked footpaths in the world. It spans through 14 states, ranging from Georgia to Maine. Virginia is home to 544 miles of the Appalachian Trial, more miles than any other state! There are 20 Appalachian Trail communities, 10 of them are in Virginia. From north to south, these are: Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Buena Vista, Glasgow, Troutville, Pearisburg, Bland, Abingdon and Damascus. This year, Abingdon, a VMS community, was designated an Appalachian Trail Community™.

“Our town has long offered a respite for the weary hiker,” Abingdon Mayor Ed Morgan said in a written statement announcing the designation. “The Virginia Creeper Trail, which begins in Abingdon, is a natural connector to the A.T.” The designation ceremonywas held on Sept. 11, 2012.  Abingdon now joins the cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro, both designated Virginia Main Street communities that have embraced their proximity to the trail in their economic restructuring efforts, creating programs that attract hikers to their downtowns, as well as providing amenities and activities that are tied to the A.T.

Front Royal, Buena Vista and Pearisburg are VMS Commercial Affiliates.

Nestled 18 miles west of the A.T in the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is filled with locally-owned restaurants, museums, art galleries and shops.  Harrisonburg offers special packages for A.T. Hikers to make their stay an easier and more pleasant one. During their annual Valley 4th celebration, hikers are invited to participate in the parade.

The City of Waynesboro is located three miles from the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s community designation for Waynesboro strengthens the city’s effort in becoming a premier outdoor recreation destination,” stated Katie McElroy, Waynesboro’s tourism director. “The opening of the first phase of the South River Greenway is key to Waynesboro’s commitment to the outdoors,” explains C. Dwayne Jones, director of Waynesboro Parks and Recreation. 

Plan your Appalachian Trail adventure and stay, shop and dine in any of these great Virginia communities.

Martinsville Courthouse Historic Virginia Site of the Month

The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) posted a new slide show for their web feature “Historic Virginia, Site of the Month.”  This month DHR features images and highlights of the changing nature of the circa-1824 Henry County Courthouse, which found new life in 2010 thanks to grants from Save America’s Treasures and the local Harvest Foundation.

The site and courthouse have gone through considerable alterations since Martinsville was established as the seat of Henry County in 1791, with a log courthouse originally built in 1793. A two-story brick courthouse was built in 1824, but all that’s immediately recognizable of that structure are the four columns of the front portico.  Today the 1929 remodeled courthouse is a “contributing” building to the Martinsville Downtown Historic District.

The preservation of the building was spearheaded by Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society (M-HCHS), who from1996 through 2010 worked diligently in phases to restore the courthouse building and adaptively reuse it for the community. In partnership with the County and national and local advocates, M-HCHS reports that the project, originally estimated at more than $1 million, was accomplished for less than $200,000.

The restored building now houses a Heritage Center & Museum, the historical society, and an information center for the New College Institute.  Additional information about the sites in downtown Martinsville can be found on the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association website.

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.

Quality v. quantity

Last Thursday, at the Virginia Main Street 25th Anniversary Milestone Achievement Awards, keynote speaker Chuck D’Aprix spoke about the importance of making your downtown attractive to entrepreneurs.  One way to do this is to focus on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of products you sell.

In short, it is difficult to compete with big box store prices and the accompanying scale that makes those small margins possible.  So why not try delving into high quality products that carry a much higher margin and offer a much richer experience? 

If you focus on giving your downtown customers a quality, authentic and unique experience, you will become an attraction for those with quality in mind who don’t mind paying a little (or a lot) extra for that quality.  To quote an article on Kansas’ Prairie Marshes in Legacy Magazine,

Happy and satisfied visitors stay longer, return often, and “spread the word” both about the joys of visiting our region and the importance and significance of the resources found here. This has raised the visibility of the tourism industry at the local, state, and national levels.

From $10,000 boots to stagecoaches to ballgloves to guitars, watch this short slideshow on successful “craftpreneurs.”  And yes, I just made up that word.

Bob Mills, owner of Angle Hardware in Rocky Mount, VA, once told me that Wal-Mart didn’t bother him.  Their product knowledge and quality was poor.  Lowe’s has a much wider selection and is more specialized than Wal-Mart, but do you think you can get someone at Lowe’s to tell you whether a machine screw or a hex bolt will hold better?  Angle Hardware is the real deal.  You don’t wander for hours past spa tubs to find your drill bits.  You walk in and you get greeted by name and with a handshake and a sincere, “What can I help you with?”  If you need one screw, you get one screw, not a box of 25. 

Quality customer service is a rare commodity; but one you can find readily on Virginia’s Main Streets.