Small Town News
Retail association's goal: Networking, problem solving
With the mills closing in Shelton and the end of tourist season, retailers along the downtown corridor worried the streets might turn into a ghost town.
Instead of waiting to see what happened, they decided to do something about it.
Earlier this year, several shops formed the Retailers' Alliance of Downtown Shelton. The group is made up of local small retail businesses to promote the downtown district and enhance the economy through community connections.
"With the lumber mill closing, we felt like it was the time to reinvent our downtown," said Shelly Barnett, owner of Off the Walls Gallery on Cota Street. Barnett founded the Retailers' Alliance in August and is now president.
The association meets on the third Wednesday of the month to discuss ideas to bring people to downtown, problems specific to retailers and network with other business owners.
"It gave us the opportunity to work with people in similar businesses," said Ray Frederick, who owns Garage Sale Maniacs.
Frederick said that the alliance encourages business owners not to look at other businesses as competition. Instead, the retailers decided they wanted to work together to create a more prosperous downtown.
The group was formed out of the Shelton Cash Mob, a group of people who would pick one downtown shop to visit and spend a certain amount of money each month at that location.
The cash mob was, in general, made up of small business owners. Barnett founded the group after she heard about artists in Portland doing a similar event.
The cash mob held its first gathering in April, when 25 people pledged to go to the Grove Street Brewhouse and spend $10 each.
"It went really well," Barnett said. "They said it was one of their best nights in a long time. We knew this was going to be a good thing."
The group pledged to "mob" Brilliant Moon, which opened in Shelton during the summer, as a way to welcome the owners to town.
"It was great," said Mary Schroder, one of the owners of Brilliant Moon. "It's great encouragement to the business owners."
Schroder said Brilliant Moon joined the Retailers' Alliance of Downtown Shelton shortly after because the owners were looking for a way to connect with the town after they moved here from Mc-Cleary.
Because the retailers all generally have the same store hours, they rarely get to go to other stores or meet each other, Schroder said the Retailers' Alliance was a great way to network.
"Business can be tough, especially in a smaller town like McCleary or Shelton," she said. "When you know your neighbors, it's great moral support. ... A lot of the problems I have are the same as what someone else has, but I would never know if we didn't talk."
The retailers are concerned with keeping downtown Shelton alive and making it a safe place to be.
The group recently had Shelton Police Chief Darrin Moody attend a meeting to talk about safety in the downtown corridor.
Moody discussed several ways to keep the area safe â€” adding motion detecting lights, security cameras and alarms, as well as calling police for any suspicious activity.
Group members were then able to exchange ideas about best practices.
The Retailers' Alliance of Downtown Shelton is just getting started, but they have big plans for the future.
The group is in the process of creating a map that lists retailers in the downtown corridor, as well as those located on the hill above town.
The retailers are also planning to have an organized ladies' night in February, where women can pay a small fee to shop, and receive gifts and coupons.
"We're working on a lot of projects, starting here and hoping to get bigger," Barnett said. "Whatever we can do to make downtown come alive."
For more information on the Retailers' Alliance of Downtown Shelton, contact Barnett at 868-2690.
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