By Sarah Schrock
Last week, more than 50 small business owners and community leaders gathered at the Methow Valley Community Center to hear a presentation from Michelle Reeves, an economic development strategist with the consulting group Civilis. The presentation mainly targeted small business brick-and-mortar establishments with advice on how to maximize the visual impact of a retail establishment to make it more inviting and more obvious as to what the business does.
Her main take-home point was that the experience of shopping or eating happens before you enter the establishment, and that an unattractive or obscure business frontage will not attract onlookers or invite them in.
I think this could be said for our entire town. This is why the Town of Twisp recently commissioned an economic development firm to re-envision a gateway and corridor plan that would make Twisp more inviting. This is the notorious “round-about” plan that has gotten a lot of people fired up.
I am not defending the round-about per se because I am not sure it’s warranted, but I think it’s worth mentioning that the round-about concept has multiple reasons for its deployment. First and foremost, it’s a traffic device to control traffic movement at awkward intersections. Second, it’s a traffic calming device that slows traffic, and in the case of placing it at Glover and Highway 20, the idea is that if people slow down they will literally see the town and visit TwispWorks and Glover Street instead of speeding by. Third, it can increase safety as a pedestrian refuge, an island for walkers to stop and cross one lane of traffic instead of two at a time. Finally, it offers a placemaking device that can house art, landscaping and signage that, if done well, serves as a landmark.
The city of Spokane recently installed a number of gateways at highly visible entrances off I-90. I know we are a far cry from the size of our eastern neighbor metropolis, but the gateways provide a lasting, if anything, interesting impression on the entrance to the various neighborhoods. And given our pride in the arts, it’s an opportunity to showcase it.
There’s always been much tension as whether Twisp should attract tourists for fear of it becoming overrun with traffic, kitschy, and un-authentic. Thus, the motto: It’s Real. I think the real debate should be about being attractive versus becoming an attraction. When the town is an attraction, it loses its authenticity. But I would argue if it’s attractive, with lots of attractions, it lays the groundwork for becoming vibrant and visible. Making sure we balance services for locals and tourists presents its challenges, but can we afford to ignore those thousands of visitors who drive by each day?
Hopefully, those drivers and locals are visiting the farmer’s market before it closes at the end of October because this is the best time to stop in and stock up on the beautiful produce. Willowbrook Farm in Carlton has an array of delicious pro-biotic packed krauts available with samples to taste; we slathered our ham with their Methow Mana kraut for dinner last night — scrumptious. Don’t forget, with old man winter knocking on our door, the Winter Sale at the Methow Valley Senior Center will be on Saturday (Sept. 30).
Finally, if you have any broken gear that needs repair, the next Fix Your Gear night at eqpd will be Oct. 5, 4 – 7 p.m. On their industrial machines, repairs under 15 minutes are free! That allowed me to save at least $30 – $40 on buying a new book bag for my kid to start the school year. Thanks, eqpd!