What does the future hold for downtown Wellington storefronts?
Lorain County officials shared their forecast recently during and following Main Street Wellington’s annual meeting, pointing to seven new businesses opened in the village in 2017, including five in the downtown area.
“The economy is changing but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” county economic development coordinator Jerry Good told Main Street members. “I always tell people that economic development starts locally, not from the outside. Eighty percent of future job creation in this county is going to come from people who are already here.”
The Painting Factory, The Platinum Petal, and Wellington Music have been approved for participation in Retail Is Detail, a program through Dublin-based Boulevard Strategies that provides one-on-one consulting and technical support for small businesses in areas such as industry trends, real estate efficiencies, social media strategies, and inventory management.
In September, the Retail Is Detail program received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that opened the door for businesses to join in Wellington, Ashland, Ravenna, Sydney, and Xenia.
In all, 68 businesses in 16 Ohio communities are taking part.
“We’re talking thousands of dollars worth of consulting time being made available for us,” said Main Street Wellington director Jenny Arntz. “Boulevard Strategies visited here in September and gave us a lot of great feedback and good ideas to mix in with what we’ve already been doing.”
Good praised Main Street’s Paint the Town Proud program, which works with Farm & Home Hardware to provide paint to business owners who want to refurbish their storefronts. So far, 12 storefronts have been repainted.
Seventeen downtown businesses completed or began renovation projects in 2017 and another three have projects planned in 2018, Good said.
County community development director Don Romancak agreed with the importance of aesthetics, but said another key facet of small businesses competing against big box chains is creating a personalized experience for customers.
“It ultimately comes down to the value you’re providing, ” he said. “There are certain things where you’re maybe just not able to compete against a Wal-Mart. For instance, if you want to sell paint, you can’t carry the brand Wal-Mart does and compete with them. But if you find a different one that’s better, you can provide a value even if it’s a little more expensive.”
“There are opportunities to be successful still but it’s not easy and it’s not guaranteed,” Romancak said. “You have to know your community and know what the people in it value. Each of our downtowns in this county is a little different. Owners should aim to create an experience, not to just fill a need of something to buy.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.