Downtown Businesses Unite As Supportive Group

Above the logo for the St. Marys Area Resource Team, a collection of business owners in downtown St. Marys whose mission is to educate people what is downtown and get people more invested in the area.
Managing Editor

A group of downtown business owners are partnering to promote downtown St. Marys.

The St. Marys Area Resource Team (SMART) is supported by the Downtown Business Partnership Organization was spearheaded by Laura Yelton and Julie Liming. 

Yelton said her and Liming, of Hair Place, walked up and down Spring Street to talk to business owners about the group.

“It was all positive,” Yelton said. “People that we talked to thought it was time that we did something.”

Yelton called SMART an offshoot of the first group of people that met at a town hall meeting in July at the Eagles and it took about two months to start SMART.

“There was a lot of talk there about wanting a Target and bigger restaurants, but in reality, it was supposed to be a focus about downtown,” Yelton remembered. “I consider this group a continuation of what was started with a different focus. I walked away from that meeting thinking, ‘wow, there was a lot of people there and there were some good things said.’ 

“We are focusing on what we do have. We are trying to make an impact on St. Marians so they are re-educated on what is downtown and try to get them excited about coming downtown. We have an amazing downtown. Yes, we do have some issues and some deficiencies but for now, we are going to celebrate the store owners and the business owners.”

Yelton added that the downtown area has a mixture of things for people to come to St. Marys for, including retail, food, professional services and the parks.

“So many businesses have been down here for such a long time and I don’t feel like people are as aware as they need to be about what is down here,” Yelton said.

She hopes what SMART is doing will eventually snowball to where more businesses will open in the area or people will be more invested in opening a business.

“There is potential and opportunity down here,” she added. “Who better to create the support of the downtown — and St. Marys as a whole, we are not limiting it to just the downtown — than the people who are invested in the town themselves.

SMART’s mission statement states that it is “dedicated to fostering growth and development within the St. Marys community through promotion of local information and family centric events and to cross promote local businesses, professionals and organizations while continuing the community minded rich traditions of the St. Marys area.”

Yelton said the group has also been influenced by nearby communities and their downtown such as the Downtown Wapakoneta Partnership (DWP). She said she got insight from DWP President and Casa Chic co-owner Landa Tomlinson.

“They have done some great things,” Yelton said. “And they have done the same thing, ‘no one else is going to promote us we need to do it ourselves’ type of thing.”

Yelton added that the group has also looked into the growth in Bellefontaine. Yelton said the group’s focus is big, but does not know the exact focus yet.

The group’s first project is HallowNeon Night on Oct. 29.

Bags and maps will be distributed to participants of the St. Marys Rotary parade at the end of the parade route on Front Street. 

At each stop, participants will collect a neon glow light, bracelet, necklace, a ring and more to wear based on what an individual business wants to give out to represent their business.

Businesses are encouraged to stop at Yelton’s State Farm business to pick up their complimentary neon’s provided by the HallowNeon committee. Pick up begins Oct. 23 to Oct. 28.

At 7:20 p.m., participants are asked to gather in Heritage Park next to the post office, with all their neon glowing for a photo along with the businesses who participated in the event. 

“The focus is keeping people downtown,” Yelton said. “We have got to take advantage of people being down here.”

Another reason why the group was started was to be there as a helping hand for anyone who needs it in the downtown area. 

She pointed to when the Optimist Club disbanded a few years ago, members there did not know who to go to in terms of asking for help. Yelton added that the she wanted a downtown group who could support the youth in the city with their projects, such as Memorial High School senior Rebecca Dominguez’s Honoring Hometown Heroes project, senior Kalie Gayer’s Girl Scout project at Memorial Park and her niece Lucy Spencer’s project around Christmas at Memorial Park.

“We want to support the youth in this community who want to do things and make things happen in St. Marys so we want to get behind them,” she said. “We feel like we have youth who are amazing and who do this stuff, we should be able to be supportive.”

Yelton said the group met on Oct. 3 and she hopes about the same or more businesses attend the next meeting  Nov. 7. Businesses interested can search for the St. Marys Area Resource Team on Facebook.

“We want to work hand in hand with the chamber and the city because it is going to take everybody to make something happen,” Yelton said.