10 Things Successful Small-Town Downtowns Do



The following are excerpts from an article written by Gregg McLachlan, a rural marketing strategist from Ontario, Canada.  

There are two kinds of small-town downtowns.  There are downtowns which are constantly trying new ideas and learning, and always trying to keep a sense of excitement and energy alive. The public takes notice of these downtowns! Why? Because these downtowns have built a sense of community through activities, beautification, and understanding their audiences.  And then there are downtowns that just exist. They have few, if any events. There’s little coordination of anything. Storefront signage is a mish mash of professional and downright crappy. It’s no wonder the public uses phrases like “this place is dead.” 

No small-town downtown has turned itself around by listening to the naysayers and waiting for others to solve problems. It takes actions and can-do leadership with vision.

Here are the first 5 of the 10 things successful small-town downtowns do:

  1. Curb appeal planning. Successful downtowns know that beautifying the storefronts, sidewalks and roads are critical to creating pedestrian curb appeal. You’ll see window boxes, planters, sandwich boards, awnings, benches, and sidewalk art. Successful towns create curb appeal.
  2. Gathering places. Successful downtowns have beautiful public areas with tables and chairs, plants, and perhaps even a water fountain. Gathering places make people want to stay for an extended period of time. They become focal points for events, musicians, and markets.
  3. Gateway signage. Signs let visitors know which downtown district they are entering, such as an arts block, entertainment district, food district and others.
  4. Sign plans. Creating a sense of place and visual appeal involves standards, rules and regulations. Expect opposition from some retailers. But you can’t create visual appeal when the public notices the lack of effort that goes into poor quality signage.
  5. Regular events calendar. Why will the pubic care about this? Successful downtowns are creative and active and constantly alive with events.


Next week we’ll cover the other 5 things successful small-town downtowns do.  Click here for Gregg's full article.