Ideas Suggested for Ongoing Promotion of Downtown

Andy Day doesn’t mind promoting other downtown businesses, even if they’re in a similar line of work. When Drae, the tapas bar, opened across the street, Day, owner of both Cask and Vine and The Drinkery, took pictures of the opening and posted them on his own Facebook page.

“When one of us succeeds, we all succeed,” Day observed.

Day and Steve Trefethen, both downtown business owners, gave their input to the Derry Economic Development Committee at its Monday, Aug. 24 meeting. The committee, chaired by Town Council Chairman Tom Cardon, is charged with finding new ways to promote economic growth in Derry, in order to expand the tax base, reduce the tax burden on residents, and improve quality of life.

Day goes door to door talking to his neighbors, and said he senses frustration among the business owners on West Broadway. They all have different ideas about how to improve downtown and business in general, he said.

“My personal opinion is, you don’t need more big-box stores,” he told the committee.

Day thinks that if downtown has three or four good bars and restaurants, places people want to go, then it will lead them to browse in bookstores and specialty shops.

He didn’t know about some of the ways the town assists businesses and said, “We need anything that will say, ‘If you come to town, this is what you have to work with.’”

And he encouraged Cardon and the other town officials to show leadership. “We need you to get out there and say, ‘Hey, I’m going here for a haircut, or here for a drink,’” he said.

Commercial Realtor Steve Trefethen has been involved in a number of efforts to shore up downtown. His points included “laying the groundwork” before going to the town to approve an Economic Development Coordinator. But he’s not sure that a group of “well-organized volunteers” couldn’t do as good a job.

Web site woes
One of Derry’s shortcomings is its Web site, Trefethen said.

His own site, for his Summerview Real Estate, gets 8,000 to 10,000 hits a week, Trefethen said. There’s very little about him on the site, he said, but instead there are maps, available sites, sale information. A town economic development Web site should have all these plus information on the infrastructure, workforce and educational facilities.

Trefethen hired an information technology (IT) professional to build his Web site, but he has an art background and helped out with design. He made sure he had capacity for links and SEO (search engine optimization) capability, and once it was built, it’s cost him very little, he said. He spends about $25 a month for maintenance, but other than that, “I’ve spent less than $4,000 in five years.”

Committee member Chris Black, an IT professional, observed that he had been on the town Web site and even he “found it convoluted.”

Black also said that a Web site should be “mobile-friendly.”

“I have a laptop, a desktop and an iPad and I almost never use them,” he said. “Everything is on the phone.”
The state Department of Resources and Economic Development keeps a list of available commercial property, Planning Director George Sioras said, adding, “We could link to that.”

And the Web site could be a source of revenue, member Marc Flattes said. “We should write up a proposal, put it out on the street, and see how much businesses will pay us to be on there,” he said.

‘Here’s Looking at You’

Marketing is key, Trefethen said. “You need to identify where the money in your community is coming from, and go after that market big-time,” he said.

Member Terri Pastori asked, “What kinds of businesses would enhance this community?”

First, Trefethen said, Derry has to keep the businesses it has. “At my firm, it’s 25 percent recycled,” he observed. “We sell to the same people over and over. You don’t want to lose what you have.

“Retention is everything,” Trefethen said.

One thing he’d like to see is a trade or career school downtown, which would bring Millennial money into town. “Kids spend more than their parents do,” he observed. The downtown would also be fertile soil for the faculty members to spend their lunch and dinner dollars.

He also observed that it wouldn’t hurt to do more “streetscaping,” to make the area more attractive. His business is located on the south side of Broadway, near the Londonderry line, and his crew plows to the line. “If people can’t get out of their cars, they won’t come into my office,” he observed.

Trefethen said he’d like to see some kind of recreational facility for youths 14 to 18. He’d also like to see the definition of “downtown” expanded to Broadway to South Avenue, Maple Street to Park Street and more of Crystal Avenue. “And you have to clean up the town-owned land, sell it and develop it,” he said.

The Derry Opera House is the linchpin of a new downtown, according to Trefethen. He and his wife frequently attend shows at Manchester’s Palace Theater, and he’d like to see some kind of cooperative relationship between the Opera House and the Palace. “If one of their touring companies or performers has a second day with no bookings, they could come here,” he said.

One of Day’s ideas is to show the movie “Casablanca” at the Opera House, with three or four eateries offering deals for the same night, and calling the event “Here’s Looking at You, Derry.”

“If you get people to the Opera House in the evening, you’ll get them downtown,” Trefethen said.