Destination Downtown South Boston has a Main Street story to tell, and in recent days two new signs have been installed at both entrances to the town, one at the intersection of Wilborn Avenue and Broad Street and the other near the railroad tracks on Main Street.
The new updated signs replaced the older Main Street signs that had been located at the town’s entrances, according to South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab.
The Virginia Main Street program, managed by DHCD since 1985, works to revitalize Virginia’s historic downtowns by providing training and technical support. Participating communities improve and beautify their traditional downtown districts and encourage private investment, business development and tourism.
South Boston, one of 27 Main Street communities, has held its designation since 2004.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Urban and Regional Analysis shared a recently-completed economic impact report that measured the benefits of having a Main Street organization in a community.
“Having strong economic impact data and being able to show your community the benefit of your Main Street program is vital to receiving local support,” said Helen Person, program manager for Department of Housing and Community development. “Telling your organization’s story to the community and visitors shows that you are having meaningful impact, and that it is something in which they would want to invest.”
And it seems to be working, according to town officials who say they have seen an uptick in activity in downtown South Boston during recent months.
“Main Street is perking up,” said Town Clerk Jane Jones, “with people saying they are going downtown to shop, eat, just hang out and go to the farmers market.”
The recent uptick in Main Street activity may be attributed to the six new or expanding businesses in downtown South Boston awarded more than $50,000 in start-up money for investing or expanding their Main Street businesses in town.
The winners were announced during the SoBo Start-Up! Awards ceremony this spring.
Those receiving start-up capital included Candace and Nelson Baskervill, who received $10,000 in start-up funds for Sweet Cee’s, a growing customized apparel, decal and gifts business located at 441 Main Street.
Mary Bagwell received $10,000 in capital to expand her current Southern Plenty, a business located at 206 Main Street that began as a small coffee counter in the back of a fledgling bookstore in 2010, and Brittany Adamson received $10,000 to open Joe and a Bow, a hybrid shop featuring coffee and a children’s boutique, at 530 Wilborn Ave.
Lakisha Jackson received $7,500 to open a brick and mortar storefront for KJ’s Cake Creations, and Kecia Tucker-Kalu has opened a health food store, Manna, “The Natural Experience,” at 217B Main St.
Lauren Tetterton and Taylor Jennings also received $10,000 to open Southern Frills at 417 Main Street, described as a “sophisticated clothing and accessories boutique.”
The SoBo Start-Up! Program was one of five in the state that were part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch Initiative.
The winners were among 12 businesses whittled down from an original field that exceeded 25 participants in the entrepreneur contest that launched earlier this year.
The funding for this program requires the awarded businesses be open by Sept. 30.
Destination Downtown South Boston did a business needs survey in 2016 when they applied for SoBo Start-Up! funding, and these types of businesses ranked high in that survey, town officials said.
“SoBo Start-Up! is one of the more impressive programs I have seen here. We are attracting people with all kinds of ideas. A person with an idea – that is the economy of the future,” Raab said.
Town officials believe entrepreneurs on Main Street are the answer to healing the town’s economy and setting South Boston up for success well into the future.
For more information about local downtown revitalization efforts, contact Destination Downtown South Boston at 434-575-4209.
To learn more about the Virginia Main Street Program, visit www.dhcd.virginia.gov/mainstreet or call 804-371-7030.