Warm weather means one thing around these parts: Boy Scout campouts in the far-off hills on weekends. No fans of sleeping outdoors amidst the wilds of nature, we dropped off the boys and headed toward the nearest valley.
Stop one was in a town surrounded by “big box” stores and restaurants, taking up acres of space. This area was as cold and antiseptic as you might imagine.
The next morning, we hit the river road toward places more bucolic. And there, nestled into the highlands along the river’s edge, we found the classic small town.
Almost all small businesses lined Main Street (which is really its name). And this went on for a good two-mile stretch. Restaurants and retail shops were packed with customers of all ages – youth, young families, and a decidedly older set. Services such as lawyers and doctors were also located on this street, though closed at that point of the day.
What appeared to be going right?
- Harmony. Sure, the nice weather didn’t hurt, but there was a sense of a very diverse community across business owners, shoppers, and strollers. And each small business had its own unique vibe, blending well with its neighbors.
- Full occupancy. Storefront after storefront was open for business. A gallery here, antiques there. Restaurants, hipster-retro boutiques. Not a vacant spot. (Perhaps the sign of a town not permitting greedy landlords.) While we did spy three consecutive empty stores, there were permits in the windows and clear evidence they were in the process of renovations.
- Local happenings. As we’ve mentioned previously, get together with your colleagues and plan activities to attract your customers while the weather cooperates. This town was full of banners waving, signs up, and flyers touting upcoming events. (Just some food for thought for your next Chamber of Commerce or small business group meeting.)
- Word of mouth. We didn’t just stumble on this picturesque small town; the locale was recommended by a waiter in a restaurant that was 45 minutes up the road. We did ask about a walkable small town and this place was the first to come to mind. If you’re located in a town that isn’t on everyone’s radar, you need to get the word out that it should be – talking up your location as well as your business through all the marketing channels discussed in earlier blogs.
Having finished our walkabout, we headed back down the mountain in search of the next small business “Successville,” pleased to discover one town that was doing things right for small businesses.