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Book bunches boosting Beaver businesses

| Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

Beaver is using a novel approach to attract young families to its business district.

Once or twice a month since July, storytime programs have been held at businesses and other locations throughout the Beaver County borough. About 15 to 20 preschool children have participated.

Sponsored by the Beaver Business District Authority, the programs consist of stories and crafts featuring seasonal themes. A Valentine's Day-themed program is planned at a toy store in February.

"We're trying to get more businesses involved," storyteller volunteer Jennifer Temple said. "The parents love it as much as the children. They're getting out and socializing. The more people find out about it, the more inquiries I receive."

Toy store owner Linda Lyden has noticed a slight increase in business since a program was held there in December.

"At least four people who never had been in the store before returned after being there for storytime," Lyden said. "Even that helps."

Storytime is conducted through the Beaver County Main Street community development program. Town Center Associates, a Beaver-based real estate company owned by Mark Peluso, has a contract with the county to run the program in 10 municipalities, including Beaver.

The company helps manage Main Street programs in eight Allegheny County municipalities as well, according to Allegheny County business development manager Lance Chimka.

Main Street programs are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mara Dowdy, program director for the downtown division of Town Center Associates, said municipalities choose their projects. Beaver is the only municipality in Beaver or Allegheny counties to have storytime programs. Projects in Allegheny County have included a farmers' market in Bridgeville and a concert series in Elizabeth.

"We have a very vibrant business district, but we can't take it for granted," said Mary Jo Yarris, a member of the Beaver Community Life committee, which falls under the business authority's jurisdiction. "A lot of younger people shop online. If they don't leave their houses and patronize our stores, we won't be vibrant any longer."

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