I recently attended the annual meeting of ReStore Marietta, a group that advocates for and promotes the historic downtown portion of Marietta and Harmar as great places to live, shop and recreate. As I travel through the 93rd District, and around the rest of the state, I pay especially close attention to those towns or villages whose downtowns are thriving or may be struggling to survive.
Residents of Marietta and Harmar (which lies across the Muskingum River from the rest of Marietta) are blessed because, despite the competition provided by retailers outside the city limits, there are still many great attractions downtown to lure consumers and out of town visitors. Marietta benefits from being a college town; it also has a lot of appeal because of its architecture, its scenic beauty, and how easy it is to walk from residential areas to the business district.
ReStore Marietta was founded several years ago to draw attention to the downtown, and the need to unite merchants, business people, recreation advocates, the colleges (Marietta College and Washington State Community College) and other key players behind the message that a vital, attractive and successful downtown is a magnet for new residents and students. I served on the board of ReStore for many years, and can report that they are doing an excellent job of marshaling community support and promoting events that showcase our downtown district, whether it’s the beautiful lofts, the classy and even quirky retailers, and the overall quality of life we enjoy.
Cambridge is well down the road in this endeavor too as a Main Street Community. Cambridge employs a full time director for their downtown effort. I met the former director, Francine Taylor, as I was acquainting myself with Guernsey County residents two years ago, and I continue to be impressed by the innovative ways they find to call attention to their downtown merchants and living spaces. Their tribute to Charles Dickens is a highlight each holiday season, as Dickens figures are displayed throughout the downtown. It is a great draw to travelers from all over our region and our state. Cambridge has many great events, including classic car shows, craft fairs, concerts and other ways to share fun and food. Last year Cambridge Main Street received a statewide award for “Fresh Coat Cambridge,” an event that turned out 120 volunteers to help touch up the appearance of 18 downtown buildings. I applaud them for their dedication and hard work.
Caring for our downtown areas is an important investment in the long term viability of our communities. Vital downtowns provide a real sense of place; they showcase what is unique about our residents and reward the efforts of our retailers who are attempting to withstand competition from big box stores and overcome the challenge of a tough economy. I encourage you, wherever you live, to patronize these local retailers, to support your community’s downtown revitalization efforts and to aid those groups, like ReStore and Main Street, who are making a difference.