We couldn’t be happier to see Geneveve’s Marketplace on Main Street open for business this holiday season — and not just because we like to shop.
A few years ago, a friend of ours that manages main streets — and now heads up a main street program in Vermont — explained to us the delicate balance that a successful main street needs in order to thrive.
She explained that doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like are fantastic main street citizens — they support every endeavor, every downtown event and will be the driving force for improvements to the area.
However, they aren’t the best main street storefronts because when people go to the dentist or visit the chiropractor, that’s all they tend to do — go to have a teeth cleaning and go home. The service provider tends to be the destination rather than the downtown area.
What makes a vibrant downtown area, she explained, are multiple shops selling the same thing. Such as a few shoe stores, a few clothiers, two or three jewelers and a number of bars and restaurants. When people shop, they want to compare, so they will walk from store to store. And when they spend a day walking, they will often stop for a bite to eat or something to drink. Add in a theater or two and you really have a dynamic downtown.
Basically, it’s the philosophy behind a shopping mall, except in the heart of a community and made up of small businesses
The downside is that, unlike the doctors and lawyers, retailer success is never a sure thing. Stores open and close with regularity, and no one has a smaller success rate than restaurants and bars.
So while it’s the retail shops and restaurants that draw people to the area, there’s no guarantee that what draws those people will still be there next year or even next month. Plus those industry sectors have among the smallest profit margins, which means even the success stories have less money available to promote the area and make improvements.
Downtowns are a tricky thing and credit has to go to the business owners willing to take the risk to open their doors. Credit also has to go to the local Downtown Association willing to try new things to get people to walk the streets and see what our Main Street has to offer. And we support the national Small Business Saturday effort, which encourages people to spend their dollars locally.
We’re hopeful Geneveve’s Marketplace — and all our Downtown shops — have a successfully holiday shopping season and we see more retail growth on Main Street.