The city of Denison’s "Operation Increase Occupancy" is the best civic marketing program in the state, according to the Texas Downtown Association. The association named it as such earlier this month, selecting it over competing programs in Corsicana and El Paso. But you don’t have to tell Monica Miles that Denison does it best; she already knows.

The city of Denison’s "Operation Increase Occupancy" is the best civic marketing program in the state, according to the Texas Downtown Association. The association named it as such earlier this month, selecting it over competing programs in Corsicana and El Paso. But you don’t have to tell Monica Miles that Denison does it best; she already knows.


"I’ve always wanted to have a consignment clothing business," she said. "I grew up in Sherman, but I like the downtown of Denison a lot better; I like the feel of it better than Sherman’s downtown."


Last August, Miles teamed up with a longtime friend to open Big T’Z consignment shop on Main Street, and the help she got from the city through "Operation Increase Occupancy" was vital in the business’ early stages, she said.


"We mostly dealt with (Main Street Director) Donna (Dow) and (former Denison Development Alliance VP) Scott Smathers. They were really, really, really helpful with getting us up and going," said Miles. "Donna emailed me a little map that just kind of walks you through ‘If you’re opening a new business, these are the steps you need to take.’ So we just kind of took one step at a time and followed that map. It definitely made it easier."


Big T’Z also enrolled in the Denison Development Foundation’s rental assistance program, which provides a yearlong, monthly stipend to help offset setup costs for new ventures.


"When you first start out, you don’t really realize all the expenses that go into it," said Miles. "Things would pop up here and there, so that’s definitely been a good cushion for us to have that (assistance) coming in."


DDA President Tony Kaai said between rental assistance and façade grants, the city has invested heavily to make Main Street a premier shopping destination. Both programs are funded by the DDF.


"Between the two of those (programs) over the last seven or eight years, we spent over $400,000 in private money from a private foundation. And that (number) was matched by (by the business owners) — most of the time people did even more than that," said Kaai. "We’re pretty close to getting everything stabilized and looking very good for a town our size on Main Street."


Overall, the city has added 15 new businesses downtown in the last eight months. Occupancy rates, which just a few years ago were flirting with 70 percent, are now nearing 90. And for business owners like Donna Guthrie, who opened B.G. Treasures on Main Street last March, that swell has meant the steady sound of chimes at the front door and a renewed since of community among the local entrepreneurs.


"It takes each individual business pulling together and working together to draw people downtown," said Guthrie. "Donna Dow with the city and Downtown Denison Inc., I’ve joined with them, and there are so many great minds in that. Everybody’s got a whole lot of really good ideas. It has been very good for a new business starting up downtown. I’m just very happy."