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May is Preservation Month, the annual celebration of history, culture, and special places, designed to raise awareness about the power that historic preservation has to protect and enhance our historic communities. It’s the celebration of places that are meaningful to us. It is the telling of stories of the places we can’t live without.

 

In many Missouri communities, the old and new live side by side. Historic buildings not only give a community character but also emphasize sustainability. The preservation of unique neighborhoods containing historic landmarks ignites economic development and enriches communities. From first dates to family dinners and shopping trips to nights on the town, America’s thriving historic main streets are where we come together and share experiences that shape our lives and communities.1

WE’RE CELEBRATING MISSOURI’S TREASURES

 

In partnership with the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), we are launching the #MoPlacesMatter campaign to raise awareness of Missouri’s historic treasures and their vital role in sustaining local communities. Over select dates in May, our Celebrate Preservation Month Road Show2 will visit four historic sites in Missouri dedicated to preserving our state’s historic resources and nine Missouri communities dedicated to preserving and revitalizing their historic districts to further enrich their communities and celebrate their heritage. Our campaign coincides with the #ThisPlaceMatters3 nationwide celebration observed by small towns and big cities with events ranging from architectural scavenger hunts and historic site tours to educational programs and heritage travel opportunities.

Southeast Missouri State University students learning how Historic Preservation and Main Street work together.  

 

Preservation Month is a great time to learn more about the activities going on around you in your community and state. The Celebrate Preservation Month Road Show is our project to engage the public in preserving historic places and increasing awareness of their role in sustaining local communities. Through the project, we hope to encourage Missouri citizens to learn more about the history surrounding them, discover new sites and communities, and understand the importance of preserving our history and historic places for generations to come. Think about the places in your community that mean the most to you. What are the “must see” or “must experience” places you take visitors from out of town? What places do you think about when you’re away from home and tell other people about your home town? How would your community change if these places were suddenly lost or modified beyond recognition?4

 

WE’RE HITTING THE ROAD TO VISIT THESE PLACES

 

The following communities and historic sites (selected by popular vote) are stops along the 2018 Celebrate Preservation Month Road Show. You can download the complete schedule here.

 

Cape Girardeau – Old Town Cape, Inc.

Chillicothe – Main Street Chillicothe

Excelsior Springs – Downtown Excelsior Springs Partnership

Independence – Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Jackson – Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization

Jefferson City – Missouri Governor’s Mansion

Kansas City – Thomas Hart Benton Home & Studio State Historic Site

Lee’s Summit – Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc.

Liberty – Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc.

Mansfield – Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

Moberly – Main Street Moberly

Warrensburg – Warrensburg Main Street

Washington – Downtown Washington Inc.

Follow one of the official Celebrate Preservation Month Road Show cars to the places that matter to you! 

 

In addition to joining us on our Road Show, here are a few more things you can do to participate in Preservation Month5:

  • Read up on your community’s history.
  • Talk to preservationists and learn more about their ideas for your community.
  • Find out or review what properties or neighborhoods your community has listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Review the web pages of your local main street or downtown revitalization program, regional heritage area, and State Historic Preservation Organization (SHPO).
  • Take a tour of a rehabilitated building in your community such as a restored historic theater, historic courthouse or municipal building, or a historic school or commercial building converted to apartments or offices.
  • Take a walk around a nearby historic residential area or shop/dine in a historic commercial district.
  • Take a field trip to a nearby community with a strong historic preservation ethic or main street program.
  • Visit the Preservation Month web pages of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, and National Register of Historic Places.
  • Participate in other local Historic Preservation Month activities.

 

1Quote by Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

2This activity is partially funded by a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, State Historic Preservation Office, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Grant awards do not imply an endorsement of contents by the grantor. Federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, handicap or ethnicity. For more information, write to the Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington DC 20240.

3#ThisPlaceMatters is the annual campaign created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

4, 5"Preservation Can Be Inspiring – This Month (and Every Month),” by Amy Faca, May 7, 2013.

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For centuries, people have rallied in the street, danced in the street and marched in the street. Today, the trend is to come together and eat in the street.

The popularity of the Farm to Table movement, or Eat in the Street as some call it, has grown the last few years. What was initially introduced in the early 2000s by chefs to promote local farms and “knowing where your food comes from” has been picked up by Main Street and downtown organizations across the country. Downtowns from the East Coast to Tennessee to even Hawaii have hosted successful meeting and eating in the street events.

Closer to home, four Missouri Main Street communities recently partnered with farms, chefs, vendors, and producers – all local to their area – to supply everything from meat, produce, dinnerware, furniture and décor to host 150-200 people.

Downtown Odessa included dancing in their first Eat in the Street event to fundraise for future downtown projects.  

 

Downtown Excelsior Partnership incorporated their annual awards and recognition program with their event to raise money for a mural project. 

 

Old Town Cape planned and executed their Farm to Table event in only three months’ time to showcase and raise money for the Cape Riverfront Market. 

 

Downtown Washington Inc. had a record sell out of 150 tickets in nine days for their event to fundraise for repointing of their c1856 Farmers’ Market building. 

 

Through proper planning, diligence, and partnering with key groups and experienced individuals, all four groups reported great successes with few obstacles.

The phrase Farm to Table can mean different things to different people, but it most commonly means the food on the table came directly from the farm or farmers’ market without going through a store or distributor.

For Main Street, Farm to Table means the same thing, with a twist:  It’s a great event to bring the community together downtown, create awareness for a specific project, and raise a little bit of funds with the fun. 

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We’re celebrating a successful decade of nonprofit service as Missouri’s premier downtown revitalization organization!  As a coordinating program through the National Main Street Center, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) has administered the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to any interested community in Missouri, helping to raise the state of Main Streets in Missouri to the healthiest it's ever been.

The reinvestment on Missouri’s Main Streets has continued to climb since 2006 with over $683 million of private investment and over $140 million in public investment. 

Volunteers in Missouri Main Street communities have donated over 285,312 hours of service at a value of over $6.0 million, making volunteer-led downtown revitalization one of the most cost-effective economic development programs anywhere. 

And with small business at the heart of downtown development, Main Streets foster the entrepreneurial spirit every day.  Since 2006, over 526 net new businesses opened their doors with over 2,936 net new jobs created.  Even during the recession, Missouri Main Street communities were adding jobs faster than losses occurred. 

Although the Main Street Philosophy has been present in Missouri since its launch in 1989 as a state-funded program within the Department of Economic Development (DED), the success of the program was halted in July 2003 when funding was stripped from the state budget and the lone staff person administering the program was reassigned to other duties within the DED.  Was Main Street in Missouri dead then? 

After many calls and unsuccessful pleas to Missouri legislators, 12 local Main Street program managers fought to keep the state program going in Missouri.  By working with the National Main Street Center and the DED, a valuable contract was in place by July 2003 to take up some of the slack in funding.  The Main Street managers continued to meet in communities around the state for training and looked to a representative from the National Main Street program for guidance and assessments.  It became apparent in training after training that more Missouri communities wanted help with their downtown revitalization efforts.  But...without a state-funded program, how would that need be met?  

Through the determination of that core group of local program managers and supporters, the Missouri Main Street program was resurrected in 2006 from a discarded state-run organization into Missouri Main Street Connection, a nonprofit 501c3 with the potential for broader opportunities and resources for funding to support the education effort for revitalization. 

Today, as the coordinating program through the National Main Street Center, MMSC serves as the state’s clearinghouse for information, technical assistance, research and advocacy.  Through financial support from partners that believe in our mission, corporate sponsors, individual contributors, grants and a contract for services with DED, we are able to provide consulting services, on-site visits, conferences/workshops, and publications to educate and empower local organizations to lead the revitalization of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. 

We’re proud of the success we have achieved over the past 10 years and invite you to celebrate with us at our annual Get Plugged In…Downtown Revitalization Conference July 26-28!  Join us in Washington, Missouri, and help us celebrate the power of our Missouri Main Street communities!

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As you’re reading this the fourth quarter will be upon us.  I know you really don’t want to think about it but you must prepare.  Actually your customers really don’t want to think about the approaching Christmas season either.  Believe it or not you actually have a great deal of control whether this Christmas is a boon or bust to your business.  By starting now there are some things you can do to help you get a jump on your competition and bring shoppers through your doors.

The reason you need to start now is that it takes time for a marketing plan to work and you need to create a plan and work it to have a successful holiday season.  Consider items like extended holiday shopping hours or additional customer loyalty programs to kick-start your sales.

Every small business needs to be preparing for the increase in customers this holiday season.  Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing tool but be aware of social media opportunities.  Social media is exploding and you and your business needs to be ready, willing, and able to meet this challenge.  If you’re not on Facebook for your business, get there soon.  If you don’t have the time or ability, find someone who can help you.  Social media is a great way to identify new customers. If you are taking care of your existing customers, they will bring you additional business.  Your average customer will recruit three other customers during the time they do business with you.  Someone telling someone else about your business is very powerful.  And what makes a customer talk about a business?  Usually the way they were treated in that business.  Here are some ideas that can get you off on the right foot.

Start internally with you and your employees.  I know you think you give good or even great customer service over the course of the year, but this is the time to step it up a notch.  Call customers by name as soon as you know it (it’s on their checks and credit/debit cards); better yet, train your sales people to introduce themselves and meet people.  Point out new items to customers.  Ask when they last shopped with you if you don’t recognize them.  Make them feel at home in your store.  Treat them like honored guests.  Impress them.  If you want to take it up a notch, ask friends and family to secret shop your store.  One word of caution though, don’t do this unless you’re ready to implement some of the suggestions.



Don’t allow your employees to simply point customers toward products; physically take them over to the area they are looking for and give them information about the products and related products they might want to consider.  I’m not talking about high pressure selling techniques or hovering over your customers.  I’m talking about being a great resource and sharing your knowledge to assist them.  Provide that little extra and a feeling that you took your time to give them that personal attention they deserve so they will remember their shopping experience positively.  

 

Have your very best people answering your phone.  Make sure they demonstrate a smile in their voice each and every time they answer.  Consider positioning a mirror next to each phone.  If you can see your smile in the mirror before you answer the phone, the customer will hear your smile.  This can be where sales and relationships begin for a company.  Remember, they took the time to find your number and call you – they want something.

Invite your best customers in for an exclusive after hour’s party to kick off the holidays.  Pick their brains about what they bought last year.  What items make the best gifts?  Are there products they wish you carried that you don’t?  What price ranges are they looking for?  What is their average Christmas budget?  These people shop too and they are the start of your word of mouth campaign. 

Create subtle in-store displays of gift items.  Don’t bring out the ornaments and trees just yet but give your high margin gift ideas a prominent place where they will be noticed.  Pay special attention to your window displays.  These silent sales people can work for or against you.  Make your displays an invitation to step inside.  They need to become a shopper magnet to boost your bottom line this holiday season.

Traditionally the Christmas buying season starts the day after Thanksgiving, but don’t forget about Small Business Saturday, November 28th.  This is the day set aside for small businesses to shine.  In 2014 shoppers supported their neighborhood businesses like never before.  An estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small independent businesses on that day last year.  Don’t ever forget that there are also many people who are done by then.  If they see a good gift idea that would be perfect for someone, it goes in the subconscious memory to be retrieved at shopping time.

The next part of your success is advertising in the right place, with the right products, to the right people.  You need to know how to reach your best customers.  Rather than wasting money by throwing your money all over the place and hoping some of it sticks, define your best customer and seek out the appropriate medium to reach them.  Consider joining forces with other stores in your district on shared advertising resulting in more bang for your buck.  During October and the first part of November these will not be Christmas related ads.  You are planting shopping ideas and hints that will be harvested down the road.  Of course, some will buy immediately, some will clip the ad and shop later, and still others will be me… the 3:00 p.m., December 24th shopper.

The last suggestion has to do with customers that enter your store and purchase a gift certificate/gift card.  Think about this for just a moment.  A customer is in your store and they give you their money.  This purchase has no immediate impact on your inventory and they are giving it away to someone else with their personal recommendation to come back to your business and redeem it.  Make sure they do not leave without something in their hands.  Give them a special gift or some expression of appreciation for being a quality customer and recommending your store to someone else.  Confirm in their minds that you are the type of business they want to send their friends and relatives.

Always remember, if you aren’t preparing for the best holiday season ever, you might find yourself caught in the middle of the worst one ever.

I leave you with two thoughts;

“There is Power in Simple.”

and

“Negative people have a problem for every solution.”

 

Jim Thompson is a business specialist on the Main Street Iowa team at the Iowa Economic Development Authority. 

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We will use this space to uphold our mission, which is to provide communities with knowledge and tools to economically and physically revitalize their downtown.

 

Missouri Main Street Connection is part of the National Trust’s nationwide Main Street® Program that works to ensure that downtown districts are essential elements to their sense of community, their cultural heritage and to the total economy of their individual cities and states. Downtown revitalization is encouraged through economic development within the context of historic preservation. The primary purpose of a local and statewide Main Street® Program is to ensure the long-term success of the downtown by creating, educating, training and empowering a comprehensive, professional, volunteer-based downtown revitalization organization. 

 

Wow, that seems like a tall order but we do this everyday through the Main Street network of volunteers, board members, managers, business owners, property owners and city/county government officials…and want this blog to be another avenue to continue this work. We will work towards this mission through the sharing of stories, photos, examples and links to assist our Missouri downtown communities in their work of revitalizing. We will site examples from our communities and share their best practices.

 

We have some great folks working in our downtowns and they have much to share on their hard work. Currently there are six Accredited Communities, three Associate Communities, eleven Affiliate Grant Communities and fourteen Affiliate Communities – so we have some great folks ready to share their expertise.

 

We, as staff, will also share some of the exploits of our travels around the state. We will also utilize our great board and advisory board members to share knowledge and information related to the Four Points. So much great information and we will try to put it into the context of the Main Street Philosophy.

 

Please share your thoughts and advice as we share these blog posts. We want this blog to be interactive. That is the essence of Main Street – sharing information and expertise and we need your feedback to be successful. We look forward to this new journey and relationship and welcome you along for the ride.

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