Each month, we'll ask local business owners and leaders a question of interest and concern to local businesses. This month's question is:
Many residents were saddened when the annual Santa walk, which had been organized by local businesses, was cancelled in December. Many towns have found community events to be successful tools for developing business and drawing customers, whether by holding a street fair, a holiday event, or local business expo. Warren has a number of events offering local businesses opportunities to participate, but should the community itself hold an event to draw attention to local businesses? And if so, what kind of event do you think would serve the business community best?
Brian LeBoeuf, owner Sports Minded Unlimited: As a retailer in Warren for 25 years and the person behind the beard for the past 22 years, I was very disappointed by this years cancelation.
The retail community has changed drastically over the past 10 years . Most people don’t go Christmas shopping anymore, they order their gifts online! We tend to print out our Christmas cards rather than write them out! When I first took over as Santa in 1989, the Holiday Walk was an event held on a Friday night. Each retailer would do something special in their own store and wait to greet the hundreds of shoppers. I remember wine tasting, clowns, magicians, balloons, etc.
Due to the darkness and dangers of crossing the street to get to other shopping areas, it was moved to Sunday afternoons in the early '90s. Fire trucks, marching bands, petting zoo’s, pony rides, and of course, Santa would attract shoppers from miles around. I remember sitting in a sleigh (Thanks to Stacey Beer) for two hours after the Holiday Parade and listening to every child’s Christmas wish list. More recently the line has become minutes long. I wish I knew the answer.
The Magic of Christmas has changed dramatically over the years. I remember having eight-graders sitting on my lap and still wondering if my beard was real. Now, I have many 7-year-olds that sit on my lap knowing their shopping has been done for weeks and their presents are hiding in their attic. There are no longer men’s clothing stores, Five and dimes, or shoe stores from the retail community in Warren because it has become a service-orientated world.
Lots of coffee, massages, nails, pizza happening now in town. Why? You can’t get any of these things on the Internet! If, and when the Holiday Walk continues, I will always be there to resume my role as Santa…
Victor Sordillo, deputy mayor and vice president and Home Office Loss Control Manager for Chubb Insurance: Whenever we bring people into the town for an event, it is good for business. For example, the Lion's Club annual Expo and the Pop Warner Football Championships bring hundreds of people from surrounding communities to Warren.
This promotes Warren as a fine place to do business by exposing the visitors to our shops and restaurants. In addition; our library, the Wagner Farm Arboretum and the new playground at the municipal complex brings in residents from neighboring communities and while they are here they spend money in the town.
As a child growing up in the North End of Boston, I remember the street fairs and marketplace and how my father moved his inventory to the sidewalk and held a special sale. This brought in customers from all over eastern Massachusetts.
An activity such as that may be a good event for the WBPA to sponsor with the support of the Township Committee.
Monica Giglio, Color and Design Consultant at Warrenville Paint and Hardware: Events like the ones with Santa draw young families to the town center and and foster a sense of community "togetherness" and those who were saddened by the cancelled Santa-walk were probably disappointed not so much from a business standpoint, but from a small-town warm fuzzy standpoint.
I see events like this as a function of the town's recreation department moreso than a role of the business community, because they bring more benefit to the residents (especially those with small chidren) than to businesses.
The best thing businesses can do is to continue to provide great service and knowledgeable, friendly, courteous staff.
Jeanne Feenick, real estate agent with Keller Williams Real Estate: I would love to see the community host an annual event to draw attention to local businesses, but more broadly to boost our sense of community.
As a long-time resident, my best memories of Warren are the many, many evenings spent at the municipal field. At the time, it seemed the closest thing to “town center” to our children and to us. It was a safe place to be, a fun place to see friends. With the fields buzzing and snack shack buzzing with activity, it was–Warren. That camaraderie, that wonderful feeling, is what I described when I proudly spoke of my community.
Now that I am selling homes in Warren, I can confirm that most people looking in our area are looking for neighborhoods–and a sense of community.
A community-sponsored event would be a tremendous way to build upon Warren’s community identity and pride. Maybe building on something that already has some teeth, like the Memorial Day parade. The challenge for us is that our downtown is not ideally suited to a street fair—which has such a great feel to it.
However, I think that if we rally the troops and harness our creative energies we could come up with something wonderful, and maybe that something would be held at the municipal field. I envision a day filled with music, fun, and loads of food and activities bringing businesses, families, local government and organization all joining together to support one another and celebrate our great town!
It will be the annual “Warren is known for its terrific annual __________”. Whatever shape it takes, I cannot see how it would not be a great positive to the community and a great draw to businesses and families considering Warren as their home.
Have a question or topic for the Roundtable? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.