Webinar – Buy Local First: Driving Customers to Main Street for a Resilient Economy

On March 8, 12 – 1 p.m., Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar focused on how to promote buying local and practical ways to build a resilient economy in your community.  

Local isn’t just a place on a map. It’s people: your neighbors and their families, their businesses, farms, nonprofits, events, and recreational venues. Local is a community and all of the opportunities we create together and challenges we work to overcome. Local First has a passion for people living and working together in sustainable community.

That’s Local First’s mission, a western Michigan advocacy organization, leader of a fast-growing movement, and the root of this webinar’s message.  By choosing local and independent businesses for your services, shopping, dining, and other needs, you not only enjoy a more distinctive and personal experience, you’re strengthening your local economy.

About the speaker:
Elissa Hillary, President, Local First, Grand Rapids, MI

Elissa Hillary is committed to building sustainable local economies that put people first.  As the President of Local First since 2007, she has brought together nearly 1,000 businesses in West Michigan to collaborate in building a vibrant community that encourages sustainable business and social enterprise development.  As a consultant and speaker, she magnifies that impact in communities around the world. Elissa is a founding Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Fellow, the 2014 BCorp Measure What Matters Champion, and a BCorp Ambassador.

Register now for this event >>

Downtown Lynchburg: Where the Makers Are

The Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) knows how to lift up their community. Right now they’re raising awareness of the hardworking entrepreneurs who, with their own hands, are making downtown the destination for local shopping.  Our guest blogger, DLA Executive Director Ashley Kershner, gives us the goods.   

As part of our overall marketing strategy this year, Downtown Lynchburg Association wanted a campaign that would do three things: feature the fabulous businesses that make our downtown unique, position downtown as the local choice for shopping, and most importantly, attract new visitors. With a multi-year downtown construction project looming, we knew that a strong marketing effort would be needed to get our businesses through the holiday season.

The concept of “makers” is a world-wide movement – artisan crafters, handmade goods, chefs sourcing from local ingredients, and makerspaces.  We set out to develop a concept that would align Downtown Lynchburg with the movement, and that would promote it as a place to where quality, originality, and art are valued.

“Where the Makers Are,” is a series of six videos featuring diverse downtown businesses – a skate shop that makes gifts from recycled boards; a pottery shop with handmade items; a bakery that starts baking at 4am; an 85-year old jewelry shop; a specialty chocolatier; and a children’s museum that creates its own exhibits. In each of these videos, we see close-up footage of these makers creating. We hear them talk about why they do what they do, and equally important, why they choose to do it in Downtown Lynchburg.

We have only released two videos thus far, but the response has been overwhelming. The first video alone was viewed over 34,000 times, and we received almost 2,000 video reactions, every single one of them positive. With negativity reigning in social media, this campaign has proven that people are looking for a way to express pride in their community.

With four more videos to go, we look forward to the potential impact this campaign will have on Downtown Lynchburg this year and into the future.

View the “Where the Makers Are campaign here >>>

Main Street and Wine; a Great Pairing

Virginia’s thriving wine industry is boosting the state’s economy and local Main Street districts alike with a total impact of approximately $1.37 billion annually, according to a newly released economic impact study. This figure is an increase of 82 percent from the last study conducted in 2010.

“…one of our top agriculture goals was to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism, and I am pleased our efforts are helping make this a reality,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities.”

The report showed that from 2010 and 2015, the number of wineries increased 35 percent, from 193 to 261. The number of full-time equivalent jobs at wineries and vineyards saw a 73 percent increase, from 4,753 to 8,218. Wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 87 percent during the same time period as well, from $156 million, to $291 million.

Tourism to Virginia wineries also showed impressive growth. The number of people visiting wineries grew by 39 percent, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015. At the same time, wine-related tourism expenditures grew dramatically from $131 million to $188 million, a significant 43 percent increase.

Culpeper’s Hoptober Fest 2016

Wine and Virginia’s downtowns make a great pairing.  Culpeper Renaissance Inc. expanded their wildly successful craft beverage festival to twice a year and the downtown features several shops that sell local craft beverages, Culpeper Cheese Company and Vinosity.  In Staunton eonophiles can visit Yelping Dog for a their wine fix, and don’t miss Saturday tastings at Vintages by the Dan in Danville. However it is done, Main Street recognizes the local economic impacts of partnering with regional craft beverage producers.

Check out the full 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia and don’t forget to visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office for more information on the industry statewide.

Winchester’s Main Street agriculture event was a success, as expected!

On Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, Winchester’s downtown walking mall was filled with excitement for local farms. Farm Bureau, in partnership with the Winchester Old Town Development Board, Winchester Main Street Foundation and Virginia Main Street program, produced an extraordinary community event, Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture, held on the historic Loudon Street Pedestrian Mall.

The partnership was a natural fit. “There is a Farm Bureau and a Main Street in every state,” said Dee Cook, membership development specialist with Virginia Farm Bureau. Winchester is one of 25 Virginia communities designated as Virginia Main Street communities. Cook said that she hopes Frederick County’s successful Main Street Agriculture event will lead to similar events all over Virginia in the near future. “This has been the pilot,” she said. “We hope to roll it out statewide next year,” Cook added.

More than 20 vendors set up booths to sell their farm products and provide interactive, educational activities for the public. There were also many educational demonstrations including a hydroponics display, grape crushing, a live beehive and farm-to-table cooking demonstrations, along with others.

photo credit: lancasterfarming.com 2012

Here is a nice article from LancasterFarming.com about the event, Taking the Farm to the City.

Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture – Save the Date!

On Saturday, Oct. 6, Winchester’s downtown walking mall will be filled with excitement for local farms.

Farm Bureau is partnering with the Winchester Old Town Development Board, Winchester Main Street Foundation and Virginia Main Street program to produce an extraordinary community event promoting Frederick County agriculture and a renaissance in community life!

The purpose of the event is to educate and promote the importance of agriculture to Winchester/Frederick County residents while building community relationships that produce quality community life and local prosperity for farmers, businesses and residents.

The day will highlight Frederick County agriculture with farmers and vendors providing local foods, educational displays and activities for children. Look for downtown restaurants to offer “local plates,” meals featuring fresh, local produce, meats and dairy products. There will be cooking demonstrations, advice for gardeners and live animals. The George Washington Hotel will host a wine garden, and of course, there will be lots of fun for all!

For more information, visit Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture’s Facebook page.

Be a Culpeper Local

Culpeper, Virginia just received some good press after it unleashed its new shop local campaign, Be a Culpeper Local.  The campaign combines educating the nearly 50,000 Culpeper County residents on the value of buying locally with a website, beaculpeperlocal.com that directs visitors to local shopping and dining options, specials, and a way to track how much of your state sales tax is being returned to local Culpeper general funds and school coffers.

This fiscal year, 2010–11, the County general fund expects to receive $4.5 million (part of which is allocated to the Town), and the school expects to receive $6.4 million. All these millions are from us spending our dollars in Culpeper County!

It may not need saying, but this same math works for every community in Virginia, from Abingdon to Winchester and everyone in between.  This is but one of many ways to  jumpstart a shop local campaign.  If you need more reasons to value shopping local, you can visit this page.

For more information on shop local campaigns and the value of shopping local, peruse our training archives page, visit the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies website or get in contact with the Virginia Main Street staff.

Vote for the top 25 Virginia Main Street “Downtown Dining Destinations”

The Virginia Main Street staff does a lot of travelling each year and that travel can be hard on the stomach.  Luckily, we know that when we arrive, the local hospitality of our destination Main Street communities will be evident, and the top rate dining choices will be numerous.

While having an office day, we started talking about our can’t miss restaurants throughout Virginia.  Jeff claims his is for “his pregnant wife” but we know that’s not the real reason he often takes the long way home just to stop in and pick up some treats from Knakal’s Bakery in Culpeper.  Resident foodie Kyle chows down on the local ingredients at The Mockingbird Cafe in Staunton. 

Meanwhile, Doug, the expert on the menu choices in Southwest Virginia refuses to take a stand on whether he prefers Radford’s new River City Grill or trusted standby’s like Marion’s Black Rooster and Rocky Mount’s Edible Vibe Cafe.

Somedays, the palate is piqued by something different and there are always new offerings to try in our bustling downtowns.  There are fine dining choices and local dives with character.  Prices vary greatly, but the value and experience rarely does.  We are lucky souls indeed to have jobs that basically force us to visit the best restaurants Virginia has to offer. 

However, in honor of Virginia Main Street’s 25th Anniversay, we had to limit our selections to the 25 spots we find ourselves heading back to time and again.

Tell us which you like best.