Small businesses in Mt. Pleasant’s downtown district are reaping the benefits of being a Main Street community.
“We see the promise of people coming in here and that possibility of more customers,” said Rebecca Eldredge, with Big Dog Tattoos.
Big Dog Tattoos recently began participating in more events organized by Main Street Mt. Pleasant, and Eldredge said the difference is tangible. Events like Burgers and Bikes bring in more customers. Eldredge said while the shop is quiet during other events like Holiday on Main, she believes more people notice them because they are downtown.
“Events help community involvement and keep people local,” Eldredge said.
Mt. Pleasant is one of 54 Main Street communities in Iowa. Since becoming a Main Street community 16 years ago, Mt. Pleasant has seen an increase of 56 percent in assessed value to the district. In the past five years, there has been an increase in approximately 14 percent in taxable retail sales.
Main Street Mt. Pleasant was recognized for $20 million invested in commercial district rehabilitation and property acquisition in 2017 by Main Street Iowa.
Main Street Mt. Pleasant also won an award for partnering with Iowa Wesleyan University students, who volunteer during events.
Mariah Martin, at Le Chic Boutique, said participating in Main Street events helps support the local economy.
“As a small business, that’s huge. A lot of small businesses can be overlooked,” Martin said.
Martin said when Le Chic opened their doors for Wine About Winter in 2018, a lot of people mentioned how they didn’t realize Le Chic was there. While they may not have bought something that evening, Martin said customers like that come back.
Jennifer Buchholtz, a stylist at The Shear Advantage, said they too have participated in more Main Street events in recent years.
“I really do feel like Main Street cares and is trying to get people to shop downtown,” Buchholtz said. “We want to be involved in these things.”
New events coming in 2019
Main Street Mt. Pleasant launched four new events in 2018: Music on Main, previously an event sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance and known as Rock Around the Block; Thanks with Franks; Friendsgiving; and Jingle, Jingle, Mix and Mingle. They also saw more people attend events last year than ever before, bringing different demographics and faces to downtown Mt. Pleasant, said Lisa Oetken, Main Street director.
“Events are getting traction right now with different demographics,” Oetken said. “We’ve always striven to do new and different things. What we really like to see is different people coming downtown.”
Main Street Mt. Pleasant plans on launching even more events this year.
In March, Oetken would like to promote businesses run by women for Women’s History Month. Oetken would also like to do a throwback event in May where Main Street picks a decade and downtown businesses will portray what that business would have been at the time and employees will dress in the style of that decade.
Another Music on Main Motorcycle Cruise is also being planned at the end of July because of the success of Burgers and Bikes the past two years.
Oetken said whenever a new event is planned, they consider who the target audience will be and how bringing those people downtown will help local businesses.
“It’s always my goal to get people in the stores in unique ways,” Oetken said.
Partnering with residents
Oetken wants to do more workshops with small businesses this year, whether it’s helping them build a social media platform, a website, marketing or training new employees. Oetken also recognizes that it isn’t easy for owners of small businesses to find spare time during the day to attend a workshop.
Oetken said at a lot of “mom and pop” shops, the owner is working every day alongside their employees. She wants to be convenient for them.
“When they’re done for the day, they’re tired too,” Oetken said. “I completely understand that, and I think there’s a lot more ways with technology today to get that information out like passing along an article or a link that trains them in social media.”
Oetken said investors in Main Street Mt. Pleasant range from downtown businesses, area businesses and even individual residents. They give financially, volunteer and offer discounts or donate products for giveaways.
“They see that downtown is the heart of Mt. Pleasant, and we have to keep it strong and healthy. It benefits everyone if we have a strong downtown,” Oetken said.
Telling Main Street’s story
Main Street Mt. Pleasant is focusing on telling their story — and the story of Mt. Pleasant — this year.
Oetken said they assume people already know the history of downtown, but that isn’t always the case.
In January, P.E.O. celebrated their 150th anniversary in the Union Block building and on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University.
In June, the Iowa Women’s Bar Association will mark the 150th anniversary of when Belle Babb Mansfield was the first woman to take the bar exam in the Union Block building in Mt. Pleasant.
“Mt. Pleasant is a cool town. We’ve got to tell those stories,” Oetken said.