For downtown revitalization to happen, work must begin
KINGMAN – Downtown business owners need to communicate with each other, compile a comprehensive directory of shops and restaurants with hours of operation and set a goal of filling buildings with vibrant, like-minded businesses.
Those are just a few of the ideas put forth during a “Business Mix and Communication” workshop presented Thursday as part of the Main Street Arizona Town Hall meeting at Beale Celebrations.
Business owners need to be kept in the loop about what resources are available to them such as the Small Business Development Center at Mohave Community College and Downtown Merchants Association.
Put together an inventory of properties available for sale or lease, which buildings are vacant, which buildings are condemned and require renovation, which ones are turnkey, suggested Lani Lott of Arizona Downtown Alliance.
“So the communication piece is really important, too,” Lott said at the workshop attended by more than a dozen downtown business owners and city officials.
Andrea Young, who opened Southwest Trading Co. in downtown Kingman, said at least 40 percent of her customers are tourists walking around downtown. They take pictures of the mural painted next to her business in the 200 block of Beale Street.
“We put out a clothed mannequin and give out coupons for other businesses,” Young said. “However, not all businesses work together. Some see it as competition. A rising tide lifts all boats. I live by that.”
Lott said it’s hard to compete with big-box retail chains, so more businesses are trying to figure out their niche. They build upon each other’s niche business, she said.
It’s a completely different model than the standard brick-and-mortar store that opens its doors, puts merchandise on the shelf and people will come, Lott noted.
“The retail we see opening in downtown Phoenix is way different,” she said. “That’s good for restaurants. You have your formulated restaurants on Stockton Hill Road, but you also have the Chophouse hidden in there.”
Jim McPherson, volunteer president of Arizona Preservation Foundation, talked about a row of Middle Eastern, Ethiopian and other cultural restaurants between Mesa and Tempe that branded themselves as the “Spice Trail.”
They put together a brochure to market the restaurants as a place, a destination, rather than “onesies,” McPherson said.
“You can do an asset map of businesses, dining and retail,” he said. “Lower Grand Avenue in Phoenix did this. What are all the art galleries, what are the restaurants?”
Sylvia Shaffer, planner with the City of Kingman, said she’d like to see more consistent business hours downtown.
“Let’s say I have a half-hour lunch and I go to a thrift shop and I get there and it’s closed. Same on the weekend. I come down with family and they’re not open. I would encourage weekend hours for people here visiting,” Shaffer said.
Lott said the business community should focus on what can be accomplished in the next couple of years, not the next 20 years. They need to retain existing businesses and fill in gaps in the mix.
“Look at cultivating that entrepreneurship and creating unique businesses for downtown,” she said.
The next business workshop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at City Council Chambers.