This is what small town America used to look like. What happened?
Some claim Walmart was the downfall.. others claim online shopping killed downtown.. but the reality is, it’s each and every one of us. It’s our perceptions of downtown and of small businesses.
One hundred years ago, downtown was the center of the community. Everything was located here, from grocery stores to gas stations.
And then catalog and mail-order systems became popular. You could order anything from a chair to a house through a catalog and then have it delivered. People cried that it was the death of downtown.
And then the automobile became popular. People could drive anywhere, buy anything, and have anything delivered to their front door. Unless you lived in a big city, again, this was the death of downtown.
But again, downtown adapted.
There’s been a hundred different events through history like that. In each circumstance, until modern times, small businesses have changed to meet different demographics. Innovators found new ways to make brick and mortar buildings viable. Downtown remained the place to be in peoples hearts and minds. No matter the change, it was the people who drove interest in downtown and in small business.
Today, that perception has changed; people see old run-down buildings.. but it doesn’t have to be like that. Downtown is still viable. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy.
So how do you compete? Make downtown fun. Keep the history, that’s an important part of our heritage.. while at the same time preserving, recruit interesting and unusual shops.. Create a splash of whimsy; street art, unexpected things here and there.. Host events downtown.. build a community downtown. Put all of those things together and then you not only change the perception of downtown, but you create a vibrant community that is self sustaining and innovative.
It is up to us to preserve and promote our downtown’s and our small businesses, and then to support them by shopping local. If just a handful of people work on changing these perceptions, it radiates and amazing happen.