We love historic downtowns!

Enhancing the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of historic downtown business districts in Missouri.

Public and Private INVESTMENT


Net new businesses


Net New jobs


volunteer hours


Designated Missouri Main Street communities report economic impact in their districts each quarter. Cumulative totals for the program.



Missouri Main Street Blog Section

The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant was a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that will have continued impact on Missouri communities.

As the Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant comes to a close it is a good time to look back and reflect on the process, the partners, and the impact.

The grant was initiated to help Missouri’s small businesses and communities address the challenges faced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. MMSC developed Downtown Strong, after receiving funds from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), as a service-based grant focusing on the retention of current businesses, recruitment of new businesses, job growth, and the transition of ownership or continued succession of existing businesses to support economic recovery and enhance the resiliency of Missouri’s small businesses and communities. The specific direction of the services provided through this grant came from MMSC’s observed strength of Main Street and experience with Missouri’s Main Streets during other periods of crisis.  The economic reports collected during the Great Recession from Main Street programs in Missouri showed a continued addition of net new jobs meaning Main Streets are economically resilient. This grant was aimed at applying those same principles to the recent economic hardship and boosting the Main Street effect in today’s challenging times. 

MMSC enlisted the services of qualified consultants who could provide direct services to communities through their downtown organization and struggling small businesses in Main Street communities. 



Initially, the grant started with 82 recipients in 20 communities including 16 Main Street organizations and 66 businesses.  Each of the grant recipients received one to six services for a grand total of almost 200 services in all. That’s a lot! To provide these services, MMSC contracted thirteen consultants.

If MMSC, the consultants, the businesses, and the Main Street organizations were honest, this process was harder than any initially thought.  Despite the challenges that arose during the implementation of the grant, the results are undeniable.

There were many successes and “assists” during the process. 

The first service was provided by MarksNelson who helped Libations in Lee’s Summit as they worked toward changing their business model and looked at buying property. Additionally, Old Town Cape in Cape Girardeau almost immediately worked with Jay Schlinsog of Downtown Professionals Network to develop an amenities plan that helped them identify how they could impact downtown safety. 



Some of the organizational services were more customized. Both Downtown Lee’s Summit in Lee’s Summit, MO and Downtown Excelsior Partnership (DEP) in Excelsior Springs, MO worked with Russ Volmert of FORA Planning to develop a wayfinding plan.  DEP Executive Director Lyndsey Baxter was creative in pooling resources and, in addition to the wayfinding plan, DEP worked with Joe Borgstrom of Place + Main to do a Market Analysis and Real Estate Redevelopment Strategy for strategic properties in their downtown.


General marketing, social media strategy, search engine optimization (SEO), as well as point of sale (POS) research, website, and online sales development were in great demand with the participating businesses, and our marketing consultants delivered! 



Under recent, new ownership, I.B. Nuts in Washington, MO worked with Chimera Creative Works to update their brand, evaluate their business opportunities, diversify their customer base, and enhance and update their online presence.   It was a lot of work for both the consultant and the new owner.  But the results were transformational!  Owner Holly Wunderlich commented that “it helped me put things in writing and focus my business on what I want to accomplish in the next few years.”


Annie Em’s at Home in Cape Girardeau worked with BOLD Marketing on a social media strategy, POS consultation, and development of a much needed website.  Owner Emilie Stephens Buelow remarked that “the process provided me the help I needed to move forward in areas that I had no idea how to navigate.  I didn’t know how much work would be involved but it was work I needed to do, and the guidance provided through the grant process made it possible. The outcomes from the work I accomplished with the consultant I couldn’t have done on my own.”



Other organizations and the businesses needed help with the “business” side of things.  Succession planning, staff transition planning, business plans, and business evaluations were provided to a number of businesses and Main Street organizations.  Main Street Kirksville received help developing their policies and procedures. They also needed to figure out how to move forward regarding the feasibility and structure of establishing either a pop-up shop or full business incubator service in one of the open buildings around their square.  Dana Thomas with BOLD Marketing facilitated a process that helped their board make important decisions around this project.



Vicky Sonenberg with Cygnet Strategies worked with Cindy McClain and her husband in Independence, MO, who are passionate about downtown. They own multiple properties and businesses that make up a large part of Independence Square. According to Cygnet’s Analysis and Recommendation report, Vicky worked with Cindy to help twelve of the businesses and their two umbrella organizations, McClain Restaurant Group and CRM Stores, “mitigate economic impacts of the pandemic and foster a stronger more resilient business model for each business as well as the umbrella organizations.”  Cindy said, “This has been a great help and a push to be better, get better, and find the strength and creativity to stand out as a small business!  Having been awarded the grants, Downtown Strong became more than a tag line - it became movement.”


Important Main Street training was provided as well.  Randy Wilson with Community Design Solutions provided Main Street Chillicothe and its community a training on the Universal Principles of Good Design and Historic Preservation.  After the training was complete, Main Street Chillicothe immediately incorporated what they learned into their work.



And those were just some examples.  There’s more you can find on our blog or by asking around Missouri!

The intent of the program was to outline services in a way that businesses and organizations could easily identify as a need and to provide a consultant to deliver that service. This worked great with some of the businesses and most of the organizations.  But there were many lessons learned.

The lesson everyone learned was that we (all) had to be flexible.  Businesses often didn’t truly recognize their needs or were not able to prioritize them.  In the aftermath of the pandemic, their situations and needs often changed quickly. In trying to help with the application process, specific services were identified upfront but some were too vague, and many were found to be overlapping in the delivery.

Considering all these factors, the consultants initially went to work to provide the participants requested services. It was soon realized, to no surprise, that the services that needed to be delivered were more unique to each individual recipient.  On the one hand, this worked well as MMSC tried to connect each consultant with the businesses or organizations suited to their specific skill set.  But logistics, timing, and, yes, human limitations, sometimes interfered.  On the other hand, unique was sometimes perceived as unequal. Lastly, all of it took substantially more time than anyone anticipated.



Lessons learned are good.  It means that the process was seen with open eyes.  Starting a project of this magnitude from the ground up is hard work, but it was well worth the effort.  In the end, though not perfect, the process resulted in MMSC, consultants, businesses, and organizations working together to improve, grow, save, and transition businesses as well as advance Main Street organizations, their impact, and the downtowns across Missouri.  The Downtown Strong grant program will have long term positive implications in the businesses, organizations, and downtowns it served.  Most people would call that success!

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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Attendees of this year’s conference know just how powerful THEY and each individual in Missouri’s Main Street communities are when it comes to making a positive community impact. Representatives from communities of all sizes across Missouri attended the 2023 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in St. Louis where they discovered the power of People-Centered Revitalization. See what a fantastic time attendees had while learning about the Main Street Approach™, which is the framework people can use to empower transformation and successful change in a downtown district’s physical, social, economic, and civic components.



This year we started the conference even bigger than ever. Wednesday, July 26th was packed with things to do for early arrivers before the kick-off evening event and opening assembly the next day. While local program directors and their support staff took part in their monthly directors meeting and semiannual support staff meeting, other attendees embarked on one of two different concurrent educational tours. The “Makers and Shaker in Delmar Main Street District” took attendees on an exploration of Delmar Boulevard, within the Delmar Main Street district, where there is a vibrant mix of makers as well as collaborative spaces, like Maxine Clark’s Delmar Divine, that houses dozens of non-profits together to forge partnerships to move St. Louis forward.



The “Food Entrepreneurs are Shaking Up the Food Industry” tour took attendees on a munching tour to both Dutchtown Main Streets and the Soulard Farmers Market in the Soulard Historic District where they learned about each districts food entrepreneur ecosystems while enjoying select offerings from current residents of the spaces.




There were two special sessions attendees could attend on Wednesday. The first being the Deep Dive with guest speakers from the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Block Grant (CDBG) and Iowa Main Street shared about the new Downtown Revitalization fund through MO DED’s CDBG and how Iowa’s Main Streets have utilized their own CDBG funds since Missouri modeled this new opportunity after Iowa’ s program.




The second special session was an invite only session sponsored by St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC). During this session attendees got to hear from each of the three St. Louis Main Streets programs that MMSC has worked with over the past few years and the success they have had in organizing together to make an impact on their communities. If you want to learn more about the success of the St. Louis Main Streets programs Dutchtown Main Streets, Laclede’s Landing, and Delmar Main Street, check out this article (Sharing Successes from the Three Districts in the Pilot St. Louis Main Streets Program).




As always, the Evening Opening Reception is a fun kick-off party and 2023 was no different. On top of being in a cool location, Ballpark Village’s Crown Room, attendees were getting to know other attendees at the event they may not have known before by playing bingo. Some of the items on their bingo cards included: has completed Route 66, has visited Disneyland Paris, has public art in their downtown, has attended over 5 MMSC conference, and many more. After getting their competitive spirit fix, you could see groups of people across the venue eating appetizers and networking together.




The conference officially started on Thursday, July 27th with the opening assembly which was crafted by our staff to embody our theme of “People-Centered Revitalization”. During our Welcome and Opening Assembly several Main Street programs highlighted the success they have had working together with their community and volunteers. Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Albany, and the St. Louis Main Streets districts Delmar, Dutchtown, and Laclede’s Landing presented how it was the people of their community who were the catalysts to boost the economy while also putting community vision in action. At the end of the assembly, Maxine Clark held a special heart ceremony to recognize the Main Street Directors who were present at the conference.




Following the Welcome and Opening Assembly attendees were able to start learning from a multitude of other speakers about various topics. This year our staff selected the tracts of Physical, Social, Economic, Civic, Historic Preservation, Foundational, and Urban for the offered sessions.

Some of the attendees were clear about which sessions were their favorites with the reviews we have received so far. The “Main Streets Role in Addressing Social and Economic Challenges” was one session that stood out as we heard all the little nuggets people were able to take away from the speaker including: the 13 touchpoints for trust, the Main Street organization’s ability to have influence over developers, nuanced views on equity, and adapting the Main Street Approach™ to address the realities and challenges of our community.




Additionally, high remarks were given to “Microenterprise Financing for Downtown Development”, “Bitesize Placemaking”, “Successful Event Planning and then Measuring their Impact”, and “Beg, Borrow, and Steal”. People took away so much from these sessions with our favorites being “be proud of your existing downtown and be proud as it grows even better.”




Once again, the ShowMe Bash & Pitch Party were a blast. Attendees brought the excitement of the conference to Armory STL to see great pitches for the Creative Space Activation Grant. Five communities were looking to win the $10,000 Creative Space Activation Grant and presented their projects to the judges made up of MMSC board members. Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc. walked away as the winner with $10,000 for their project. Their application and following pitch at the event highlighted the great need for the project in their district and the strong support they have.




Missouri Main Street Connection always ends conference with an elegant finale. Following the sessions and Closing Assembly on Friday, July 28th, the Evening of Excellence Awards Ceremony & Dinner was held at the Archview Ballroom at Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. This is always a special evening at our conference where MMSC presents awards to communities, businesses, Main Street programs, and individuals to commemorate and honor their commitment to their district as well as the achievements of Main Street revitalization. Once more there was something extra special about some of the award recipients.



Check out the Press Release section on our website to see all the awards MMSC awarded during the Evening of Excellence Awards Ceremony. One presentation was a surprise to everyone in attendance. Diane Hannah, MMSC’s Special Programs Coordinator, received gifts from MMSC’s staff and board members for her years of service to MMSC and Missouri’s Main Streets for her retirement.




As communities departed the conference, they took with them the knowledge and connections they gained to their communities to share with others. Kristine Molloy from My Hometown Carrollton commented to our staff after conference, “I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed my first Main Street Conference! It was amazing and very well organized. I am looking forward to getting a group from My Hometown Carrollton to attend next summer.”



As we take all the feedback provided by the session surveys and overall conference survey, we continue to make our conference better each year for each attendee. MMSC is excited to see you in Kansas City in 2024!

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of Main Street. From the board of directors to committees to event volunteers, each community member that volunteers in Main Street is a rockstar! Not only are they coming together to revitalize their downtown, reinvigorate their community, and cultivate a place to live, work, and play, they are making an economic impact! Volunteers make a significant economic impact in their community through the donation of their time and skill. The Independent Sector values volunteer time in Missouri at $31.80 per hour (as of June 2023). The ‘I Spy… Great Work’ nominees are entered into the running for Volunteer of the Year award at the 2023 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference.

Ashland Betterment Coalition in Ashland, MO has nominated Debbie Mudd for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Ashland was submitted by Brittney Harty on their board:

“Debbie has been an integral part of Ashland Betterment Coalition! She is one of our ex-officio board members who has built vital relationships with our local businesses. The relationships she has begun building have helped our group’s growth significantly. Debbie takes time out of her weeks to interview local business owners and highlights them on our social media pages, which gives them something in return. In six months, our social media pages have grown with Facebook now having 500 followers and reaching 30.2k people and our Instagram now having 223 followers. Our pages are now known in town as the place to go to get a complete picture of what’s happening locally on the weekends. She came up with a series dubbed ‘Round About Ashland’ playing off the roundabouts that replaced some of our busy four-way stops. From the series to the highlights, she has given our local businesses and community members a reason to pay attention to us. We truly wouldn’t be where we are today and wouldn’t be able to continue to grow without her volunteer efforts!”

Old Town Cape, Inc. in Cape Girardeau, MO has nominated Danny Essner for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Old Town Cape was submitted by Andrea Hamm on their board’s behalf:


 “For over a decade, Danny has been involved in making a difference in Cape Girardeau. This is true for many community events in Cape Girardeau and especially true for Old Town Cape’s Cape Riverfront Market. In early 2022, our staff began the long, arduous process of adding a new storage shed to the Cape Riverfront Market parking lot. There were hurdles and struggles that stalled progress such as the city permitting process, finding a reliable manufacturing company to make the shed, and working with a local engineer on the structural drawings all of which Danny Essner stepped in and volunteered to see the project to completion nearly a year later.

At each step, Danny took ownership, made the connections, got approval, and provided continued maintenance. The shed was installed in the front of the market lot in early 2023 utilizing the additional volunteers Danny recruited and tools that he owns for the tough installation process. In fact, three different saw blades broke while cutting into the asphalt to set the anchors. Having the shed at the front of the market lot makes event set up and tear down much more convenient for Old Town Cape staff and volunteers who no longer have to haul everything across the lot and back each Saturday morning.

Danny wanted to add more flair to the shed so that it looked like a cute English cottage to welcome everyone to the Cape Riverfront Market and used money from his own pocket to purchase and install hundreds of dollars worth of decorative windows, window boxes, planters, plants, and gutters to beautify the shed.

Danny is already known as a hardworking and reliable volunteer, but he went above and beyond with the Cape Riverfront Market shed project. He singlehandedly took on the shed project from design to installation, donating countless hours. Because of Danny Essner’s perseverance and altruism, the Cape Riverfront Market has significantly been enhanced.”


Pictured Above: Danny Essner, Old Town Cape Staff, and Old Town Cape volunteers. Photo provided by Old Town Cape.


Chillicothe Main Street in Chillicothe, MO has nominated Chuck Erke for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Chillicothe Main Street was submitted by Tomie Walker on their board’s behalf:


“Chuck is no stranger to Main Street Chillicothe with volunteering at nearly every Main Street event pouring wine, cleaning up, hanging ornaments, and entering data. His involvement with Main Street Chillicothe can not be understated as he held the Organization Committee together during the Covid pandemic; serves as our Organization Chair; has been asked to join the Board of Directors; has walked through most of our downtown noting business and address changes for our directory listing; and recently attended his first Main Street Now national conference in Boston—I could not think of a better volunteer to soak up the experience and ask all the questions. He is an all-around great guy that we are so fortunate to have on our team as he happily gets things done in Chillicothe for Main Street and various other organizations that compete for his time. Fortunately, he has recently retired from his day job, so there is more of him to go around. He is active in the Chamber of Commerce with innovative ideas for small business incubation, can wrap several trees with a thousand lights in Simpson Park from a man lift for the holiday Festival of Lights, serves on the annual Chautauqua in the Park committee, and is always willing to lend a helping hand wherever needed. He has a true volunteer spirit and is the downtown champion that you wish you could clone.”


Pictured Above: Chuck Erke, Main Street Chillicothe staff, and Main Street Chillicothe volunteers. Photo provided by Main Street Chillicothe.


Downtown Excelsior Partnership in Excelsior Springs, MO has nominated Carol Baxter for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Downtown Excelsior Partnership was submitted by Melinda Mehaffy on their board:


“Carol has been a long-term supporter, cheerleader, and volunteer for our downtown. During the summer months, you can find her out as early as 5:00 am watering flowers in our parks and our streetscape, she attends and volunteers at all of the Downtown Excelsior Partnership events. Carol embodies "giving of her time, talents and treasures" and is an important volunteer in our downtown and in our community. She speaks out about the value of downtown and is always pushing forward all the good our downtown has done.”


Pictured Above: Carol Baxter and Lyndsey Baxter of Downtown Excelsior Partnership. Photo provided by Downtown Excelsior Partnership.


Fayette Main Street in Fayette, MO has nominated Frank Flaspohler for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Fayette Main Street was submitted by Cara Owings on their board’s behalf:


“Frank helped create the Fayette Festival of Lights for Fayette Main Street, a wonderful new attraction added to our downtown area for the holidays, and spent many, many hours leading the efforts to install 10,000+ Christmas lights and the software program to create a light show on the courthouse building. The Fayette Festival of Lights was a light show synchronized to music that ran every night for 2-3 hours in December. Frank's vision, leadership, and volunteer hours contributed to the success of the event. The lights are a tremendous new attraction for our downtown, which drew more than three thousand people to the kickoff celebration on December 3rd; hundreds more from neighboring towns around Mid-Missouri throughout the month; and there was great media coverage with radio personalities present. The light show was talked about for weeks with many saying the light show and activities around the square were like stepping into a Hallmark movie and people cannot wait until the light show again in 2023. Without Frank this wouldn't have been successful.”


Pictured Above: Frank Flaspohler. Photo provided by Fayette Main Street.


Glasgow Main Street in Glasgow, MO has nominated Kimberly Reckner for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Glasgow Main Street was submitted by Nikki Gouge on their board:


“Kimberly has been a great addition to Glasgow Main Street. The list of her contributions to our community is astonishing, from building our website and driving tour to streamlining our event ticket sales, grant writing, and providing legal advice. She is constantly doing research on our town and finding new ways to promote it. She is an asset to our organization and to our community.”


 Pictured Above: Kimberly Reckner. Photo provided by Glasgow Main Street.


These nominees are not the only people volunteering in Missouri as there was a total of 9,712 volunteer hours reported in 2023 equating to $308,841.60, a huge community investment in downtowns across the state!


Missouri Main Street Connection recognizes the time it takes and sacrifices made of volunteer hours at a nonprofit and alongside our local Main Street programs and thank everyone who has volunteered with Main Street. Though I Spy Great Work is currently closed, if you see individuals in your community that are completing great work, contact your local Main Street program and recommend them to be highlighted by the local Main Street program or Missouri Main Street Connection in the future. 

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In 2023, Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference is calling St. Louis home. The city of St. Louis is at the core of St. Louis’s sprawling metropolitan county that stretches out to include dozens of municipalities and cities like Kirkwood, University City, Ferguson, and Sappington. This city has a complex history just like many places across the state and nation, but its complex past is not holding back people from pushing forward for change and accomplishing great things. This is part of the inspiration behind this year’s theme, “People-Centered Revitalization.”

There are three St. Louis historic commercial district currently participating in the St. Louis Main Streets program piloted by Missouri Main Street Connection over the past few years. Each of these unique districts has their own challenges, but also their own strengthens and opportunities. When you come to St. Louis to learn from our keynote speakers and other speakers, don’t miss the opportunity to enrich what you are learning in the session rooms with some self-guided excursions into St. Louis.




Pictured Above: Dutchtown Main Streets.

The historic commercial center of Dutchtown originates where Meramec Street crosses Virginia Avenue. Anchored to the east by the towering spires of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and to the west by the Bavarian-styled Feasting Fox (under renovation and reopening next year), Downtown Dutchtown’s small-scale, mixed-use historic architecture creates an environment that balances urban density alongside a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere. With the help of partnerships, Dutchtown Main Streets has reactivated the largest park in their neighborhood, the Marquette Park, and installed new murals on Meramec Street. Dutchtown Main Streets and the Dutchtown neighborhood warmly welcome you to visit “a neighborhood that bears the weight of our city’s past and stands tall in the truth of who we are today. We are full of people who have experienced growth, contraction, and growth again. We are 
Dutchtown Proud.”



Picture Above: Dutchtown Main Streets 


Today, Downtown Dutchtown is home to many places you need to visit while in St. Louis to shop, eat, and learn about niche businesses, concept spaces, and more including: several eclectic boutiques and resale shops, creative services, a halal grocer, and a couple of unique concept spaces: The Wink and Urban Eats. The Wink is a retail incubator allowing small, local makers and sellers to try their hand at the brick-and-mortar business. Urban Eats provides a similar ecosystem for aspiring restauranteurs, with both shared kitchen space and vendor spaces encircling a shared dining area. 



Pictured Above: Urban Eats in Dutchtown. 

Additionally, you can stop grab a bite to eat at Tacos La Jefa that brought the birria craze, All Rolled Up who makes unique egg roll creations in both sweet and savory forms, Beignet All Day with a St. Louis twist to the popular New Orleans Treat, Original Crusoe’s who has been serving up classic comfort food to the neighborhood for over 40 years, and Marie’s Snack Shack with expertly grilled St. Louis-style barbecue.  There’s a lot to love about Dutchtown, with its rich history and promising future. MMSC hopes you explore this neighborhood, meet the neighbors, and learn what makes them “Dutchtown Proud!”


Laclede’s Landing



Pictured Above: Laclede's Landing 

This tiny neighborhood is tucked between two bridges, a highway, and a river, but the residents, business owners, and other stakeholders are not letting their challenges overshadow their amazing opportunities: being the only Saint Louis neighborhood and commercial district on the Mississippi River, having beautiful building stock, and the St. Louis Gateway Arch National Park on the other side of Eads Bridge. The Laclede’s Landing Main Street Board of Directors invites you to plan on coming to Laclede’s Landing for an excursion during your time in St. Louis for Missouri’s Premier Downtown Conference. Download this Tour Guide created by Laclede’s Landing Main Street and the Missouri Historical Society. This guide will take you to points of interest in the district, provide historical insight to the significance of the architecture and the district’s role in Missouri’s history, and areas to dine.



Additionally, there is a “Lunch on the Landing” happening at the Katherine Ward Burg Garden every Friday from 11:30am to 1:30pm with food trucks, live music, and community (Download the invite card here). Laclede’s Landing is a short and safe walk—under one mile—from our conference hotel, the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark.  You can walk north across Market Street to Kiener Plaza Park then west past the old courthouse crossing over the pedestrian land bridge and greenspace to access and walk through the Arch grounds.





Pictured Above: Delmar Main Street 

This nine mile, East-West boulevard and commercial corridor with a complex past stretches through the city from Vandeventer to N Price Rd. Over the past few years, Delmar Boulevard is coming full circle on the unity behind how the street originally got its name, which according to records found in the History of St. Louis Neighborhoods was the result of two landowners, one from Delaware and one from Maryland, living on opposite sides of the road who combined their estate names (Norbury L. Wayman, 1980, Digitally accessed from www.stlouis-mo.gov). Delmar Main Street is working through their second year as champions to “identify and remedy causes of racial and economic inequality, reduce gentrification, and create opportunities for people of color and women” as community members from both sides of Delmar Boulevard are coming together to “Reimagine Delmar” as united through Delmar Main Street.


Pictured Above: Delmar Main Street 

The Delmar Main Street Board of Directors invites you to come see ‘Delmar UNITED’ while grabbing a bite to eat, shop local businesses, and see the changes that has happened. Two local restaurants you will want to visit are Brew Tulum Specialty Coffee Experience that serves a wide variety of handcrafted Mexican meals, specialty coffee, & desserts and Deli Divine that serves Jewish American food as a Jewish Deli and a full market.


Pictured Above: Deli Divine in Delmar.

These three districts have utilized the Main Street Approach™ over the past few years to do amazing things, but they are not the only places where there are people doing great work. We can also learn from districts like Kirkwood and North Grand who are examples of both thriving and developing districts in St. Louis.

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Sending people to a conference can be a big investment when you consider the hotel, travel, and conference registration costs, especially when sending multiple people. While the cost of this investment may look big upfront, there is a huge return on investment for communities of any size through the energization of volunteers and staff and the generation of new ideas and connections to make local Main Street efforts more fruitful. For Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference hosted in St. Louis in 2023, communities have many potential opportunities available to them to help reduce the price of attending conference.

Missouri Main Street Connection Scholarships

Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) recognizes that for some programs the investment of coming to the conference can be a barrier, that is why we work with partners to offer scholarships to select communities where our missions overlap. If your community has an agreement with MMSC, keep an eye out for communications coming from our staff about scholarships that we have available for you. Another opportunity to communities that have reached the Accredited and Associate levels in MMSC’s tier system is a free scholarship to support the work they are doing and to reward their implementation of the Main Street Approach™. This is a big perk for rallying support in programs just starting for their benefits from MMSC that come in through execution of the Main Street Approach™.


Local Partners

Looking inside your community is another place you can find funding to cover conference registration costs, sometimes in surprising places. Organizations and companies that have supported Main Streets in the past include local service clubs like: Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, and Kiwanis Clubs; Local Banks; utility companies; and the Chamber of Commerce. Reaching out to make that initial connection is sometimes all it takes, though it is the simplest but often most intimidating step. We hope the words of MMSC’s State Director Gayla Roten, who was the local director of the Branson Main Street program before becoming the State Director of MMSC, always says, “We don’t have because we don’t ask” can inspire you. Take these words of encouragement and start a conversation by setting aside the fear of potential rejections.

Another MMSC staff member who has experience in securing funding during their time as a local director is Keith Winge, currently MMSC’S State Community Development Director. When Keith was on staff as the Executive Director of Downtown Excelsior Partnership (DEP) roughly a decade ago, he partnered with the Rotary Club of Excelsior Springs to help send himself to the state conference. Keith Winge recalled,

“MMSC shared a list of places where Main Street programs could potentially find money and the Rotary was on the list which would have never crossed my mind in the first place. I reached out to a Rotarian with information about how attending the Conference would help me develop as a Main Street professional and grow DEP’s positive impact on our community and they were in.”


There are many options open to your local Main Street program to discover funding that can assist in helping community members attend conference, you just have to know where to look and not be afraid to ask. Missouri Main Street Connection has created a sample letter and flyer that you can use to start these conversations with potential partners in your community.

Download the Sample Letter Here.

Download the Scholarship Flyer Here.

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Ben White »

Historic Preservation, as it pertains to Main Street efforts, is a collective effort to protect and preserve the historic character and heritage of a downtown area. It involves the involvement of community members, local organizations, and government entities to protect historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural sites, as well as promote the overall revitalization and sustainability of the downtown area.


May is designated as Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a month of celebration and advocacy. As May comes to an end the advocacy, celebration, and hard work to preserve the historic character and heritage of our historic commercial districts and downtown areas does not stop, here are some strategies to implement for downtown historic preservation efforts throughout the year:

Local Historic District Designation: Identifying and designating specific areas as historic districts helps ensure that the unique architectural and cultural features are preserved through local policy and enforcement. Local governments often establish guidelines and regulations for the preservation, restoration, and renovation of buildings within these designated districts.

Public Education and Outreach: Educating the community about the value of historic preservation is crucial. Workshops, seminars, walking tours, and educational programs can help raise awareness about the significance of historic buildings and their contribution to the community's identity and sense of place. 

Pictured Above: Students in Clinton, Missouri.

Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration between local government agencies, historic preservation organizations, community groups, and property owners is essential for successful preservation efforts. By working together, they can share resources, expertise, and funding opportunities to support preservation initiatives.

Incentives and Funding: Providing financial incentives, grants, and tax credits can encourage property owners to invest in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings. These incentives can help offset the costs associated with maintaining and rehabilitating older structures.

Design Guidelines and Regulations: Establishing clear design guidelines and regulations ensures that any changes or renovations made to historic buildings are in line with their original architectural style and character. This helps maintain the historical integrity of the downtown area. 


Pictured Above: Fossil Forge before and after in Lee's Summit, MO.

Adaptive Reuse: Encouraging adaptive reuse of historic buildings promotes their continued use and revitalization. Converting old buildings into new functional spaces such as restaurants, galleries, offices, or residential units can breathe new life into the downtown area while preserving its historical fabric. 


Pictured Above: Washington Farmers Market before and after in Washington, MO. 

Heritage Tourism: Promoting your Main Street’s heritage to attract tourists who enjoy vacationing or visiting locations with rich heritages can help generate economic benefits for the community while raising awareness about the historical significance of downtown. Cultural events, festivals, and guided tours can attract visitors, support local businesses, and create a sense of pride among community members.

Maintenance and Restoration: Regular maintenance and timely restoration of historic buildings are essential to ensure their long-term preservation. Encouraging property owners to undertake necessary repairs and providing technical assistance and resources can help in this regard. Missouri Main Street Connection has resources on building material and maintenance best practices and recently completed a webinar on these resources which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAAkfykBDA4

Documentation and Research: Conducting thorough documentation and research of historic buildings and sites contributes to a better understanding of the community's history and aids in preservation efforts. Archival records, oral histories, and archaeological studies help establish a comprehensive knowledge base for future preservation work. 


Pictured Above: Plaque next to a historic property in Warrensburg Main Street's district.


Advocacy and Planning: Active community involvement and advocacy play a vital role in preserving downtown's historic character. Engaging stakeholders, attending public hearings, and participating in urban planning processes can help influence policies and decisions that affect historic preservation.

By embracing these strategies, Main Street organizations can work towards the sustainable preservation of their downtown areas, protecting their heritage for future generations while fostering economic vitality and cultural pride.

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Starting a new program via a pilot creates many opportunities to learn, especially in the Main Street world. That is because the Main Street Approach™ is a model with distinct principles and methodology that forms the base of any Main Street program which then can be adaptively implemented to fit the needs of a community of any size. Missouri Main Street Connection has learned lessons, made connections, and had hard work pay off since starting the urban pilot program St. Louis Main Streets in 2019. There are now three Main Street districts that are participating in the St. Louis Main Streets program who are all working to improve their little part of the larger city by implementing the time-tested principles of Main Street.

Historic commercial districts of all sizes are different in their density, housing options, services, and public spaces, but they have similarities as they each can be the center of commerce or activities for the area population or community. Each district can bring people together, which is why Main Street as a tool fits perfectly in both rural and urban districts, as it is a community-led revitalization effort focused on the quality-of-life issues related to social, economic, physical, and civic themes – the Main Street Approach™. Some of the ways that Main Street districts of all sizes can revitalize or improve their district are:

  • Design: Enhancing the physical and visual assets of the district, such as improving the streetscape, signage, lighting, landscaping, and historic buildings.

Pictured Above: Mini-Façade Grant awarded to Queen’s Nail & Spa Salon by Dutchtown Main Street to promote exterior improvement of businesses that attract economic activity and show off great businesses.


  • Promotion: Creating a positive image of the district and attracting customers, investors, and visitors through events, marketing, branding, and social media.


Pictured Above: Performers at Downtown Maryville’s Art, Rhythm, and Brews event.

  • Economic Vitality: Strengthening the district’s economy by supporting existing businesses, encouraging new businesses, diversifying the mix of goods and services, and facilitating property development.


Pictured Above: Deli Divine opened in Delmar Main Street just off the corner of Delmar Boulevard and Belt Avenue in the Delmar DivINe building.


  • Organization: Building a strong foundation for the revitalization effort by cultivating partnerships, community involvement, leadership development, fundraising, and advocacy.


Pictured Above: Community members participating in break out groups during the Town Hall hosted in West Plains where they will decide on wildly important goals to be incorporated in the foundation of the Main Street program they are forming through the Community Empowerment Grant program.


In St. Louis, through community feedback and stakeholder input, Missouri Main Street Connection helped each district identify their unique competitive advantage, leverage the power of residents and local stakeholders, and identify a series of short and long-term projects.


Each of the St. Louis Main Streets districts faced various challenges and accessed different opportunities depending on their specific context and characteristics. Some of the challenges and opportunities were:



  • Competing with online shopping, big box stores, and suburban malls that offer convenience, variety, and lower prices.
  • Dealing with issues such as crime, safety, cleanliness, parking, traffic, and homelessness that may deter customers and investors.
  • Preserving the historic and cultural identity of the district while accommodating new development and growth.
  • Engaging and representing the diverse and often marginalized stakeholders of the district, such as residents, business owners, property owners, workers, and visitors.
  • Securing adequate funding, resources, and support from public and private sectors for the revitalization efforts.



  • Capitalizing on the unique assets and competitive advantages of the district, such as its location, architecture, history, culture, events, and niche markets.
  • Attracting and retaining customers, investors, and visitors who value the authentic, local, and human-scale experience of the district.
  • Leveraging the power of residents and local stakeholders who are passionate, creative, and committed to the district’s success.
  • Collaborating and partnering with other urban Main Street districts or organizations to share best practices, resources, and advocacy.
  • Innovating and adapting to the changing needs and preferences of the market and the community.


One of the early lessons was in recognizing partners and opportunities with the program. St. Louis Development Corporation, the Office of the Mayor, and Greater St. Louis Inc., each identified Main Street as a priority. These entities, with their priorities, have a unique role in helping each Main Street district accomplish their specific goals and priorities for the short and long-term as partners. The implementation work is just beginning in St. Louis and Missouri Main Street Connection is working with each district to help them realize their dreams and goals.

Pictured above: Group photo of in Laclede’ Landing.

While the pilot program is coming to an end in 2023, Missouri Main Street Connection’s work is not finished in St. Louis. Other urban commercial and neighborhood districts throughout St. Louis and the state have expressed interest in organizing a Main Street program, implementing the Main Street principles, and making change in their little part of a larger city. If you are interested in starting an urban Main Street program, check out the Urban Forum at Missouri Main Street’s Downtown Revitalization Conference in St. Louis. It will feature a Main Street America representative sharing urban success stories from across the country as well as each St. Louis District sharing their journey, accomplishments to date, and goals for the future. The Urban Forum will be on Wednesday, July 26th from 10am to 11:30am and is free to attend. If you are interested in attending the Urban Forum and learning more about urban district revitalization, please email us at info@momainstreet.org

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The Main Street Approach™ is a singular mission achieved through four points, six criteria, and countless focuses like a rope made up of many strands. Two criteria that show how celebrating a community’s heritage and traditions through displaying it in public spaces is baked into Main Street’s methodology as found in the new standards of Main Street America’s evaluation framework are “Preservation-based Economic Development & Broad-based Community Commitment to Revitalization” (Main Street America, Accessed May 18, 2023). Community, revitalization, and preservation are the three words found in these two criteria that distinguish Main Street from other economic development or revitalization efforts yet does not make local Main Street programs who utilize the Main Street Approach™ too unique to partner with other organizations and companies.


Downtown Monroe City Revitalization (DTMC), which is the local Main Street program for Monroe City, MO, is a perfect example of how to partner with another organization where there is mission overlap. They have partnered with their region’s association of REALTORS®, which is the Mark Twain Association of RELATORS® (MTAR). Debbie Kendrick, who is on the board of Downtown Monroe City as well as a REALTOR®, shared about the collaboration between the two groups which funded their “Rail & Ponies” mural by Ray Harvey of RayHarveyArt, “Both organizations are looking to have a lasting impact in communities by turning spaces into places. We used the overlap in our missions, including ‘community is the focus’ and ‘growth minded’, to our advantage and so should you” (NAR, Accessed May 18, 2023). The mural project was completed and formally dedicated on December 3, 2022 during DTMC’s Christmas Street Stroll event.



MTAR is also collaborating with Canton, MO for engineering drawings for a veteran’s memorial for their community. While MTAR serves their region in Missouri, Debbie Kendrick told us that every region in Missouri has a board of REALTORS® and encourages other local Main Street programs to get connected to their region’s association of REALTORS® for funding opportunities such as Smart Growth, placemaking and/or alley activation grants. She recommends the following steps if you are not currently connected with them:

  1. Reach out to and establish a relationship with a REALTOR® champion, this is a REALTOR® who is involved in community development and growth.
  2. Ask the REALTOR® champion to contact a local board of REALTORS® representative.
  3. Submit to your local board of REALTORS® the project you wish for them to apply to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The last bit of advice from Debbie is to make sure you review the criteria of the grant you are applying for to maximize your chances. If you would like to learn more about how to partner with REALTORS® come to St. Louis July 26 – 28 to hear Debbie Kendrick and Amanda Nemeth speak. You can register online at www.momainstreetconferece.com.

This article was prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) using, in part, the generous donations of Heritage Circle donors to support and provide an example of a community’s successful partnership focused on celebrating by displaying their heritage. If you would like to support MMSC so they can continue to provide resources, trainings, and services to Missouri’s communities to continue to preserve memories, celebrate local history, promote community values, create new memories, and embrace traditions, donate today at www.momainstreet.org/Heritage-Circle/

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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities.

Over that past two years, MMSC and our team of consultants have been working with 16 Main Street organizations and 61 businesses in 20 communites across the state  to build more resilent economies and stronger downtowns.  The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant services will be completed this September. As the grant nears it completion, the momentum it has created across the state is still growing. One of the recipients of the Downtown Strong Grant that demonstrates the long-lasting impact of receiving trailored services is Vision Carthage.

As a newer Main Street organization in Carthage, MO, Vision Carthage saw this grant as an opportunity to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic that their district had felt while fostering a stronger, more resilient downtown business environment. In the fall of 2021, they received assistance from Cygnet Strategies, LLC where a recruitment plan for local entrepreneurs to open new businesses downtown as well as a 2nd story development plan that explored options for utilizing the upper stories of buildings were developed. In 2021, a team from Cygnet Strategies traveled to Carthage where they assessed the district’s situation and talked to local leaders and business and property owners firsthand.

Based upon the observations of the team that visited Carthage, Vicky Soderberg, principal of Cygnet Strategies, recognized that many of the issues and ideas for improvement affected both business recruitment and upper story development in downtown Carthage and required strategies that worked complementarily together. Additionally, Vision Carthage had previously established a set of goals and strategies, including transformation strategies, as part of their organization’s development. She delivered an Analysis and Recommendations Report developed from the findings of their initial site visit that tied together the improvement strategies with the organization’s established transformation strategies, using an approach that understood the vast number of changing circumstances and growing list of needs not formerly identified.

Pictured Above: Vision Carthage’s ice-skating is a great opportunity for families to come downtown and have fun during Hometown Holidays.

The report outlined five targeted actions to strengthen Carthage’s downtown and its resiliency while building upon the already-identified, established, and developed community-based organizational strategies. She challenged the organization to:

  • Lead changes to regulatory frameworks and knock down barriers to doing business in Carthage.

  • Increase awareness of and advocate for development that goes beyond the first floor.

  • Outline and communicate a well-defined downtown experience to help businesses succeed and make residential development desirable.

  • Prioritize community development efforts that align with Carthage’s identity and vision.

  • Account for and articulate the value and impact of Vision Carthage via storytelling designed to enhance downtown visibility and awareness.


Cygnet Strategies went on to break down these actions into smaller, tactical steps that Vision Carthage could work through to accomplish the overall action goal.




The director of Vision Carthage at the time, Abi Almandinger, shared that having the team from Cygnet Strategies visit Carthage provided a fresh perspective and an outsider’s viewpoint that was invaluable. Since the site visit and report was delivered, Vision Carthage has had a transition in leadership with a new director. Jen Kirby, the new director, shared that having this report and its recommendations have been beneficial to her through the transition.  Not only has it provided an analysis that helped her in her learning curve, but it has also given her a tangible reference to use as she, the Board, and other volunteers make plans.  She noted it has been great to have something to use as a guide and a resource, knowing they are able to tweak the recommendations to fit their ever-changing needs and opportunities.

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities.


Photos pictured above are featured on Mississippi Mutts website. 

Mississippi Mutts is a local small business with a large and loving customer base. They offer niche bakery items, in-store washing stations, an outdoor activity area, and other niche services. They share on their website that, “Mississippi Mutts is a pet supply store, handmade treat bakery, and sudsy solution for furry family members. Located in downtown Cape Girardeau, we aim to be ‘your dog’s home away from home’,” but if you know Sherry Jennings and her staff, you know they are more than just a store! When reading their reviews, the word “love” pops up a lot and that is because they love their customers (both human and furry), their community, and what they do. The reverse is also true as their customers (human and furry) love them too!

The Mississippi Mutts' staff creatively approaches business through developing partnerships, events, and opportunities to engage with the community. One always active relationship that they have is with Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) Marketing students. The SEMO students often helped Mississippi Mutts’ owners with marketing and their website.

Despite these strengths, like many businesses during the pandemic, Mississippi Mutts experienced some challenges. They offer great products and services, but without an integrated ordering system it consumed too much time to answer calls for booking in-store activities and ordering products. Meaning they spent a good portion of their time manually managing website orders rather than doing what they valued and loved the most, having interactions with their patrons in-store. The assistance from their great partnership with SEMO Marketing students helped them get to this point, but they realized they needed to be more strategic in their marketing to expand their customer base, and they needed a website integrated some types of online sales and orders.


Photo pictured above is featured on Mississippi Mutts website.   

Missouri Main Street Connection brought in Dana Thomas with BOLD Marketing to facilitate the services they were awarded through the Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant.  During the consultations, Dana helped Sherry and her staff realize how they could become more efficient, increase sales, and diversify their customer base. Dana helped them develop a new website (https://mississippimutts.com/) that better promotes their in-store line of products, services, events, and activities. Excitingly, the site now allows for custom ordering of bakery items that celebrate things like gotcha days, birthdays, and weddings. During the development of the website, Dana gave the staff training and instructional documents as guides to make sure they could maintain the site into the future.

Dana didn’t stop there. The website also integrated a newsletter feature that utilizes MailChimp to streamline communications with customers and promote events and in-store specials. The MailChimp email platform was implemented with three email templates for future customer communications. One of which targets a new audience to capture as a customer base, SEMO students. Social media ads were also developed to push higher margins and core service opportunities such as bathing stations, customer orders, general products, and weddings, while also moving event attendance.



This combination of services provided by BOLD helped streamline custom order operations, while the email blasts and social ad strategies moved their customer base for growth both online and in-store. A “pawsitively perfect” strategy.

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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