Denison’s Main Street is undergoing a new Community Reinvention Program that was started as part of an attempt to find new ways to make downtown Denison into a tourist and consumer destination.
A number of city representatives and business owners went to Longmont, Colorado at the end of October to participate in Jon Schallert’s Destination Business Boot Camp. Six business owners accompanied Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow for the trip that was partially paid for by funding from a Denison Development Foundation scholarship.
“Jon Schallert’s workshop is like a crash course in economics, sales, marketing and social media all rolled into two and a half intense high-powered days,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said. “Anyone and everyone who is open and willing to listen would benefit from this opportunity to change and grow their business. I feel very fortunate and grateful to have had this beneficial opportunity for my business and to help mentor others in our Denison community.”
There is already a second group preparing to go in February to continue the momentum, Dow said.
“After the recent tragedy on Main Street, we are so blessed to be able to engage our business owners — some directly impacted by the fire — in this nationally recognized training,” Dow said. “The energy and new insight gained is just what we need on Main Street to start ‘Moving Forward’ toward a new beginning.”
The course teaches business owners how to work together to promote and enhance downtown by working together. After the boot camp ends, there is a four-month continued training program that includes videos and guidance focusing on several topics discussed at the boot camp. Then, Schallert will visit Denison to check on the progress of each business while giving them a chance to share ideas.
“He pushes businesses to get out of their environment in order to unplug and to think about how to operate better and improve,” Dow said. “The community reinvention program allows the group to support one another. It also provides opportunities to think of the things from a community aspect. It gives the participants a chance to discuss what they learned and help each other. It helps strengthen the bond of the business owners and to encourage each other.”
The business owners who went as the city’s first Destination Business Boot Camp graduates were Kathy Pryor from 301 Mercantile, Mary Karam from Mary Karam Gallery, Josh Massey from The RailYard Incubator, Nitia Musico from Rugs and Stuff, Jonathan Gentry from CJ’s Coffee Cafe, Elsie Russel from 2 Chicks Home and Market and George Mason from Mary Karam Gallery.
“During the boot camp, I realized a need for changes to make my products more fun and appealing to a wider range of people,” Mary Karam said. “I look forward to growing my business while being part of the Main Street community.”
Each business owner returned with their own unique perspective.
“I am definitely going to expand our workshops,” Massey said. “I love that sharing the process of teaching customers to take their grandmother’s piece of furniture and creating something new. They walk out very confident that they can create their own. I also want to have guest instructors come in. We are expanding the creativity level.”
Musico said her passion is mentoring employees.
“I enjoy the process of sharing experiences with a receptive audience,” Music said. “I expected to gain tools to improve the value of mentoring, and I did. After attending, I realized a lot about the path we are taking and that it is creating a destination.”
Gentry said it he loved seeing the businesses seek new ways to be more effective at marketing the uniqueness of each business.
“We have so many great business owners, and it is exciting to see them taking it to the next level,” he said.
The business owners signed up for the Feb. 3-6 boot camp include Samantha Lumpkins of Homestead Winery and Ivanhoe Ale Works, Kimberlea Miller from The Hangin’ T, Derrick Roberts from Pop Around the Corner, Natalie Popplewell from 410 Collective and Ronelle Ianace of Zelda Rose Boutique.
Others who will attend include Denison Area Chamber of Commerce President Diana Theall, Denison Development Alliance Vice President William Myers, Gabe Parker owner Homestead Winery and Ivanhoe Ale Works, and Denison Main Street Coordinator Melanie Truxal.
“I took it seriously as everyone was looking at their business,” Dow said. “I looked at how we could improve our events, how we could make ours stand out from others. Every town has a down town. What makes our stand out? I also looked at it from the perspective of our upcoming Designing Downtown Denison and how we could better market that and better support our businesses and their customers during the construction.”
Dow said there is only funding for the two trips right now. However, she said there is enough interest to send a third group using funding from next year’s budget.