Many have recently read an opinion piece by Louis Hyman on the New York Times website called “The Myth of Main Street”.

Are we a myth?

Are all small town Main Streets crumbling and dying?

Aren’t there benefits to “inefficiency”?

What does Main Street mean to me?

Are we a myth?

Here at Downtown Washington, Inc. we feel like real people, working toward real goals for the betterment of our community.  We are a Main Street Community. What does that mean?  That means that we are not alone in achieving our goals.  We are supported by the Missouri Main Street Connection and National Main Street Center, which is a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

We support local small, strike that, micro businesses.  These are the businesses that you visit for perfect gifts or touches for your home that are not part of a mass manufacturers lot.  They offer handmade items, throwbacks to our youth AND personal service.  Stating that there is no alternative to participating in the global economy does not take into account that sometimes we need the personal touch of Main Street.  Also, our Main Streets are more than just business districts.  They are the heart of our communities.

When a business is looking to relocate or build a new facility they are not looking for how close a community is to WalMart, Target or other big box stores.   They are looking for the fabric of the community, that is Main Street.  They are looking for the vibrance of a community, that is Main Street.  They are looking for the space that will make this town, village or city feel like home, that is Main Street.  Main Street is a feeling, memories, a sense of community, it more than an address or a collection of businesses.  Main Street represents home.

Are all small town Main Streets crumbling and dying?

The short answer is no.  Downtown Washington has never died.  That is not to say that Main Street has not suffered.  Main Street had been THE center for business until the 60’s introduced “shopping centers” for convenience.  With this reimagining of how business should be conducted and that new was the only way to be, Main Street suffered.  Some Main Street were razed, others slowly vacated and some were abandoned.

The Main Street Approach is a guide to revitalizing, reinvigorating and rediscovering our Main Streets.  In the mid-80’s the National Trust recognized that Main Streets, and downtown’s in general, needed a guide to preserve them.  We became one of the first five pilot program’s in Missouri in 1989.  Through the Main Street Approach we have been able to keep downtown Washington a vibrant, active part of Washington and its preservation and improvement are part of the City’s comprehensive plan.  Our citizens spoke out and helped lay the ground work for what is important to them in this community and Main Street was very high on the list.

 

Aren’t there benefits to “inefficiency”?

Inefficient sounds so judgemental.  Standing at a counter having a brief conversation, or not so brief, with a shop owner is inefficient.  However, wouldn’t you prefer to have a personal relationship?  Get to know the person that is selecting these treasures for you to purchase?  I think that too little attention is paid to personal connections.  As humans we desire to connect with each other we desire to have interactions.

In this current age of constant digital connection we are losing the human touch that we all need.  Strolling down Main Street and shopping, eating, having a drink and interacting with local shop owners is the perfect way to digitally disconnect and reconnect in person.  Inefficient isn’t bad, it’s an opportunity to connect.

What does Main Street mean to me?

For those of you that know me, Main Street has been my job since 2011.  Before that I already believed in the movement!  I was a Downtown Washington, Inc. volunteer for 10 years before I began to work here. However, my love of Main Street and downtown Washington stems from my childhood.  My mom worked at Schroeder’s Drug Store and when we went to Fifth Street School it was a treat to get to walk to the store after school.  Many of the ladies that worked with my mom are still there!  Bridgette and I could roam around the basement and pretend to be explorers of a cave or tomb.  Sometimes we would wander around in other downtown shops and, even then, talk with the shop owners and spend our allowance.  We would get “broccoli bars” (Snickers for those who didn’t grow up here) from Fermin at Droege’s, “broken” flowers from Four Seasons Florist, cool pencils from Office Supplies and Equipment and we could sit on the new furniture at Otto & Company (but no jumping!).

Downtown is Washington to me.  Main Street is Washington to me.
I would like to invite Louis Hyman to Missouri to see #RealMainStreet.

I would also like to encourage all of you to share your
Main Street and downtown stories and use #RealMainStreet!

Danielle Grotewiel