A collaboration between Genoa Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants Association is moving forward in making Genoa’s downtown a destination point.
“I think we are fortunate that we have business owners that know they need each other to survive,” said Mitch Hoyles, president of the Genoa Chamber of Commerce.
Economists say the recession of 2008 is long over but its effects continue to resonate. Business owners, in some cases, are barely squeaking by.
And when a downtown area is off the beaten path like it is in Genoa, it takes a creative hand to drum up interest and steady customers.
“We’re doing pretty good right now. All the storefronts are filled. Two businesses left last year and two have moved in,” Village Administrator Kevin Gladden said. One of those businesses is a nutrition related company and the other is Elite Team Supply, a custom print apparel shop.
Elite Team Supply owner Antony Sharples recently made the move to the downtown storefront from an out-of-the-way site in Clay Township to help bolster business.
And Genoa has its share of success stories to share. One example is artist Jan Pugh who began Packer Creek Pottery in a cramped one-room studio in the 1980s. Now, she calls an East Eighth Street address home for her storefront and workshop. The creations of Pugh, a Genoa native, have garnered national attention.
Gladden credits the chamber and the Merchant Association’s organized effort for keeping things on track. They’re getting the message out that this is a small town, but progressive enough to place a true investment in the downtown’s continued growth.
The Merchants Association is an offshoot of the chamber. And over the last year there has been a concerted effort between the two entities to boost business activity.
“It’s been just fabulous. The chamber supports economic growth and we are trying for more exposure so they can survive,” Hoyles said. “They know we are trying to bring people in. We are not on the main drag near Ohio 51. The merchants need to get people downtown.”
The team effort has benefitted some of Genoa’s bigger annual events including the Homecoming in June, the Genoa Street Fair in the fall as well as the Custom Car Cruise-ins throughout the summer. Right now, the town is gearing up for the holiday kick off, the ceremonial Christmas tree lighting and downtown business open houses that occur around Thanksgiving weekend.
“That exposure, when you do things as a group, helps lower expenses and we get a lot of great business,” Hoyles said.
The success of the venture relies on the business owners as well as dozens of event volunteers and strong partnerships extending outside the business district, Hoyles added.
One of the partnerships that continues to evolve is with the Genoa Local School District. This year, two of the members of the Genoa Future Farmers of America – high school students Rachel Weber and Madison Sheahan - revived the defunct Farmer’s Market program. Area businesses helped them with their signs, business tips and coordinated the car cruise-ins on the same nights to bolster attendance. They plan another season of farm market events in 2013.
“We’ve got a great school district and great FFA,” Hoyles agreed. “They’re really showing that a community survives with the help of students.”