Last Wednesday, one of the Monroe Avenue merchants I work with -- Jim DeLuca from Abundance Coop -- and I attended a breakfast and presentation called “Destination Main Street.” The event was sponsored by the Landmark Society of Western New York and featured a speaker named John Schallert. Schallert is an internationally-recognized business expert specializing in teaching businesses and communities how to turn themselves into Consumer Destinations. Schallert speaks to thousands annually on his proprietary 14-step “Destination Business” process, which he developed over the course of nearly 30 years of working with independent business owners.
THE ART OF DIFFERENTIATION
Schallert's presentation identified ways to make a business become a destination, so that traditional small establishments can pull consumers from 5 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 miles away. He gave examples of how businesses differentiate themselves from their competition. For example, by having an attraction, such as the world’s largest mattress on your show room floor. Or by serving food cafeteria style, which makes people feel like they are stepping back in time. Or by stocking a product that no one else sells.
As the Street Manager for the southeast quadrant, Highland Planning works in cooperation with the City of Rochester, the Monroe Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA), and the South Clinton Avenue Merchants Association (SCMA) to strengthen Monroe Avenue and South Clinton Avenue. Our work is focused on improving the appearance of each avenue, facilitating communication and promotion for each district, and facilitating investment in properties and individual businesses. The current scope of work for the program can be categorized into three areas: communication, events and promotion, and investment.
I was reflecting on Monroe Avenue throughout the presentation. That district has quite a few destination businesses. At the end of the event, Jim and I huddled up to discuss the implications for our collaborative work. We talked about developing a merchant tour of our own destination businesses to see if we can learn from one another about how to attract customers. We both agreed we’d need to include:
The Bug Jar. It's a small, but authentic performance space for independent music. Also, the furniture installed on the ceiling upside down has always been a draw for me.
I couldn’t help think about the best opportunity for a destination on Monroe Avenue. Unfortunately, it’s been vacant for several years. The Monroe Theater.
I can clearly imagine it, renovated, occupied with an interesting business, filled with activity, and drawing people from throughout the region.
I hope that vision, or some version of it, comes true soon.