The Utopia of a Main Street–I Have a Dream



Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum from You Didn’t Go to Taylor’s Hardware Store for Milk

Dave Robertson asked me yesterday on

“Linda,  tell us your vision of the main street and how you would make it sustainable ???  What is needed to add that magic to bring traffic down ?  How would you get independent business people and investors to work together to build a vision”.

It’s 2017 and I have said: no more blogging rants as I have given up from frustration– so there will be none. What follows is just a dream– and thoughts for a thriving Main Street.

It is no secret I have told folks that if I won money a great percentage would be spent on improving Carleton Place. I have visions of a town square that joins Lansdowne and Bridge. Dreams of putting the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum in the Heritage/Mississippi Hotel and the list goes on. But those are just dreams, and due to great odds and my bad luck they will never materialize:). But one can always dream and hope.

So what would I like to happen to try and improve the street? First of all everyone has to realize that miracles or results of hard work does not happen over night. From my side of the fence, and my opinion only, we just can’t seem to get “everyone” to focus as one group on the issue of promoting our main street– so let’s do away with  one of the boards that consist of some who have little retail experience.

Let’s form a Main Street committee like Almonte that consists of the merchants and especially those who have impressed us with their retail knowledge in real life. The reason? No one knows what is good for retail business than those who are in business. Instead of being polarized –together they can hone their business skills, improve lines of communications, and develop cooperative marketing efforts.

This is not a final ‘dream team’ list by any meansbut just a couple examples of what I am talking about– as we have talent in this town believe me and their opinions should be front and foremost.

People like Dena Comley from The Granary and what she has done in the past few years. She created business plans for herself and they have worked.

Nancy Code from Nancy’s Impressions who has the knowledge of what it is like to stay in business for a very long time on Bridge Street. She along with Doug Hawkins from Graham’s Shoes are part of the history of Bridge Street. They are our Main Street veterans who have seen it all- that is your foundation. We can’t afford to lose any more long standing businesses.

Krista Lee from Apple Cheeks who has retail street smarts and good common sense-and not afraid to voice her opinion.

Lisa Occomore from Valley Granite & Tile–Street smarts, knowledge and hard work ethics.

Brigitte from The Green Counter Boutique for her feistyness and devotion to improving business in the downtown.

We are a main street of hairdressers, tattoo shops, pizza parlours and what not. No one is debating that fact. In the 1960’s Carleton Place had an Industrial Commission Committee that scouted for new business in Carleton Place. Some say it was a huge mistake that they disbanded it. Sure, getting large chains would be nice, but that will never happen on any downtown street until there are statistics of success.  That is just the black and white of it all- but scouting and encouraging new outside smaller business to Carleton Place makes room for successful economic force. Small successes in business development, e.g., a single store retained or recruited, makes for a much bigger impact on the community, economically and emotionally.

So what do you do? Start by beginning to focus on what you have–finding an economic niche. We have some great restaurants on our street and we should be screaming that fact to the outside world. People love food-they will travel for food- so begin to promote that fact that Carleton Place is the place to go to eat. Have someone like Petra Graber from Good Food Co. head that food committee up– that girl knows what she is talking about and has proven it.

The same with the rest of the stores that now exist on the street. Floral Shops band together, specialty shops band together, dress shops band together and discuss  how to promote your specialty to the town- on a weekly basis (telephone or email).

Your “women shopping events” are a success- make it bigger-but you need to spend more time inviting the folks outside of the town line to share what you have. To make a main street successful- you cannot only rely only the town. It’s the tourists and the outside world that help your small businesses thrive.  Social media is not only one of the most important things today, but partnering with other smaller local communities to share your events on a larger scale is another.

Almonte has promoted their heritage- we have just as much. Unique settings and landmarks are not only the hallmark of our street, but it could also be used to promote the main street. How many know the history of Mrs.Chatterton of the Queen’s Hotel– the Taylors, the Tetlocks, and the list goes on. In the summer there should be a representative on the street at all times telling the history and the “historical gossip” of our town to walking traffic–even current information on local businesses. When you enter a restaurant, or some businesses you have a greeter– have a Main Street greeter to encourage conversation and be the town cheerleader. Treasured history and community pride, lends an air of welcome to local residents and visitors. It would also encourage folks to visit our businesses and the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. That in turn ricochets into more dialog about our town and which is sorely needed to create a buzz.

I could go on and on– I have lists of thoughts and dreams trust me. But, it’s not only thinking outside the box in terms of main street promotion that we need. We need more cohesiveness on the street in its appearance, more on site residential, and more importantly how to deal with encouraging resident participation. An impossible task–maybe– but it’s one of the answers to get the entire community involved in downtown revitalization efforts. Greater passion for the community translates into more ownership and involvement in any main street program and commitment to preserving the past and creating a vision for the future of Carleton Place.

There is no room for failure right now for our town from an economic standpoint as the pool of resources is too scarce. Local businesses uniting together to face challenges and initiating cooperative advertising, marketing and promotion efforts will enhance a better business atmosphere for all.


The Opinion of one Local Business Owner by Lisa Occomore- Valley Granite & Tile

N.B.– I must commend Valley Granite & Tile’s Lisa Occomore for writing some great local business points on Facebook– and I will post it in “historical notes”– as that is what her comments are going to be in years to come.

Opening a business is hard, keeping a business going is even harder. I know there are many out there that understand this and then there are the many that don’t.
When ever I hear of a business closing in town my heart hurts for them and I loose sleep. Why? I mean it’s not my store but I understand all to well what these business owner have worked for and lived through.

We put our whole lives on the line, we miss precious time with children, family and friends. We literally think of nothing but our companies and what we have to do or could be doing to either keep going or what the next step is from the time our eyes open to the moment they close and sometimes it keeps you up all night.

We sit back and wonder why someone would go to places in the city or big boxes like Walmart or Home Depot for products that we have and sometimes it’s not even because it’s cheaper or more convenient but because it’s drilled into peoples heads that these places will be cheaper and more convenient. I personally have opened my store for people at all hours of the evening and days we aren’t open to be there for our clients and help meet their needs and I also personally know a bunch of the other businesses that do/would do the same. But for some reason people still go to the big box or city rather then working to support our town.

You see having a strong community and business core is not just the responsibility of the business owners, town council and our BIA it’s also the residents responsibility.

Think about this. Who do you see supporting the events like Canada day and family fun days, our sports teams, the fundraisers for local families, the shelter and other such places like the food bank? Well let me tell you. It’s us! It’s the businesses of the downtown core. It’s places like Giant Tiger, Canadian Tire and The Independent Grocer. It’s Beans Chev dealer and Law and Orders. It’s our local Hair Salons and Tattoo parlours. It’s places in the industrial park like Sam Bat and All Purpose towing. It’s our restaurants local garages and trades people. It’s all of us!! Just think about how much more these places could do if people just invested the time, energy and money back to them.

I’m not saying the “big boxes” do nothing, they support a lot of corporate charities for sure but when it comes to putting back to our community it is slim, I know because I gave up trying with them. I also fully understand that we do need some of the things these places offer because they are not available at other places but maybe they could be if people knew that if they took that huge step and risk to open up a business that they would be supported?

Giving back to our community as a business is not something we have to do but it is something we choose to do. We choose to support our town. We choose to put in the extra hours and time that we don’t have to help make Carleton Place great and to support the local people and families directly.

So I ask this. Is it really too much to ask that the residents of Carleton Place also choose to support us? Because really it is ALL of our responsibility to make this town great and most importantly STOP these businesses from closing.
I want to thank all of the residents that support and work so hard along side us all to make things great but we need more we need the town. Residents, businesses and council all as one”

Related reading

Back to the Future— Carleton Place—- Project Tim Horton’s

Memories and Thoughts of the Grocery Store

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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