Thanks to dedicated merchants and local support, Kent’s unique downtown areas are thriving like never before.
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Despite the economic downturn, Kent County’s scenic downtowns are bustling with creative business activity. Milford, Smyrna, Dover and Harrington all share this and another thing in common—an enthusiastic group of people dedicated to the continued life and success of their traditional downtown.
“The economy has impacted the businesses negatively,” says Bill Neaton, executive director of the Downtown Dover Partnership. But he is quick to say, “They are an innovative group of merchants. They are more than surviving. They are thriving.”
Diane Laird is program coordinator for Downtown Delaware, a resource center based in the Delaware Economic and Development Office. “Kent County downtowns are actively pursuing downtown revitalization,” Laird says. “They’re not waiting for the market to decide what the future looks like."
Laird works with all four downtowns either through a sanctioned Main Street program or through the Downtown Delaware program. In her opinion, success is critical. “Small towns represent the opportunity for entrepreneurs to open a business,” she says. “Small business is the backbone of a strong economy."
The LadyBug shop in Milford is a good example of the kind of innovation Laird likes to see. Moving to its third location in Milford since opening in 2003, the LadyBug shop carries specialty items related to the state bug, as well as other nature and child-oriented gift items.
What has helped LadyBug meet the challenges of the bad economy is that it is what owner Dan Bond calls a “click and mortar” business. LadyBug has a “real retail shop,” and it sells over the Internet. Bond and his wife, who also own Towers Bed and Breakfast in Milford, committed to businesses in Milford because, “We wanted to see our downtown thrive.”
Page 2: Main Events, continues...