SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY!! Three Reasons Main Street Independent Businesses are the Backbone of your Community…


As part of the month-long celebration of  National Preservation Month and its theme  “New Age of Preservation: Embark, Inspire, Engage,” it’s important to take a look and the role and impact of independent businesses in preserving the places that house the vast majority of historic buildings:  our downtowns, village centers, and neighborhood commercial corridors.

To put it simply:  Independent businesses have been and are the backbone of historic communities and downtowns, thereby preserving the buildings, character, culture, and fabric of the community.  There are three main reasons why:

1) They are the trailblazers:  Our indies are typically the first ones to go into a historic mixed-use commercial district, supplying rent to the property owner, a reason to go to that district to the public, and ultimately taxes to the local community.  By running businesses in historic buildings, indies give economic value to that property, enabling it to be maintained for the present and future generations.

2) They are part of the story:   Independents bring authenticity to the community table.  They may be quirky, crabby, creative and/or chaotic, but they are real.  Indies foster a unique vibe for the community they inhabit; they are run by characters that add character to their place.  These businesses, already invested in and committed to that place, are also the first to support local causes and events, giving of themselves while enriching the community at large.

3) RecycleRe-use. Repeat. Local independent businesses cycle so much more of their income in the community where they are located.  They are more likely to source locally and work together within their district.  There is plenty of researched data on this (for example – herehere, and here.)  But then there are the stories – about the business owner in a small Kentucky community who paid his employees with $2 bills one payday, and still found them circulating around town months after the fact.  Keeping money local longer is a crucial benefit that strengthens our communities.

Westfield, NJ Main Street

Anna Mastroianni, owner of the SOLE shoe store in Westfield, NJ, a Great American Main Street Award winner (2004) notes that as an independent business owner “you get to know and be part of the character of the town and bring to it what you know it will appreciate. To us it’s like having the opportunity to take care of our family, which the Main Street community has become.”  And by running a successful business at 201 East Broad Street, SOLE has supported the upkeep and vitality of the landmark historic building where it is located.

In Main Street New Jersey lingo, independents are crucial to growing a community’s economic, physical, social, and civic value.  They are what makes a place be not just any place, and by doing so have, either knowingly or unknowingly, saved countless historic buildings.  Moving forward, we could just as well say:  Preserve historic buildings – Support independent businesses!

About the Author

Jef Buehler has been with Main Street New Jersey and Improvement District Programs since 1996.  He created the NJ350 Pop-Up Store Program, a first-of-its kind statewide temporary retail outlet program that covers 12 months and over 1,000 miles across NJ. He’s considered an entrepreneurial thought leader in the downtown revitalization and management field, but more importantly, he gets things done in support of authentic place-based economic growth, one community at a time.


Facebook and YOUR Smoke Shop Business..


With the popularity of social media continuing to grow, businesses have cultivated new ways of communicating and connecting with their customers.  Do it right and enjoy instant feedback and benefits, do it wrong and you could be wasting lots of valuable time and effort.

So how do you know what’s right and wrong in this social media frenzy?  Following those who have already had success is a good way to start.  Here are some helpful tips to consider.

Firstly, get on Facebook and start checking out other businesses Fan Pages.  Visit businesses that are in your industry, check out their wall and take note of what you like and don’t like.  How many people have “liked” their page? How often do they post? What type of feedback if any are they receiving?   This is all good information to have but remember we’re not here to copy we are here to learn from their successes and avoid their failures.

Facebook Fan Pages are like gardens, if you don’t tend them often bad things happen.  If you are not reminding those why they have liked you in the first place they have no incentive to keep the connection.  It’s ok to stray from your core topic or purpose once in a while but do it too often and you are sure to see your likes decrease.  If your focus is on Harley Davidson maintenance and repair you can bet that is what people who have liked your page want to hear about.  Stay focused and give them what they came for!

FB Fan Page

Videos and images are appreciated.  This one is pretty obvious; remember back when you were little and it was time to choose a book? Did you prefer the ones with or without pictures? Exactly, if you were like most kids you wanted some artwork in there, it makes things more interesting.  Facebook Fan pages are really no different.  You can easily insert images or even video links into any post.  You will see interest in these types of posts to be greater than your standard text postings.  This is also a great way to encourage others to find your business on YouTube!

If you are always talking how can you be listening?  This is good advice for Fan Pages as well.  Too much of even a good thing is well, too much.  Posting all the time will get your fans running in the opposite direction.  Keep in mind that a customer who has liked your business on Facebook most likely has many likes and looks forward to seeing a diverse range of updates on their Facebook wall.  Numerous updates by the same company can be downright annoying.  Set a schedule and try to maintain a healthy routine of once or twice daily posting, later you can adjust this based on the level of feedback you are receiving.

Different day, same old post.  Try not to repeat the same post over and over, especially not in the same week.  This type of posting will take the Fan right out of your Fan Page.  Some topics need repeating but most can be re-posted down the road.  Coupons and special offers are eagerly awaited but always providing them on a constant basis makes them seem worthless or at least worth less.

Promote, Promote and then Promote some more.  If you are waiting for everyone to just stumble onto your Fan Page you may be in for a long wait.  Fan Pages need to be promoted, they need to be included on yourwebsite, promotional material and emails.  Consider including them in your monthly newsletter, don’t have a newsletter yet? That’s a whole other topic indeed and we will leave that for next time.   The more attention you can bring to your Business Fan Page the best chance you will have for success.  Cross promote your social networks, tweet your Fan Page link, use your Facebook wall to tell customers to follow you on Google+Twitter, Pinterest, TumblrBlogger, LinkedIn, Yelp, Foursquare, etc.  This may seem very easy and simple but anyone who has been focused on creating or growing their social networks will agree, it’s a ton of hard work and effort.

NOW get out there and start attracting Fans to your smoke shop!! Good luck!!