Village Green Partners set sights on 2013 in Sewickley business district
By Bobby Cherry
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Sponsor more small events throughout the year.
Generate more foot traffic in the business district.
Deliver more information to business owners and customers.
That, in a nutshell, is what Village Green Partners Kirsten Recker and Jennifer Markus plan to do in 2013 as they enter their third year of marketing Sewickley's business district.
To do that, it will take more money from Sewickley taxpayers — $80,000, which the women say will help them as they take on a larger presence in town. Council members approved the funding last month.
But one of the nonprofit group's focuses is to try to quash the perception that Sewickley's business district continues to struggle.
“There are still people who think Sewickley is in bad shape,” Markus said.
“How many towns got one new store (or) two or three?” said Recker, who serves as the group's president. “We have consistently put out an average of six to 10 stores every year.
“We had some people really make a jump and take a risk to open stores.”
Ten businesses opened this year, according to Village Green and Sewickley Herald records.
That same number of businesses closed, including Lucky Ink, which closed within a few months of opening, and Pink & Blue, whose owner closed the business less than a year after opening in the former Monday's Child location at Beaver and Broad streets.
“(Lucky Ink and Pink & Blue) were a little tough for the town,” said Recker, noting the uniqueness of the stores and the customers each store brought to town.
Still, the women say finding vacant storefront space in Sewickley is difficult.
“It's always surprising the people who want to be here,” Recker said.
“There's a handful of people marching around trying to find the right space, and that is really cool.”
“When people come to town looking for space, there's not a lot of options,” Markus said.
In noting vacancies the women want to see filled, they called the former Travelwares, 429 Broad St.; the former Monday's Child, 449 Beaver St.; and the former Chico's store, 419 Beaver St., as the “big three.”
Increased activity within the business district will help, the women say.
Plans are in the works for additional small-scale events — similar to the group's soup crawl held in March and Oktoberfest — such as one around Valentine's Day, Markus said.
“An event like the soup crawl is really inexpensive to run, and it really impacts the stores,” Markus said. “So we want to do more events like that.
“It would be really nice that, if you look at the calendar, every month had something going on. That would be the ultimate goal.”
The women wouldn't disclose specific plans for events.
One event Recker and Markus said they hope gains appeal among not only customers but business owners is an effort to create extended shopping hours on Wednesdays throughout the entire year.
“More and more stores are starting to open (later),” Markus said.
“We're really trying to convince them of why it's important,” Recker said.
Some stores have started experimenting with extended Wednesday hours, Markus said.
While Recker and Markus say more can be done, they add that their efforts to increase awareness are helping to bring potential customers to the business district.
“I struggle to find the right way to get the awareness out there,” Recker said.
“And most stores do, so we're really not much different than a store.
“(But), more people have learned about Sewickley. So it's working.”
Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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