Main Street Association rolling out plans for DREAM Initiative

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Local businesses to hear research, get resources to help improve bottom lines

The Cassville Main Street Association will be hosting Come Share the Vision, an event aimed at discussing the implementation of the DREAM Initiative for the downtown betterment project, a master plan that's been almost five years in the making.

The meeting will be held on Thursday from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Barry County Museum on Highway 112 in Cassville.

Andrew Murray, PGAV senior planning consultant, will be sharing a presentation to review research findings, ideas, and resources covering branding, retail marketing analysis, grant funding, building improvements, and more for local business owners and residents. A light dinner and dessert will be served.

An update on the upcoming MoDOT sidewalk project and plans for landscaping and lighting for the downtown area will also be shared.

"Anyone in the community is welcome to come," said Carolyn Bishop, Cassville Main Street Association president. "Andrew will be providing a summary of information for people to carry out projects to improve the downtown area, and that's an important moment because it will include a lot of information, research and ideas. So, the intent is for the community to use what they've [researched and] provided. I've talked with a lot of communities over the last five years, and a lot of information to implement projects gets put on the shelf. They will also have some information for grant resources through the Missouri Department of Economic Development."

Bishop said current and potential business owners will benefit from attending and learning what they can do to make their businesses more profitable and successful in the community.

"They are going to learn about materials to help them retail better, for instance, what products they can carry, and how they can actually display materials," she said. "There is a lot of information available. We have done a retail market analysis that tells us what people [here] want. It helps people and businesses think outside the box and broaden what they can provide. It's going to give them additional ideas, and help them learn what helps draw people in."

Bishop discussed the importance of planning and research ahead of time to prevent failure in new businesses, especially with the occurrence of what she called "small-town syndrome," in which a new business comes to town, typically in the downtown area, full of hope and with what they think are great ideas, then find themselves failing a year later.

"We have to protect ourselves from small town demise," she said. "You see new businesses open its doors and think they won't be here a year from now, because they haven't really researched what's needed and what people [here] want. If you're not a proactive community and let people know this is a great place to live, and don't care enough to make your downtown area thrive, then people will think, 'I don't know if I really want to come here.'"

Bishop said along with doing their research on the wants and needs of their customer-base, drafting a business plan and being willing to adapt are crucial for success.

"For new businesses, asking what people want and being willing to implement that is so important," she said. "Sometimes, we get so ingrained in, 'This is what I like,' but that's not what the public wants. So, I think we can do a lot by learning what the community wants."

Bishop used the The BBQ Station restaurant as an example.

"They asked customers what they liked, and if they didn't like their sauce, they changed it," she said. "They've been successful as a result of being willing to make changes to give people what they want."

Residents can help support businesses, and their community, by shopping local, Bishop said.

"If you want a community to succeed, then we have to support those stores," she said. "You may pay a few dollars more for a product, but when you look at your gas and time spent to drive elsewhere, to support locally is huge. The objective is, when you improve your downtown, it's a win-win for everybody. When you start improving your image, painting your store front, and put the right business in the stores [according to what people want], it gives you a better tax base and draws more people coming through your town buying your products.

"When you have a busier downtown, everything will increase in value. People won't be afraid to come in and buy a building because they see that this is a community that wants to thrive and will be here 50 years from now."

Bishop said some type of coffee house has been a top request for new businesses, along with more restaurants.

"The research that has been done says that people want more restaurants downtown and less services," she said. "The empty buildings we have now need to be restaurants or retail. But, we need to really research and think about what is going to make [Cassville] a unique experience. People can go to a shopping center or mall, and we want to be unique. If you have a good restaurant, people will drive miles for it, and one that provides consistency.

"Look at Steak Inn. It's in Shell Knob, but people will make the drive. We need something locally like The Rib restaurant. It was full all the time. We also need to have consistent restaurant hours. If things get slow, local restaurants close early. If you haven't eaten by 8 p.m., you're not going to. I think of the number of times we've walked into a restaurant and they've said, 'Sorry we're closing.' We also have young people who would like to relocate here, but we need to have a better industrial base so they have a job to come to or a means of developing and running a business here. If we don't get in the mode of being more progressive, we're in trouble. In the end, it begins with each one of us. When we all start working together, great things can happen."

The Main Street Association will also hold its next board meeting on June 29 at Security Abstract from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

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