There Are Easy Answers to the Downtown Problems
Thanks to the people who took time to respond. I was hoping for a bigger response and to also get input from the Chamber and the City, but perhaps in the future, or another venue.
1. What we can do is molded by the following.
The reason small shop owners have the shops they do is that they want to be free to make their own decisions. This independent spirit makes it difficult for small shop owners to cooperate in implementing any type of master plan for downtown Enumclaw. So, we need to use this independent spirit to our advantage, much like a fighter can use the superior strength of an opponent to their advantage.
Events away from downtown (think Creation Fest, Fair, Chocolate Festival, etc.) don’t seem to increase our business, but it might the restaurants’. I feel that people that attend those events have food services there, but when they drive through Enumclaw they only see strip malls (410 for example) and do not see any reason to take the “red van” back to town.
Adding in large destination stores that would go in the strip mall area, or increasing the size of those that are already here, would probably not increase “downtown business” unless people driving there realized there was a “historic downtown” to shop at.
Other events in town (sidewalk sale, parades, car shows, bicycle racing) also do not give us much of an increase in business as people seem to come just for those events and not for shopping.
Due to the general economic conditions money is in short supply.
Enumclaw already has everything necessary in place to entice shoppers to downtown. Our downtown is made up of shops from a number of eras, each with its own character and charm. For example the music store is Art Deco; the Trommald Building is on the State of Washington Historic Register because of its Chicago Brick façade, and so on. Many buildings have a rich and interesting human history.
In order to shop in downtown Enumclaw people have to know where it is. Pretend you know nothing about Enumclaw and are coming here for the first time. Drive in from Auburn and in two lights you are through downtown Enumclaw and past the downtown parking lots before you even know it. Coming in from 169 is even worse since some people will continue down Porter instead of turn east on Griffin and miss downtown altogether. Coming in on 410 is also a problem. We had friends come to visit our shop and they were heading toward Mt Rainier before they realized they missed us------they had no idea where the downtown was.
Strip malls (a reality for most of our everyday shopping) is where we drive to a big parking lot, go in into the attached store, buy what we came for then drive to another big parking lot--- ad infinitum. People are desperate for a shopping experience where they park once, then stroll along attractive streets and browse interesting stores.
Such streets do not have to have a “theme” to be successful. Think of Port Townsend for example. They just have to be clean, inviting, fun and interesting
Once people get out of their cars they have to be “guided through town” from shop to shop. That means that they have to be able to see what’s down the street as they move from shop to shop.
Most people do not know this, but the Chamber has already put together a walking tour of Enumclaw featuring historic houses and buildings. It takes about an hour to complete and is really interesting since Enumclaw is blessed with an example of almost every important style of architecture (Colonial, Box, Prairie, Edwardian, Craftsman, etc.)
2. My suggestions for success.
Put “gateway signs” to delineate the downtown area from its surroundings. The “gateway signs” need to be attractive enough to get people to stop. Historic Downtown Enumclaw, Old Town Enumclaw----almost any wording will do as long as the signs are enticing. The signs could be fairly simple at first, but made so that additions could be made later. The most important approaches to put signs on are coming into Enumclaw from Buckley and Auburn. The others could come later.
Each shop needs signs that are perpendicular to the street so when people come out of one store they can be drawn into the next one. I know that hanging signs are a problem since Enumclaw suffers from occasional high winds (easily forecast). Folding signs that can be brought in during high winds could suffice. It would be better if these individual signs had an “enticement” factor to them.
Old buildings (inside and out) actually attract shoppers as long as the paint isn’t peeling or facades falling off. Very little needs to be done in this respect in the downtown area. The Enumclaw National Bank Building is a great example of how patching and new paint can really make a difference as well as the old Penny’s Building.
We need to advertise Enumclaw in the Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle areas. This takes money, but with connections we might be able to get free stories on TV and in the papers. Brochures that list antique stores are also important. It takes a while for a town to get known, but we have to start somewhere.
Buildings in town could have plaques on them listing their historical and architectural significance. I know this costs money, but perhaps a less expensive framed note inside would work in the time being.
The chamber or? could advertise the “historic home tour” to get people to come to Enumclaw and once they are here to get out of their cars and walk around (hopefully spending money).
We need events specially designed to increase shopping in the downtown area. Here are a few suggestions.
- Have a downtown wide “pajama night, day?” where precipitating merchants dress up in pajamas (including waitresses). Anyone who shows up in PJ’s (even a bottom or night cap) would get an automatic discount. Merchants only have to wear PJ’s and be open------or?
- Have a downtown wide “pioneer day” where the merchants dress up as pioneers-----and?
See Richard Elfer’s second comment for other suggestions.