I just came back from a whirlwind trip through parts of California. Most of my jaunts out there are like that.(I grew up there) Have to squeeze them in between calves and crops, you know!
While I was there I treated myself to a morning stop in Lincoln. This gem is +/- about 30 miles North East of Sacramento on Hwy 65.
“Downtown is the heartbeat of a community”
At the turn of the 1900’s Lincoln was a “boom town”. I would imagine it began it’s decline in the 1970’s or so. Back in the 80’s I bought my horse hay at
the feed store on the corner and the standing joke was that Lincoln had to “borrow” its Saturday night police from Marysville.
Over the years Lincoln has grown. And grown. And Grown. OUTSIDE of the city border. Downtown became sadly neglected. Building were run down. Store fronts empty.
About a dozen years ago the good people of Lincoln- many of them “old timers” came together to revitalize the old section. Building were revamped, they enticed people to come and see the possibilities and did some creative wheeling and dealing to get the storefronts filled. Here’s a great video on it:
Several years ago a friend of mine asked if I had been to Lincoln lately, and I said Not in years, nuthin’ there! So she cheerfully informed that there was indeed plenty there.
Everything from food and antiques to a fab quilt shop. -All things to pique my interest.
I found much to like and did some shopping 🙂 much to hubby chagrin.
Fast forward another few years. This trip I had time to spend the entire morning and early afternoon. So, my morning was spent having coffee with my son at a sidewalk café and walking all over Old Town. We had a wonderful time exploring and visiting with shop owners! Everybody was so friendly and helpful. Our only bummer was that we were there before the museum opened, and by the time it was, we were already around the corner at Kim’s Café having late ‘brunch’ (an outstanding café with heaping plates of down home cookin’.)with other family in the area.
Lincoln boasts a number of eateries, antique stores, boutiques, thrift shops, wineries, brewpubs, gardening/gift shops and more. It is quite the bustling area, offering something for everybody. Even my son was practically giddy when he found a shop that interested him.
Nearly every single store has outdoor seating and all have wonderful signage designed to attract attention. Several of the buildings have beautiful murals on them. Even the lone ‘box’ store is in keeping with the Old Town vibe.
~ The seating is amazing. Just by sitting down outside the coffee shop, people TALKED as they went by! And when People talk, Community happens.~
“Honoring the past while embracing the future”
Lincoln also hosts many events to draw people and have a good times- Everything from antique car shows to food truck extravaganzas and in between.
When you’re not busy eating, visiting or shopping in one of the great shops, take a little time and drive around the ‘heart’ of Lincoln and its neighborhoods. The architecture in amazing.
A stop in at the Lincoln Area Chamber was on my way around town and I had a wonderful visit with Tom Cosgrove, Chamber director. We had a few minutes to chat about the creativity involved with attracting businesses back to Downtown, and how rosy the future looks.
Rebuilding Lincoln wasn’t (and still isn’t) all sunshine and rainbows. It took loads of grit, outside the box creative thinking, vision , dreams, browbeating and hope.
Success feeds on success. Each small step lead to the next one and each one was progressively better and bigger. The energy in this beautiful town is incredible.
I will definitely be back again. Hopefully sooner rather than later!
Art, Architecture, Geography, Commerce, People, History, Customs and Cuisine– Yep! Covered ALL of “Kate’s 8” items that all communities begin with.
Katy is part of Tait&Kate– rural and small community speaker and advocate. TaitandKate can help your community fill your empty store fronts with outside the box strategies and build community from the inside out.
Want to book us for your next meeting or conference? email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Shop Local” movement is wonderful. It has done so much and brought tons of awareness and added sales for so many businesses and communities, especially small & rural towns.
Having lived and traveled all over this great big United States, I have spent much time in very small towns. Over the years- long before “shop local” and “shop small” became catch phrases, I noticed that a considerable amount of shop owners seem to think they are entitled to your business.
As a business owner, in any size community, it is your prerogative to ignore customers, treat them badly or carry shoddy merchandise. You have choices. But when you do choose to treat your customers badly you have no right to expect them to patronize your business.
Did you know it only takes a customer 7 seconds to form an opinion of your business??
Do not make the mistake that just because you may be the only such-and-such in xyz town, that the good folks have to shop with you.
~Nothing could be further from the truth~
UPS, FedX, USPS are our friends along with Amazon, EBay & Etsy and a whole host of other options that are Not YOU. There are neighboring towns or we may just chose to save our purchase for the next trip to the city and spend ALL of our dollars there.
People are not obligated to shop with you just because you have a business. You have to earn it.
But if you are friendly and helpful, even when you don’t have what we need, we will remember and patronize you regularly.
Try to remember that even in a small town, the people who live there do not owe you a living. It’s up to you to make us want to shop there. You have to earn it. And it will repay you ten-fold.
Okay- it’s really more like the Kansas Sampler, but that doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Kate the Great’ does it?
“Kate’s 8” will actually be a regular feature on the towns I visit and what I see as their “8”
According to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, there are eight things every community has. No matter their size, large or small, they can all drum up their eight with a little creativity.
Once you identify your eight, begin building on them and see how many ways you get people to come to your town!
The eight are:
Art, Architecture, Geography, Commerce, People, History, Customs & Cuisine
How do YOU define each in your community?? Is your Art murals? Is it sculpture? Is it the garden layed out in the design of the Queen of England? -Use your imagination
Even if it’s only the Avon lady… it’s still commerce! And it counts. It’s a start. And obviously somebody believes.
What is your history? Do you have a museum? The only stone jail in the state? When was your community settled? A long tradition of ‘old school’ music? Find your own version of history and use it.
Cuisine is everything from Sunday church picnics to that fabulous smoked ham the neighbor makes. Maybe someone makes the best pies this side of the Mississippi. Maybe you have the BBQ joint.
People are everyone. You have people. That’s a start! Tell stories about them. Celebrate them!
Customs can be anything from the yearly Church Social to the community Christmas Tree. It can be past customs. (that way it can also double up as history) Did your town used to have something? Do you celebrate Ukrainian Easter or other ethnic holidays? What do you have?
Architecture– I love architecture. All Kinds! Old buildings (especially with vintage or art deco designs or signs… Oh, hey! That’s also Art!! Bonus!) , new buildings, churches, schools, barns, out houses etc… What do YOU have?
Geography is everything from the sweeping vistas of the prairies to the woodlands and in between. Every place has geography. Rivers, lakes, mountains and so on.
So, go on! Be creative. Involve everyone. Ask around. You’ll be amazed at how differently each person views ‘the eight’
“Kate’s 8” will be ongoing features of the “K-8” that I find in the towns I visit.
What’s in your town?
Need a speaker? Call us! We give talks on rural and small communities and business and how they can grow using just what is at hand as well as showcasing fabulous ideas that other towns have embraced and turned into huge wins. www.taitandkate.com We can also show you ways to get the C.A.V.E (citizens against virtually everything) people on board too.
There are a multitude of reasons WHY a community should have teenagers participating on the boards and councils. ~ But I will limit my self to just a few!
1) According to a University of Nebraska national survey of rural youths, 50% (that’s right folks! FIFTY PERCENT) WANT to return to their communities in the future.
That’s a fabulous number! Now what are YOU going to do with that information?
What is your community to have to offer these returning ‘youngsters’ down the road?
Jobs? Things to do? Places to hang out? Wi-Fi hot spots? Entertainment for new families? Buildings to start businesses in?
I would bet if you asked these youngsters what they would want to have, you would be surprised by their answers. If you let them, they will help you carve a new future for your community.
I met two extraordinary young men at the RuralX conference in Aberdeen a couple weeks ago. They were the youngest attendees at 16 & 17 years old. Both want to “come home” to Miller SD when they are done with school. Both want to open businesses. Both want to be able to express their ideas now to council and desire to be a part later. They want to listen us and for us to listen to them. Luckily, they live in a rural community that embraces young and old alike!
2) A vested interest in the community makes a difference. Most of the time it seems that my father’s generation is the last to truly be a vested part of a community at a young age. Really think about that. For hundreds of years, people were expected to shoulder adult responsibilities and participate in community events at a young age.
When and Why did we stop expecting our children to be a part??
When these youth feel valued and a part of the community, they are more likely to participate and volunteer. They will readily step up and lead the charge for whatever task is at hand.
(I could name a number of communities where the youth are put on ignore. It doesn’t bode well for those particular towns future.)
You could coordinate with the school so these youth get credit for attending meetings and so on.
I believe this is doubly important in rural communities. Without a large population to draw from, we need to build from within. Let them participate, share ideas and be a part.
3) Trust ~ Pretty simple, huh?
Let me give you an example; You trust the local teenagers to be LIFEGUARDS at the pool, responsible for your children. You have faith in their judgement that they will save a drowning child.
So why would you not trust their opinions or ideas?
Sure! Some of their ideas may be far fetched to us. But I am sure some of ours were just as far fetched to our ‘elders’. But without the dreams and forward thinking and enthusiasim, rural communities will wither away.
So put a little trust in these kids and give them a seat at the big table.
Together we can make our communities better for all.
Okay- so maybe not quite “cities”…. Cope, Anton and Idalia are technically listed as “villages”
I happened to land in Cope in a quirky twist of fate… You see, many years ago, we bought a café sight unseen on a handshake at a football game in Denver. That’s another story.
Cope had a population of 97. We helped grow it to 101.
Now, if you’ve ever lived in a very small rural community, you KNOW that revenue is hard to generate and so is entertainment.
We had the bright idea of starting “Café Racing”one summer. We had a little go- cart, and so did another family in Anton (pop 20) and another in Idalia (pop 115 +/- at the time)
So, we decided that to drum up business for each café in our towns,we would race around the café in Cope one weekend, and the other towns the following weeks… and then repeat. ~you could call it ‘Redneck Revenue’~
It only lasted a few months, but it was fun and did what it was supposed to do.
~Yes~ our little homemade go carts were wildly unsafe… kids strapped in with old back braces screwed to plywood and borrowed bike helmets…. But we all made it safely and the kids still talk about that summer.
Café Racing was a lesson in cooperation and collaboration with other towns. It was the start of “could be’s” Which led to other adventures….and bright ideas
Now I am using over 25 years of gained knowledge to help others get things started in their communities and learn to connect with neighboring towns.
It is getting harder and harder for many small towns to hang on. State and federal funding is drying up, resources are disappearing and people have become complacent. By working together, small towns can revive themselves and head in a new direction. Though there are many, here are my reasons small towns should think regionally.
1-None of us are getting any younger. Things happen. Ask yourself What IF? What if you couldn’t just hop in the car and drive 50 miles to market? Wouldn’t it be nice to walk down the street and grab a birthday card or a gallon of milk, or meet your friends for coffee? Or to just go the 10 miles to the neighboring town that has what you need?
Ask yourself, If you couldn’t just drive into the city, is it a reasonable expectation to have your child or friend take an entire day off of work, come from the city to get you, take you back to the city to get that handful of items you had to have, and then drive you back home and head right back? That would be an entire day and over 200 miles of driving.
Just because you CAN drive in, doesn’t mean you need to or even want to. And we all know someone who really shouldn’t be behind the wheel to start with!
2-Shared resources. One town has the lake, one the hospital, one has a huge yearly event , one a cafe, one the lake, one a motel. How can you use your neighbors resources to enhance your own?
You could advertise your motel at the same time the next town is having AppleFritter Days.
The tiny town of Aladdin, WY (population 15!) has a 100 year old store. And that’s it. Aladdin is 20 miles from Belle Fourche SD. They have built their business around tourism to Belle Fourche and Sturgis and Devils Tower. Aladdin uses the simple principle of Buy, See & Do to capture their audience. Aladdin uses the nearby towns resource of people, hotels and more.
If a town of only 15 people can do it, so can you!
3-Events~ events draw people from all over. Take advantage of it. Even tiny events provide an abundance of trickle down economics. When they drive to your town, people will stop to fill their tanks before leaving, they will spend money in your café, gift shop, roadside stands, etc.
It doesn’t matter if you have a cartwheel contest, a parade, a farmers market or some huge event. Just do something. Once people know that your community has events, they will spread the word bringing more people the next time.
4-Small towns are inter-connected by family ties. Most everyone who lives in small towns is connected to other nearby communities by family. This means traveling back and forth. Shared knowledge and histories. Capitalize on it.
Make a traveling history exhibit featuring the townspeople, host a Cousins Day or something else crazy.
When Aunt Dorothy comes to your town for little Jr’s birthday party, dimes to dollars she will stop at the local store to grab a gift or a bottle of wine.. Just like when you go to that pot-luck the next town over, you’ll probably stop in their market and get some of that potato salad to take with you.
5-Small business succeeds. When a small town thinks outside of its borders, businesses grow and thrive. By sharing and collaborating with other nearby communities, you grow your customer base.
When you grow your base, more people hear about you. The more they hear about you, the more excited they get to find out what’s new in your community. With more people coming to town, the more the possibility of a business being able to expand or hire someone or for a new business to start. How exciting would that be?
What ideas do YOU have to think regionally?