Monday, January 30, 2012

City Visit: Georgetown

Each year, the Partnership plans a trip to a nearby locale to learn from our neighbors as well as kick some cobwebs out of our head by getting out of dodge. We always benefit from lots of new ideas and, I have to admit, have a moment of Downtown Frederick pride when we find a spot where we feel Downtown Frederick’s star shines a bit brighter. The visit is a part of the Competitive Edge workshop series which is funded with support from the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

This year, our visit focused on Georgetown. I took a van load of 14 people out of Downtown Frederick early on a yucky, rainy January morning. The Partnership owes a debt of gratitude to the City for providing the van (thanks Community Action Agency) and the driver (thanks City DED).

We began our visit with the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID). Our group consisted of economic development professionals, merchants and Partnership Board members. We all had a great discussion with the BID staff. We talked about events, marketing efforts, the balance between independents and chains, how the BID works and much more. The Frederick crew had a lot of great questions and we received a lot of good information.

From the BID office, we ventured out for lunch and then on to visit two Georgetown business owners. We began with Sharon Hayes at The Phoenix. The Phoenix has been in the same spot since 1955. Sharon and her husband purchased the business from her husband’s parents. Now a third generation – their daughter – is involved and we heard them making plans for the fourth. If you are headed to Georgetown, I would highly encourage a look. They have a great selection of jewelry, clothing, Mexican art and much more. It was very interesting to hear the perspective of a long term merchant on what has happened in Georgetown. We not only compared holiday seasons but also talked about bigger issues impacting retail in both cities.

After a great visit at The Phoenix, we headed a bit further north to Salon Ilo. The two owners gave an inspiration talk about why they got involved in Georgetown and even took us on a tour of “Book Hill.” They were impressed to see so many make the trip to Georgetown and were fantastic ambassadors for the power of getting involved.

All in all, we had a great visit - the van ride home was percolating with ideas. Now to find the time to put those ideas into fruition…