By Terry Rogers
Originally started by Noa Kornbluh of Downtown Milford Inc. as a way to bring downtown businesses together to discuss issues they faced, the Downtown Milford Entrepreneur Network has grown significantly, according to Peggy Reilly, co-owner of Sugar Bee Boutique, who took over the group when Ms. Kornbluh took a job with the Delaware Economic Development Office.
“As business owners in the downtown area, we began to realize that we were not consistent in what we did,” Ms. Reilly said. “We had different hours, some of us participated in festivals while others did not, things like that. We realized we needed to become more consistent and cohesive in order to improve foot traffic in the downtown area.”
Meetings for the network are held monthly and Ms. Reilly said that although the focus is on increasing business in the downtown area, the group welcomes businesses from all over the city. She said that improving business downtown would also help businesses throughout Milford as it would bring more visitors to the area. The group brainstorms ideas to improve business and plans for additional promotions that will encourage business. At a recent meeting, subjects discussed included Music in the Park, Third Thursday and upcoming events.
Rosemary Connelly, owner of Live Cheap and Make Art Studio on Walnut Street said that Third Thursday , a monthly evening that downtown businesses stay open to 8pm, seems to be growing in popularity as she has seen more visitors this month than the month before. Dolce and Gallery 37 also reported increased business on Third Thursday. Ms. Reilly mentioned that JD Bennett, a local photographer, wanted to bring music to Third Thursday and that DMI had agreed to provide funding for music at the amphitheater. The music would continue until the weather turned cold.
Even current trends like Pokemon Go are discussed at the meeting as the game seems to be increasing foot traffic in Milford significantly. There was discussion about placing lures, a feature in the game that attracts Pokemon to a specific stop, on Third Thursday. As a test, lures will be placed at stops in Milford on the next Third Thursday, planned for August 18. Members of the group were asked to share information about the Pokemon Go event on social media and in advertising to promote it.
Kate Inie-Richards, Milford Branch Director of the Delaware Music School, stated at the last meeting that she is concerned about littering. “We discussed at the last meeting the need for a cleaning crew to pick up cigarette butts, cans, bottles and other debris that is being left behind,” she said. The group agreed that every Friday, starting at 9 AM, a group would meet behind the Music School in order to clean debris from the sidewalks in an effort to keep the city attractive. Members of the public are welcome to join the business owners and the City agreed to supply trash bags to be used to collect debris.
The group discussed ways to discourage littering, including signs asking visitors to keep the town beautiful and reminding them to “curb their dog” when they are walking them through town. Anyone who wishes to join the cleaning crew can call Ms. Inie-Richards at 422-2043 or email her at email@example.com.
“We spend the meeting brainstorming ideas and working together to improve the foot traffic in our downtown area,” Ms. Reilly said. “I ask each person to suggest agenda items and then, during the meeting, ask them to give details about why they felt it needed to be on the agenda. Then, we have discussions about ways to improve, what can be done to adjust the issue or praise an idea that worked well. We are all in this together and it is interesting to hear what each business owner brings to the table.”
Ms. Reilly said that although they were initially formed under DMI, the group has decided to remain separate from the organization. Downtown Milford Entrepreneur Network meetings are held on the 4th Tuesday of each month from 9 to 10 am. To learn the location of the meeting, anyone interested in attending can contact DMI at 302-839-1180.
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