Over the course of the last few months, a group of downtown business owners have been working toward a joint marketing program that will highlight our downtown. The group has been rather informal, but that is changing.
First off, what the Downtown Independents Group is NOT: This is not a business networking group like NPI or BNI, where members get together to exchange leads. It is also not a Chamber of Commerce, where the major emphasis is to network with each other. It is also more focused than a Main Street organization, which has other responsibilities.
Rather, the downtown business owners have been looking at ways of doing small scale things that will draw a steady stream of people into the downtown and onto the sidewalks and into the stores.
The first of these promotions were the “Shop & Sip” events that Kelly Hackman took upon herself to organize. They were nothing fancy, just a few dinner specials and wine at some of the retail establishments. The first one pulled quite a few people out on a nice evening. The second one was on the Friday of the Mothers’ Day weekend. These events should continue to grow as additional stores open up over the course of the next couple of months.
The next informal event will be on July 1st, when a bunch of us will bicycle over to Sip for a group ride at 11:00am. I’ve already made arrangements so I can boogie out of church in time to participate. Now to put some air in my bicycle tires! They will have an ice cream vendor there, completely negating any health benefit I might otherwise accrue from riding my bike with the group.
Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of presenting a proclamation designating July as “Independent Retailers Month” in New Port Richey to Jeff Wright, who was representing the group. When you buy from one of our independent businesses, your money stays in New Port Richey. When you buy things on the Internet or from a big retailer, most or all of your money flows somewhere else. If you want to see our city thrive, buying local makes great sense.
The downtown businesses are planning a whole series of reasons to come downtown. They include:
July 1 Ride Our New Port Richey Bike Ride and Bike Swap Meet – Sip (6231 Grand Boulevard)
July 1 Yacht Rock Yoga with Mary – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
July 3 Joe McNeal (acoustic) – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
July 4 Independence Day Sale. 10% off everything storewide – Wright’s Natural Market (6630 US Hwy 19)
July 5 Wayne & Dan (live jazz) – Sip (6231 Grand Boulevard)
July 7 Mountain Holler (earthy, folk, acoustic) – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
July 9 Talk About Town: People First, Traffic Calming & Street Design – People Places (5742 Main Street)
July 12 Wayne & Dan (live jazz) – Sip (6231 Grand Boulevard)
July 14 Kelly Rhodes (jazz) – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
July 19 Wayne & Dan (live jazz) – Sip (6231 Grand Boulevard)
July 21 Kate Barnette (soul/folk) – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
July 23 Talk About Town: Public Art in Downtown NPR – People Places (5742 Main Street)
July 24 Locals Night – live, local music at Sip, Ordinance One, Mountaineer Coffee, and The Reef
July 26 Wayne & Dan (live jazz) – Sip (6231 Grand Boulevard)
July 27 Shop & Sip – wine tasting and specials at various restaurants and retailers
July 31 Joe McNeal (acoustic) – Ordinance One (5738 Main Street)
If you haven’t made one before, you need to check out the Shop & Sip event the evening of Friday, July 27th. Carolyn and I tend to go out to dinner downtown on Friday nights anyway, so this event will just be an excuse to wander around after dinner and check out all the cool stuff downtown.
The Independents group is now planning an “Independents Week” for later this year, culminating in a “Independents’ Day” on September 8th that will showcase our downtown businesses. We are looking forward to both the Cotee River Brewing Company and Wrights Natural Market to be settled into their downtown digs by then, so this will be a great way to celebrate our growing downtown business community. Details are still in flux, but I expect we will have quite the event. September 8th is also New Port Richey’s first National Drive Electric Week event and we will be inviting the Drive Electric participants to stick around for the festivities that evening.
Is New Port Richey Main Street involved in all of this? Not yet. New Port Richey Main Street just hired a new executive director. Actually, they are recycling their ORIGINAL executive director. Marilynn DeChant will be taking the helm of the organization as of July. She was the driving force behind the New Port Richey Community Cooperative that ultimately became New Port Richey Main Street. From what I can tell, the Cooperative in the late 80’s and early 90’s was not a whole lot different from the downtown merchants group of today. I’ve served with Marilynn on city council and believe that she is an excellent choice for the position. Marilynn knows what it takes to create and run a full featured Main Street program. The fact that there is now an organized group of downtown merchants committed to banding together to make things happen should make Marilynn’s job that much easier. I have no doubt that Marilynn will do a great job.
I look forward to seeing you downtown.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor