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It won’t be much of a vacation for the wife and kids if you’re just in another city, in another motel room. Here in Dillsboro, we pride ourselves as a place to get away from the stress of your everyday life. Do you have a just a little stress in your life you might enjoy escaping for a little while? I mean, you haven’t had too much to do lately, have you? Well then Dillsboro might just be the place to drop by for a little howdy-do.

We’re just a little corner on a couple of highways about 45 miles west of  Asheville. A wee mite of a town, Dillsboro only has about 300 residents with a neat little shopping downtown for Michelle to spend some time browsing. Malia and Sasha can stop by Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery and decorate some treats to bring home to Bo or if he’s with you, he can pick out his own. (Just lost my grand-dog, Bo to cancer.)  Pretty good BBQ joint next door, Dillsboro Smokehouse, ranked in the top  10 by National Geographic.  Homemade Root Beer and Birch Beer, super peach cobbler and you can look on the walls for the autographs of some famous folks, like Tommy Lee Jones,  Harrison Ford and others.

Our sister town, Sylva just a mile down the road has a festival this Saturday called “Greening Up The Mountains”.  The name refers to the springtime color slowly starting  in the valleys and moving up to the peaks of our hills. Might be fun to mix in with the locals and listen to some bluegrass and sip a local brew.

Dillsboro is another small, really small town that has suffered the last few years. We lost our major employer, Smoky Mountain Railway who also happened to draw about 120,000 tourists  a year right into our downtown. All gone! Many of our other shops and businesses closed up or moved away as a result. Sad to see a town that a few short years ago had thousands of happy children and their parents exploring the town while they waited to ride “Thomas The Train”. The local chancellor of Western Carolina University, John Bardo thought so, too.  Don’t you know a fellow he works with, Erskine Bowles?

Well, John Bardo decided to partner with Dillsboro and offer the expertise of his staff and the energy of his students to assist Dillsboro in recovering from this calamity. It’s still a work in progress, but we’d love for you to stop by, sit a spell and listen to us spin a yarn or two.

Don’t worry, we can find a lot for you and the family to do here in the mountains, or very little if you prefer.  Dillsboro, Get Back to Simple…….but my guess is, you could use a little bit of that right about now.

It’s all my fault…….

I know it’s my fault…I talked you into going to that Facebook class at WCU. You came home, set up a Facebook page for your business and starting telling folks about your business and the things they might enjoy about it. The first night you spent an hour or two, but now it’s just 10 minutes or so posting about what you are doing or are going to do. You’ve worked hard at it…..so…..it must be my fault. You had someone post a complaint or something you don’t like on your Facebook page!

It’s all my fault.  So, I’m going to tell you what to do;

Answer it…….simply try to satisfy the customer.  Don’t erase it, ignore it or hope it will go away. Try this:       “I’m sorry.  I hate when that happens to me. What can I do to make it right?”

And while you are at it ask for more complaints….and compliments.  Register your business at some of these sites:

Trip Advisor

Yelp

Insider Pages

Google Local   Put your business on the map!

I know, I know. I keep talking about putting your business online all over the place, here’s why:               

  • They’re free advertising for you that lasts forever.
  • They are what people are using to make travel plans these days.
  • They give you a chance to turn dissatisfied customers into loyal returning customers.
  • They give you an opportunity to address dissatisfied customers’ problems before they tell a zillion people about what they hated. It’s the old story that a happy customer tells their spouse;  the unhappy tells everybody on the block, at work or ever related to! By solving their problem in public, you show folks how focused you are on their satisfaction.  
  • It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes per site to set up, and then your customers will be helping you do your marketing.  Remember complments are posted also…..and if you are friendly you will get them!  I have about 20 compliments and only one compliant ( guest satisfied and she posted that online.)
  • Listings will enhance your search ranking on Yahoo, Google and MSN.
  • Links on your listings will direct traffic to your website, again higher search rankings.
  • Compliments make your day go better!  When you start seeing those positive reviews, quote them on your website and Facebook and provide a link to the full review. People trust third-party opinions more than what you yourself say about your business. Get it statrted by asking your present customers, friends and other merchants to post about your business.
  • As always tell me if I’m right, wrong or crazy…..after all…. It’s all my fault!

     We have a big, busy weekend coming up here in Dillsboro and it’s mostly at one place…. Dillsboro’s Montieth Farmstead Park

    Appalachian Growers Fair and Farmer’s Market
    Third Saturday in April
    April 17, 2010 

    A unique fair celebrating local and regional farmers and growers. There will be an open-air plant and produce market. Crafters and artisans will be demonstrating and selling. And there will be plenty of music and local food. This all-day event is a fund-raiser for the Monteith Farmstead Restoraton Project, our community effort to restore the historic Monteith farmhouse as the Appalchian Women’s Museum and Monteith Community Park. 

    WCU & WATR “Cleaning up the Tuck” is taking place Saturday volunteers will be gathering trash on two feeder creeks, Scotts Creek and Mill Creek 9am until Noon. This is a great way to get outside and get some exercise while making a difference! Volunteers are invited to a cookout afterward.

    Do good for the earth, get some exercise, eat a free lunch, shop some local foods, watch some local craftspeople, listen to some music….. all at Montieth Park.

    Then wander down to downtown Dillsboro cruise the shops there, several have wine and food tasting events scheduled. The Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery has YappyHour at 6pm and there will be free music performed on the train depot deck featuring  Iva Veazey, piano; and Emily Roberson, mandolin & other instruments.

    IVA VEAZEY

    That’s right come from near and far ….spend the day in Dillsboro from sunrise to dusk and if these events don’t interest you….there’s always rafting, hiking, horseback riding, trout fishing and more.

     

    T2ZJ63P4CGDT

    Ok, the WCU folks and the Dillsboro folks doing it said I need to market online. I went to their class and I have a couple dozen “friends” or “fans”, now what do I do?

    To make the job easier for you….so you don’t stumble through hitting the wrong keys, as I did…I found some videos that may offer help on how to spread your message about your business.  The amount of free quality video content available on the Internet is truly phenomenal. Whatever you want to learn, there is almost certainly a video to teach you. The following videos are presented to help you market and grow your business, with some inspiration thrown in for good measure. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

    1.There’s no denying that Facebook can be an effective tool for your business. But how do you use effectively? This very well-made video by KershMedia.co.uk uses some great examples and explanations to help get you on track to forming a Facebook strategy to help grow your business.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-NtLKAQr5s

    2.Confused about the dos and don’ts of Facebook? This high-quality video by Angela Giles explains it all. She offers great tips with examples, screen shots and other useful information. Don’t let Facebook continue to be a mystery. Watch this video and get the answers you need.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uijXVMKgZ9M

    3. I haven’t started to “tweet” but this video focuses on Twitter as a marketing tool. The panel, made up of representatives from Salesforce.com, Virgin America, and Twitter, is very helpful and of course extremely knowledgeable about this topic.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJd84HsDV6c      Here is a link to Twitter 101 for more info  http://business.twitter.com/twitter101

    4. Many marketing experts are now recommending we use blogs as the centerpiece of our marketing and direct FaceBook and Twitter to them. You can also set up your blog as a newsletter and folks simply sign up to recieve it and you do not have to hire, I-Contact or another service.  (This blog is set up that way. So sign up right now 🙂  https://dillsboro.wordpress.com/?p=46&preview=true&blogsub=confirmed#subscribe-blog )  and while you’re at it sign up for the dog bakery blog, too.  http://otowpub.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirmed#subscribe-blog   A simple newsletter you can send out free.                                                     Here is a really simple video on how to set up a blog   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMaxdVC-rpo                    Here is why you may want to blog    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWWP4JYTidU 

    5. Put video on whatever you do, your blog, FaceBook, whatever…people watch it…..you’ve been watching it. It took me about 1/2 hour and a $69 video camera to make.

    I will help you if you need it.  Google rates video very highly in their search and the more video we have of shops in Dillsboro the more interest it  will generate for anyone  thinking of visiting, writing about us , etc.

    6. This has nothing to do with social media…but I sometimes go to a TED video or the site to set myself back on track. Maybe it can help you, too.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpc-t-Uwv1I&feature=related

    Let me know what you think ….am I helping you? How can I help? Comment here now!

    When you live in a tiny town like Dillsboro (pop. 300) along side the major highway between Atlanta/Florida and Smoky Mountain Nationall Park you need a way to stand up and stand out. As folks drive by we can’t be shy.

    A sign of this style, shape and size will be lost to 99% of those cars streaming by your front door.

    You need a sign that folks will see and communicates to them that they have arrived at someplace special.

    We are a special place and need to let travelers know that they need to stop now and check it out. Perhaps something like these:

    Perhaps a sign held up by two carved bears set in such a way that drivers do a double take.  “Was that real?”

     

     

     

                                                       Perhaps a sign using local building materials, set up on the side of the hill so it can not be missed.

    Perhaps a sign done on the silhouette of Dillsboro created by local artist, John Miele for the billboard north of town on Hwy 441

    This is the front door to our community  First impressions are remembered.

    In town let’s do away with the old syle signs like this:

    Keep the street name, but add directionals pointing down the street featuring what folks really want…information on someplace special to stop. ie.                                                 Chocolate …..Womenswear……. Dog Bakery…..Gourmet Food…. WineTasting….Rafting….. Art Gallery…. Pottery….

    Not the names of the business….but what it features.                    Make the signs festive and fun!        

    Perhaps like this:

    Replace the ship for our community,

     maybe a quilt pattern?

    Or John Miele’s artwork?

    All these signs would also provide the dual use of causing most drivers to slow down to read what is on them.

     One of the hottest commercial retail building segments is the Town Center concept.  Here in Dillsboro that is exactly what we have in a very real authentic way…let’s flaunt it!    This is a special place and you should stop!

    The decorative street lamps on Hwy 107 are attractive, but many of them are powered off the merchants shops and some merchants never turn them on. Next to my shop there have been no street lights on at night since December, despite me installing light sensors and energy efficiant bulbs for them. This hurts every merchant on the street. Does anyone know how much it costs for 100 wt flourescent bulb 8 hours a day for a month… about 24 cents according to Duke Power. Can’t afford it….can’t afford not to!

    One of the most beautiful sights in the area is driving north on Hwy 441 and looking down from the Dillsboro bridge onto to Dillsboro during Luminaries.  we were the first community in the Smoky Mountains to do this…..why don’t we capitalize on it and light the town all year? Pastel colors in spring. Red-White-Blue in Summer. Orange-Yellow-Brown in Fall. Every consultant the town/county/chamber has brought in says: “Light up the town.”

    We have banners to advertise upcoming special events. We should be getting a banner for use the rest of the time, “DRIVE SLOWLY, historic shopping experience’  or even better “Stop Nudist Crossing” ……   just kidding. This would reaffirm that we are the special place that you seek out on vacation. Banners which make people think also slow down drivers, resulting in safer traffic in our shopping area.

    It’s 5pm and I’m sitting out in front of my shop with a neighbor watching a school bus drive by doing 50 in a 20 mile zone. There are a lot of  ways that require little or no money that encourage traffic to slow. Simply painting the lines on the side of the road wider. Trees lining the road. Outdoor displays and carts for merchants. Raising crosswalks and changing the texture. Unique pedestrian crossing signs. All these aid in slowing drivers and letting them know Dillsboro is special…. which they will never know if they don’t stop.

    So what do you think?   What will help our town?   Write back.

    Just a little update to this last post:

    To the brave souls who took the Social Media Class at WCU……Go my thanx…check out the increases over last week, before you got involved.
    Here is this week’s summary for the Facebook Page: The Town of Dillsboro

    +63 Fans this week (664 total Fans)
    32 Wall Posts, Comments, and Likes this week (12 last week)
    655 Visits to your page this week (203 Visits last week)

    It is your being involved that does this…keep it up!
    And for those who say people don’t want to read about Dillsboro on the internet, please note: 665 people did! And this was done for no cost and will be here next week and the next and the next…………………

    That’s right, I heard a local merchant stand up  and tell a meeting with a hundred folks exactly this.  Every day I have folks tell me they don’t want to change….they want it to be as if it were 1955, 1965, 1975,1985……..    

       Last Tuesday Dupree, SD (pop. 434) made the news.  The town’s mayor is quoted in a Slate magazine article saying that the community is 30 years behind the times and that the town residents probably aren’t interested enough in broadband internet to pay for it. 

    Most people are aware that the Federal government is implementing a program that would help bring broadband to rural areas previously lacking it.  Completing the task of wiring Rural America with ground-based broadband could cost the feds as much as $24 billion; but the plan is generally well supported.

    Chris Wilson, the author of “What’s wrong with the FCC’s plan to bring high-speed Internet access to rural America,” makes the case that there are better places to invest this money.  In doing so, he hides behind the statement, “Before the federal government invests billions in extending high-speed Internet to such areas, it ought to make sure people want it-and are ready for it.”

    Do we want it and are we ready for it?  Using these questions as the basis for one’s argument against broadband is a bit like asking, “Do you want cure for cancer and are you ready it for it?”  Well maybe, maybe not.  But does that mean it shouldn’t be available to everyone? 

    Yes, I know that analogy is a bit cheesy, but the point is broadband internet is a vital part of every community’s infrastructure.  Without it, I doubt rural communities have the ability to survive.  Wilson may be willing to write off some rural communities because he doesn’t think they are worth it, but he shouldn’t hide behind the argument that rural residents don’t want it. I can’t afford to spend $1400-$1600 a month in advertising as I did when I first opened.

     This meeting where the above comment was uttered was co-sponsered by a university assisting us in bringing our little town back to life. Western Carolina University”http://www.wcu.edu/” has dedicated public relations, marketing, hospitality and entrepenuer professors and students to assist our town.  Last Monday WCU sponsered a seminar using the computer and free social media marketing for small business owners. WCU students and some of the merchants have been posting on a Facebook page for a few months…within 48 hours of the seminar “fans’ of the Town of Dillsboro  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Dillsboro-NC/The-Town-of-Dillsboro/347168350719?ref=ts jumped by over 50 folks.  387 people viewed that page this week…stop and think….. how many people went and got the paper just to see your store’s ad this week?  How much did you pay for that ad?  If you don’t spend your money for an ad next week will anybody see your ad? The facebook page will still be there, today, tomorrow, forever…FREE.

    When I decided to write about this, I went online to search for facts, ideas, etc. As usual I found someone who had written something better than I ever could, so I’ll let Joanne Steele of http://ruraltourismmarketing.com tell you more.

    Why Social Media Marketing is Hard for Rural Tourism Businessby Joanne Steele on March 25, 2010 

    I’ve written about these challenges before, and will not doubt post about them in the future as we continue this shift to the Internet as a primary tourism planning and booking tool. I’m with you as you navigate these uncharted waters! 

    Facebook Friends friends, Facebook style 

    Rural tourism business owners view the Internet and social media as both a blessing and a curse.It’s a blessing because it offers a more direct way for you to reach your customers. 

    It’s a curse because it offers a more direct way for you to reach your customers! 

    Before, you’d do mailings and advertisements and pr until the money ran out.

    You hoped it would be enough, but your advertising budget would cap what you could do. 

    With social media, there seems to always be something more you should or could do to be reaching prospective customers.

    It’s harder to budget time than money. So we always are faced with the doubt that we’ve done enough. 

    We’re also working in the midst of a paradigm shift, where the technology is changing faster than any small business owner can keep up with. 

    And lastly, there’s a generational problem.

    If you’re over 50, you probably view the Internet as a gadget. Something that’s handy to have around to keep up on the kids and to check the weather and look up maps and do a little research. 

    If you’re between 35 and 50, you see it as a tool. You use it everyday to communicate and to do research, but you have a life outside of your technology. You define friends as people with whom you have a face-to-face relationship. 

    If you’re under 35, the Internet and technology is an extension of your being. Taking away your phone or laptop is a little like amputating a hand. You have a digital definition of friend, and you gather most of your information without ever touching paper. 

    So what’s the solution for rural tourism business?

    1. Realize that it is the TECHNOLOGY that is giving you fits, not the underlying marketing basics. 

    2. It’s still about getting your message to your customer in the most direct way possible. The Internet is a fantastic TOOL for you to do that. 

    3. You know the importance of talking to your customer already. You do it so well that big business actually copies you, trying to achieve the same level of personal connection and interaction that makes you successful. 

    4. Social media marketing makes it easier to do what you do well – talk to your customer. It’s actually easier than your old advertising methods that put all kinds of barriers between you and your customers. 

    5. Invest in a little help to build your confidence using the Internet and social media. Don’t let your business go down over your resistance to this shift to online marketing. Learn to use it. Get help building a media marketing plan that you can implement and handle yourself 

    It’s like learning to drive a car. With a little practice, it will become automatic and even fun. 

    And by the way, this is one of the things we do at Rural Tourism Marketing Group. We work well via email, skype, phone and in person. Thank you,Joanne and thank you, WCU

    Not all of us want everything the same as it has been or is.There are those of us who do want to reach out to our customers. There are those of us that do want to learn new things. Yes, there are those of us who want a cure for cancer.

    Are you one of those?

    Get Back To Simple…….

    I don’t know where I’m headed with this blog. I do want to help spread the word about what a great place Dillsboro is to get away from it all. Relax, have fun and leave much of our everyday suburban or urban life behind.  A great place to recharge or stay busy enough to forget the battles we fight everyday back wherever we come from.

    I also want to help other towns like us that have suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune for one reason or another. We lost a tourist railway that drove 120,000 people a year into our little town of 300. At the same time national news networks informed folks not to travel here as there was no gas to get home with. We are coming together and working to change, adapt and compete. One of my heros in that venue is Joanne Steele. If you are interested in revitalizing and renewing your town, you need to subscribe to her blog, http://ruraltourismmarketing.com . I say, you need to….not that you should.

    Today she touched home with a little warning about trying to be too much to too many and she even quoted our motto; “Get Back To Simple”. http://ruraltourismmarketing.com/2010/03/small-tourism-towns-too-much-visitor-information-is-overwhelming/

    Dillsboro cannot be all things to all people and we don’t really want to try. If you want gambling excitement, there is a casino 20 minutes away.    http://www.harrahscherokee.com  If you want total isolation  15 minutes away is Smoky Mountain National Park with it’s Laconte Lodge. A 5 mile uphill walk from the parking lot to your room and the gourmet dinners cooked from supplies trekked up by llamas. http://www.leconte-lodge.com/ However, we are a place to get back to simpler time.  We have no chain restaurants (except a few fast food). Places like The Jarrett House with it’s family style service http://www.jarretthouse.com/ or Spring Street Cafe http://www.springstcafeofsylva.com/ or Dillsboro Smokehouse with the 3rd best BBQ in America according to National Geographic (Look for Harrison Ford’s and Tommy Lee Jones’ autographs on the wall from when they filmed the train crash in “The Fugative”)  make do for us.We have our own brewery with a real German brewmaster, Dieter owns Heinzelmännchen Brewery http://www.yourgnometownbrewery.com/. It’s not Busch Gardens, but the beer is a thousand times better. Festivals and parades in a town of 300 can’t keep up with Macy’s in New York, but we still have fun events. Dillsboro Easter Hat Parade April 3rd gets about 400 marchers and the dog participants and their people continue the party with a Yappy Hour right after the parade. http://www.ourstate.com/web_exclusives/2010/april/web_exclusive3.asp (see this video if nothing else)

    As I said, we don’t want to be all things to all people. We just want to be us and invite you to join us. So, get back to simple…you’ll be glad you did. You might even stay here, I did!

    Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

     

    One place I get great ideas from is Rural Tourism Marketing  http://ruraltourismmarketing.com/ . They also are a great source of encouragement for those days when you look up and down the main street that used to packed with people and there isn’t a soul in sight since all this happened to Dillsboro. This posting in particular http://www.cfra.org/node/2504  is one that made me really optimistic again after one of those meetings where folks were saying we don’t want new residents/tourists/rafters/ nightbusiness /winter hours/ artists/ facebook/ computers/ kids /old folks / etc.

    Another thing that has been really giving me a lot of encouragement lately has been all the positive activities coming from the Dillsboro DMA ( Downtown Merchants Association)  It’s new president , John Chinners and his crew have been coming up with some fun activities for locals and visitors, alike.

    The Jackson County July 4th Fireworks will be held in Dillsboro this year, so get ready for a carnival atmosphere that weekend.  One of the feature events will be the new “Dam River Race”. Handmade makehift rafts will launch from the city park just below where the dam was, with a finish line near The Best Western. You can get info on this from John at his store, “Country Traditions’ www.countrytraditionsnc.com 

    Another event John is bringing onboard that I really like is “Taste of North Carolina” on July 10th. This is an organized statewide festival featuring food and wine producers from throughout North Carolina. They will be giving out samples and selling local made food and wine. All our local foodies should get involved with this…are you hearing me Dark Cove Goat Cheese http://www.darkcove.com/cheese_detail.htm  and Calaboose Winery http://www.calaboosecellars.com/index.aspx  Get with John…July comes fast!  www.countrytraditionsnc.com 

    After hearing all the things folks don’t want for Dillsboro, perhaps I should spend a few minutes writing about what I would like to see for Dillsboro and the things we need to do to get there. You may agree with my vision… you may not. It’s 5pm Friday night as I write this and I love telling stories…so here is one with a bit advice whether you want it or not:

    It’s seven o’clock Friday evening now, and my long-time friends from Florida, Craig and Becky just arrived for the weekend. After we exchange hugs, they toss their bags in the guest room, and we walk down the street from my shop, Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery  www.mtndogbakery.com down Haywood Rd.  for dinner at The Jarrett House, looking forward to catching up on old times over platters of homecooked goodness.

    After dinner downtown is bustling, and my friends comment on how “alive” it feels – people of all ages are filling sidewalk cafes, browsing the shops, talking, laughing, and having a great time. We walk a couple of blocks to a favorite cafe for coffee and ask to be seated outside where we can enjoy the terrific bluegrass music being performed on the street corner. My friends look around and ask the question that implies ultimate approval, “When can we move in?” I just smile.

    After coffee we check out a couple of shops and the new Applegate Winery across Scott’s Creek, there my friends stock up to bring some of the local wine back to friends , next a quick stop for gelato, then we walk together to a wide-open plaza, enjoying the scent of petunias in hanging baskets and planters along the way. Shade trees line the street, and children play around a large fountain in the center of the courtyard in front of Dillsboro Natural Foods Market and Cafe. A musician plays classical guitar nearby, while artists sell oil paintings showcased on a dozen easels. Paper lanterns, suspended from trees, cast a warm glow over café tables and the diners beneath them. The savory scent of food from the nearby Dillsboro Smokehouse makes me pause, take a deep breath and smile again. This is my town and I love it.

    This vibrant downtown scene is becoming more and more common in America today, as towns across the nation are undergoing a major renaissance. People everywhere are recognizing how good it feels to gather together in a beautiful setting, to be part of a vibrant social network, and to enjoy being proud of their community.  Visitors love to find these lively downtowns during their travels, and talented, young people, the “Creative Class,” are attracted to stayafter college at communities with so much energy and beauty. To get there this is what we have to do:

    Start with a downtown plan

    Work with our community to assess our downtown’s strengths and weaknesses. Walk through downtown and take a good hard look at what we have to work with. How much foot traffic is there?  Is it pedestrian friendly? What is the ambiance like? Is there much to see and do? Are shops, sidewalks and signs clean and tidy? Is downtown a pleasant, lively place to be?        

    Create an “Idea Book” of photos from other popular downtowns. Use these ideas to help generate an “Action Plan” or to-do list of low-cost changes that merchants and property owners can implement to make downtown more appealing and inviting. Use our own insights and input from our community. create a vision for the new look and feel of our downtown. Build and follow the concrete steps that will take you there. Vacant buildings that haven’t been improved for years can be updated, beautified and made more useful with the help of Building Reuse and Redevelopment Grants http://www.ncruralcenter.org/reuse/index.html from the Rural Centerhttp://www.ncruralcenter.org/.

    Develop gathering places

    If you travel through Europe and visit cities that have been thriving for centuries, you find that they all have one thing in common – at least one bustling plaza or town square. People love to gather in vibrant surroundings, locals congregate there, strolling, eating, talking, enjoying themselves, and visitors can’t help but be drawn in. Transform any little space into plaza areas with seating and watch them come to life!

    Create a permanent home for a farmers market

    Farmers markets have been steadily growing in popularity for years. In fact, recent research shows that open-air markets have become a major revitalization tool for downtowns throughout North America and major retail developers have devised “the festival marketplace”. They attract people of all ages, and are perfect for selling not only fresh, local produce, dairy, and bakery goods, but also local arts and crafts. Be sure the market isn’t on the outskirts of town – it should ALWAYS be in the heart of our spending district (Think: train station parking lot) . While visiting the market, many people will also spend time and money in local shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

    Install WiFi downtown

    Make it easy for the technically savvy to linger downtown while staying connected. Coffee shops and cafes with wireless Internet access are favorite places to work, study, and socialize. It is also a great asset to lure small businesses downtown. My WiFi is open to all.

    Include residential

    A lively, healthy downtown needs residents, as well as the 10 to 5 workers. More than ever before, people are moving into downtowns. And retirees and young alike are looking for places to live that are at the center of the action – downtown. Maximize the use of upper story levels by converting them to apartments and condominium units. Expand your residential offerings downtown so that people of all ages, including families with children, have the option to live there. I love living above my shop…it’s such a tough commute every morning down the stairs.

    Beautify, beautify

    Nothing pulls visitors into downtown more than a beautiful setting. Street trees placed every 30 to 35 feet turn a stark hot streetscape into a garden. Add hanging baskets, planter boxes, water features, and display art in front of shops that captures the theme of our downtown. Include benches so people can linger, and use our way-finding and street signs to do more than just give direction – decorative signage and pole banners should become bright, fun, art.

    Create an arts incubator

    Encourage the artistic talents of our community by offering a space where artists and craftspeople can display and sell their work. An organization, such as a local economic development association or chamber, or possibly the university itself, can lease space in a downtown building. The artists then pay a reduced rent for their section, and you operate a central cashier. Consider creating live/work space where artisans can live in upper floor “lofts,” and have galleries, foundries and shops on street level.

    Recruit restaurants, entertainment, and retail


    No matter how beautiful our downtown, it won’t attract residents, visitors, or the Creative Class if there’s nothing to do. A variety of restaurants will offer different choices every night, giving people more reason to come back, and retail shops that sell interesting, one-of-a-kind items and involve the guest will build lifetime memories. Entertainment and shops open after 6:00 p.m. are essential to keep people downtown after work, and bring them back after dinner. Since 70% of all consumer spending takes place after 6:00 p.m., you don’t want that revenue to walk out of town at sunset or all head to the casino.

    As towns evolve, we find our little downtowns are more important than ever. They can be the glue that holds our sense of community together, and the incubator that nourishes some of our most creative minds. The attributes that make downtowns attractive to the Creative Class also make them vibrant, healthy, and alluring to residents and visitors. All communities have three significant places for their members. “Home” is the “first place;” our place of work is the “second place;” and the important “third place” is where we gather for social interaction. Every downtown has the potential to be that “third place” for its community. If we don’t do it we will have nowhere left to go than Walmart and hang out among all the chinese junk or vegetate watching phony reality shows on TV. Not what I want to do at this point of my life and I don’t wish it on you. OK, let’s finish the story quickly.

    It’s nearly 11:00 and, reluctantly, time to head back to the house. One of my friends comments, “You know, you’re really lucky to live here. What a great town.” And of course I can’t help but respond with, “I really love it here.” After all, the heart and soul of any community, besides its people, is its downtown.

    Well, you didn’t ask for it…but you got it anyway….my dreams…..and my fears if we don’t work together for Dillsboro.

    “I love Dillsboro”.

    I came upon Dillsboro on a whim trip to North Carolina to look at a B&B in Clyde (found that had been underwater 6 months earlier). A neighbor and friend had said to stay at her cabin on Dicks Creek. I got in late at night and went to explore the area the next morning. Of course the first place I stumbled upon was Dillsboro. Thomas the Train as here and the streets were bustling.  I made the mistake of stopping at the Jarrett House for breakfast. Almost couldn’t move 45 minutes later…and remember I owned restaurants at that time. I love a good breakfast. Of course I had to walk off that food or take a nap and it was only 10:30 in the morning so I headed across the street to check out the shops. Some of the shops had the usual tourist junk…..but more than several were unique and interesting…..and the artisans were outstanding. Walking over Scott’s Creek I looked down and saw several trout bigger than any I’ve ever caught. Wandered over and saw the picturesque dam and the rafter downstream. This isn’t Florida anymore, Dorothy! (Thank God) It kinda reminded me of were I’d grown in New England…stepping back in time to a simpler, better time.

    To make a long story short after checking out Sylva, WCU, Cashiers, Highlands, within several weeks I was moving into a second home here in the mountains. Several years later I made the move fulltime and opened a small Dog Bakery www.mtndogbakery.com in Dillsboro.

    Well within  weeks of opening:

    1. Gas went up to 4.69. Many stopped traveling.
    2. CNN got on the news and said there was no gas in western North Carolina. Nobody traveled here. 
    3. The train pulled out of Dillsboro and took 100,000 visitors a year with it.
    4. The economy tanked
    5. The Gov. seized Fanny Mae. (one of my Major holdings)

    and now even the dam is gone…It’s been brutal.         But……….

    “I love Dillsboro” and it’s where I want to be, because I feel it can be/is as good as the towns featured in the first entry of this blog.

    I discovered Budget Travel Magazine’s America’s Coolest Small Town Contest  yesterday and had

    great fun reading about the 21 finalists. Go to their site and cast your own vote.

    New London, New Hampshire 

     I doubt if this designation will have major impact on the economic or tourism futures of any of these listed small towns, but that’s not the point.

    Being chosen for this honor means that the residents of these places have been working hard to make their towns special. Not for visitors or magazines or contests, but for themselves.

     Small towns are not Disneylands, created for the pleasure of visitors. They are home to several hundred to several thousand people who love where they live.

    How can your town become its own best town in America?

    1. Set your own rules.

    To win the Budget Travel Magazine’s designation, you have to be “cool.” Maybe your town is kitchy, or quaint or homey or friendly or whatever. Winning your own contest is living up to your own best image.

    2. Realize that playing this game is important right now.

    Small towns are having a rough time. The news is full of stories about small towns on the verge of “not making it” because they don’t have broadband or good health care, or enough business, or an aging population.

    WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND ANY GOOD NEWS ABOUT YOUR TOWN, MAKE SOME!

    3. Look for what is already good and working in your town.

    We make more progress by looking for what’s working than by focusing on what isn’t.

    Check out the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Marci Penner and the folks in rural Kansas have their own rewards system for small towns called the Eight Wonders of Kansas.

    4. Be relentlessly positive.

    On my kitchen wall is a quote by Charles Swindoll called “Attitude.” I have to look at that every time I get coffee… and I drink a lot of coffee. It shapes my feelings about life.( The sign, not coffee.)

    5. Be infectious about your feelings for your town.

    Get your Chamber of Commerce and service clubs involved in your being the best campaign. Make your own shop/home the best for something, window diplays, prettiest front yard, etc.

    6. Gossip about the good.

    I love coffeeshop talk. I know I’ll spend thattime talking to friends and neighbors. The small town “Net” is speedier than the Internet. Our stores and the post office are the T-1 lines to everybody in town. Use them for good.

    7. You probably already volunteer. Volunteer a little more.

    If you’re a professional, check with your small town businesses and see if they could use a leg up. Who can afford professional business services these days, but to stay profitable, our small town business community needs all the help it can get.

    8. Teach kids how to do what you’re doing.

    Most small business owners are successful because of their entrepreneurial spirit. You know what it takes to stay profitable in a small town. Teach entrepreneurship at your local high school so kids have the option of staying in town and doing what you do .

    9. Get involved in politics… local politics.

    Don’t wait until something happens that you’re mad about to sit in on city council meetings and volunteer for town committees. Small town politics is the heart and soul of democracy. Be there!

    10. Thank your lucky stars everyday that you live in the Best Small Town in America!

    What is our small town famous for?