Locals Discuss Ways To Improve Business

Staff Writer

On Monday evening, residents and business owners in St. Marys met to discuss ways to help revitalize the downtown area and bring businesses into some of the unoccupied buildings. 

While members of city council, the community improvement corporation and the city’s chamber of commerce were present, the meeting was not official city business, but more to get local businesses together to brainstorm ideas. 

According to John Burd, the organizer of the event, the goal of the meeting was to focus on identifying the needs of the city and collect people who would be interested in serving on a committee for future meetings. 

During the hourlong meeting, some issues that were identified were the need to determine what people want to see in the downtown area — such as what kind of businesses and entertainment would draw them to spend their money there versus in Wapakoneta or Celina; convince residents to invest in what is already in town and upgrade the downtown area as some of the buildings have sat empty for so long, many don’t know if they are of use anymore as they are right now. 

One item Burd brought up was that he viewed the St. Marys theater as the “jewel” of downtown, which several at the meeting agreed. One resident brought up that if she wants to take her children to the movies, she has to go to Celina or Wapakoneta, as she has to with a lot of their activities. 

But while revitalizing the theater seemed like a good idea among the crowd, many brought up that residents of St. Marys aren’t the ones supporting the businesses that already exist. 

Traci Miley, co-owner of Effie’s Boutique said she and her co-owner/sister, Ammy Snyder, were planning on putting out a poll to their customers because they were certain the majority of their customers aren’t from St. Marys, but rather from surrounding areas. 

“St. Marys is the least of our business and we are going to do a questionnaire to have them fill out and do a gift card drawing at the end of the month or two or however we decide to do it to bring to you guys, to everybody, that kind of informs,” she said. “St. Marys isn’t supporting our businesses and … start there.”

One thing he hoped the group could address over time was how to get St. Marians to invest in the small businesses. One person suggested starting a campaign to encourage people to support. 

Convincing people to shop local is one thing, another aspect they addressed was getting businesses to open up in downtown. Realtor and councilman Jim Christman said he took a poll on his Facebook page and found more than 100 ideas of opportunities — businesses and ideas — that could come into town. To get the business ideas started, resident Diana Green suggested having legal, financial and tax personnel to help guide those who want to open a business but are unsure of how to get started and how to keep it afloat. 

“Something like what Wright State’s Business Center has,” she said. “Something where people can go and actually understand what they are getting into. I think people open stores downtown and they’re really excited about it and they have enough funds to keep it running for three months or four months because they don’t understand what they are getting into. 

“But I think if they had some help and understanding of what they are doing, that would be a good first step; to give the people some of that backboard to start on.”