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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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Throughout 2016, we have celebrated 10 years of Missouri Main Street Connection. We have accomplished a lot in these first 10 years and hope to have as much success in the next 10! In 2017, we officially kick of the next 10 years of MMSC with some exciting projects.

 

We began working on the first of these projects in October 2016. Earlier this year we received a grant, from the State Historic Preservation Office to conduct a study on the economic impact of historic preservation initiatives in Missouri. These initiatives include the Missouri Main Street program, SHPO’s Certified Local Government program, and the use of state and federal historic tax credits. We have visited several communities to collect data and stories on their experiences with these initiatives. The study will also examine stats that we have collected over the past 10 years from our Main Street communities. We are very excited to see the results of this study and hope it will be a tool to showcase the impact of Missouri Main Street and other preservation initiatives.

 


Cape Girardeau visit to study the economic impact of historic preservation initiatives in Missouri.

 

Another amazing opportunity we are looking forward to in 2017 is partnering with USDA on two different projects. First, through the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG), we will be able to focus our revitalization efforts in the southeast region of Missouri in order to help those communities establish a revitalization organization. When examining our work with Missouri communities, we noticed that few communities in the Southeast region of Missouri had taken advantage of the assistance we had to offer. We felt that it was important to expand our reach to communities in this area and with assistance from USDA, we will be able to offer communities in this region specialized training and mentoring.

 


Lee's Summit visit to study the economic impact of historic preservation initiatives in Missouri.

 

The second great partnership opportunity we are working on with USDA is through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant. This three-year project allows us to provide in-depth training and assistance to 12 communities throughout Missouri. This assistance will help them strengthen and expand their Main Street organizations. We are very excited to work with USDA on both this project and the RBDG project.

 


Jackson community visit to study the economic impact of historic preservation initiatives in Missouri.

 

The final project that we are very excited about is partnering with the National Main Street Center to bring the Main Street Now conference to Missouri in 2018! The Main Street Now conference boasts many educational opportunities to learn and connect with Main Street groups throughout the country. Currently we are still working with National Main Street to confirm the details of the 2018 Conference in Kansas City, but are so excited to have the opportunity to showcase the great revitalization work happening throughout Missouri.

 

And finally, we couldn’t take on all of these exciting new projects without a fresh new look to go with it! With the assistance of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street and their local design firm, Fossil Forge, we have a new logo to usher in the next 10 years of Missouri Main Street Connection. Read more about the new logo and the competition we hosted for its design here

 

Missouri Main Street's fresh, new look beginning in 2017!

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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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