Next week Saturday downtown Webster will host the Second Annual Sidewalk Sale, an event sponsored by the Webster-Dudley Business Alliance (WDBA). It’s a chance for local businesses, crafters, artists, and food vendors, and non-profit groups to display their products and services, and an opportunity for residents to meet local business owners and artists who may not have a storefront.
Last year’s sidewalk sale was held in August, in conjunction with the opening of the French River Park and the Civil War 150th year celebration. This year, there will again be activities at the park and a Civil War reenactment at the Town Hall. The P&W Railfan Museum will be open too, and there are plans for an antique car show.
More than 60 vendors participated last year, and Deb Horan, president of the WDBA , hopes to have more take part this year. “We’ve switched the date to June, rather than August, hoping it will be a little cooler. It was brutally hot last year,” she said.
The Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce has invited its members to participate in the Sidewalk Sale event as well. “We’re hoping to do more things together and promote each other’s events,” said Ms. Horan. Which begs the question, why are there two business organizations in the towns?
The Chamber of Commerce is, of course, known as the premier business organization for networking, community support, and advocacy, and the local Webster Dudley Oxford Chamber has been active for many years.
The Webster Dudley Business Alliance has a somewhat different focus. The brainchild of Deb Horan, owner of Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, and Rebecca Leonard, a local artist who had her own gallery, the Alliance had its first meeting in October 2006. (Ms. Leonard has since moved to another state.)
“We saw a need for a group to specifically support smaller local businesses, home-based businesses, and individuals, to offer them some of the same benefits the Chamber provides; to give them a chance to network, share ideas, learn from each other, and work with town government in addressing business issues,” Ms. Horan said. “We also wanted to make it affordable to be a member. Dues are just $50 per year.”
The group targets small businesses, but does have some large members as well. Membership has stabilized at around fifty. “Some business owners say ‘I don’t have time to get involved,’ but you can spend as much or as little time as you want. We communicate a lot with email and facebook,” said Ms. Horan.
“We’re all busy running our businesses,” she added, “but there is strength in numbers. The more people we have sharing information and solving mutual problems, the better.”
In addition to networking opportunities, the organization offers speaker meetings on topics such as marketing and financial planning.
When the WDBA obtained its non-profit status, it began working with Webster’s Community Development office and director Carol Cyr to support access to commercial property development grants for façades and signage. “In talking with Carol, having an active business group in town improved the chances of getting the grants,” said Ms. Horan.
The WDBA will also get involved in local town issues that might come up again, such as a new sign bylaw. “While we have no official position on this, we want to be part of any negotiations, to work for something that’s fair,” she said.
A key purpose of the group is to increase awareness of local businesses in the community by serving the community. One visible aspect of that was WDBA 's organization of this year's Earth Day Cleanup in April, which included other groups as well, including the French River Connection and the Dudley Conservation Land Trust. They've also sponsored an annual Tree Lighting Event in Webster. The Sidewalk Sale is another.
And so, most immediately, the group is getting ready to make downtown Webster a destination for fun, food, and shopping again next weekend, June 23. Last year many people said “It was so nice to have all that activity in the downtown area.”
Come join us. We’ll be there along with lots of other locals. The rain date is June 30.
- Wednesday, 13 June 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor