face many challenges
core group is employing Schallert principles
as a way of creating destination businesses
MADISON, Ind. (September 2004) First-time
business owners face a myriad of challenges, regardless of the location.
But surviving long-term in a small town of only 13,000 people situated
off the beaten path that relies primarily on tourism and a few festivals
each year certainly takes a dedicated and creative entrepreneur.
Just ask some of the merchants who have set up shop on Madisons
The long-timers have seen businesses come and go. Over the years, perhaps
through trial and error, they seem to have found what works best for
them, who their customers are, and how to keep them coming back.
The new owners, fresh with ideas and eager to get started or grow, are
busying networking with fellow business owners, trying to discover the
secret to success in such a seasonal environment.
In Madison, one primary challenge is geographic: a town divided by a
hillside into a historic downtown district and the hilltops
Clifty Drive, a more modern commercial boulevard that requires travel
by car. But most challenges are the same as those found anywhere: issues
related to parking and store hours.
Then theres the confusion among merchants about
which groups they should be joining: the chamber, the downtown merchant
group, the Main Street Program or the historic preservation organization?
Each group has a different mission, but few merchants could tell you
what they are.
I still dont know who they are or what they all do,
said Elaine Reece, who originally opened her Scrap-n-Sniff scrapbooking
and candle store in Hanover in October 2001 and moved to Madisons
Main Street last December. Im just sort of waiting to see
what develops before deciding which one to join.
While local historic attractions and the beauty of the Ohio RIver valley
work in favor of merchants who thrive on tourism, success often still
depends on the business acumen and marketing efforts of a few committed
merchants, who in many small towns form the core of a shopping district.
But in Madison, there seems to be more than one core: the
old guard and the newcomers. When an article appeared in July in the
local newspaper announcing that six stores were closing on Main Street,
the lines of division quickly emerged between the old and new.
Long-time store owners just seemed to roll their eyes and go on about
their business, having seen the cycle repeat itself many times before.
The newcomers, however, having recently sunk their investment dollars
into a new shop on Main Street, reacted angrily to the negative tone
of the article, fearing it would dissuade local shoppers from coming
downtown to shop their stores. Although the article did
not mention any recent new store openings, it quoted Madison Area Chamber
of Commerce executive director Jeff Garrett saying that business turnover
is normal, and that some turnover can even be good for a town. New
businesses coming in can bring a new aspect to Main Street, Garrett
by Don Ward
Dattilo of Something Simple
Like new recruits sent into battle, they put on their
armor and went to work, forming a subcommittee of the Madison Main Street
Programs Economic Restructuring Committee in an effort to generate
more activities downtown to generate business.
No more waiting or complaining about what the chamber
of commerce or the tourism office was or was not doing to help their
businesses survive. They were determined to take matters into their
own hands in order to achieve success and survive.
After talking with several of these committee members, it is apparent
that this group exudes enthusiasm and positive energy. They frequently
cite the July article that aroused many along Main Street; they point
to episodes in the past when a group of merchants sat in on a tourism
meeting, only to be told that it wasnt the tourism offices
job to get them business; they recall meeting with the chamber of commerce
officials to express their feelings that not enough was being done for
Collectively, these recent events have spurred a few dedicated merchants
into action, said Lucy Dattilo, owner of Something Simple gift shop.
She and five others now serve on this Calendar of Events Committee
and have been meeting twice a month since April to put their ideas into
Tourists are wonderful, but you cant always count on them
coming back, Dattilo said. Its the locals who will
save us; we have to market to the locals.
Bob Maile, owner of Madison Table and Light and a committee member,
said that after several meetings, We ended up with this core of
people who are really interested in making something happen. Were
hoping that from this core we can reach out to the rest of the downtown
merchants here and get a vital organization going.
Maile also owns a bed and breakfast on Main Street and plans to build
a kitchen in back of his Madison Table and Light store to eventually
house Jeff and Jarvis Jenkins River Valley Bar-B-Q Pit Stop. The
barbecue restaurant once operated on the Madison hilltop but in late
August opened inside Evan Sommerfeld Antiques Store until the kitchen
Our committee has a lot of enthusiasm right now, and were
obviously in it for our own self-preservation, Maile said. But
we recognize that we cant do it ourselves. Weve got to get
the cooperation of others.
The committee has drawn up a wish list of activities for
the fall and Christmas seasons to generate more activities along Main
Street. To achieve their goals, they are counting on the support of
city officials, the chamber, other merchant groups and, of course, local
by Don Ward
Maile of Madison Table & Light.
It takes more than one business to be successful,
and we can all be successful if we help each other, said Deana
Williams, another committee member who owns the Main Street Antique
Mall with her husband, Scott.
The group helped organize the Aug. 1 Shop and Dine for Charity
Day promotion among downtown merchants, whereby a percentage of
sales from participating merchants was contributed to specified local
The fall schedule for downtown events already is busy with the annual
Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art on Sept. 25-26 and the Madison Area
Chamber of Commerces Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew
tasting competition on Main Street on Oct. 9.
for new events
But in late October the committee plans to throw a Halloween party on
Main Street as part of a celebration to welcome the Indiana Main Street
Programs Cornelius OBrien Conference on Historic Preservation,
to be held Oct. 28-30 in Madison.
The group also has arranged for retail marketing author and motivational
speaker Rick Segel of Burlington, Mass., to appear at 6 p.m. on Oct.
28 at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library in a free session
that is open to the public.
From early November to Christmas, the group hopes to inspires fellow
Main Street merchants to stay open late on Fridays; other events are
in the works, including a tree and building lighting celebration on
Main Street to replace the now defunct Festival of Lights Christmas
display held the past seven years on the riverfront by the chamber of
To get people to shop downtown, we know we have to offer people
things they cant get at Wal-Mart. But can also offer them something
different a true shopping experience in a historic downtown,
said Annalisa Strickland, who moved from Los Angeles to Madison after
having worked here in 1999 during the filming of the yet-to-be-released
movie Madison. She now sells hand-made jewelry at her Princess
and the Bead shop and is another new merchant of only one year who found
it difficult to fit into one of the local groups.
After evaluating the other groups, she said the Calendar Committee was
her best option.
by Don Ward
Reece poses with a scrapbook story of her store, Scrap-N-Sniff.
Dattilo and the others have had their entrepreneurial
spirits awakened by a Florida-based retail marketing expert named Jon
Schallert. A former marketing executive with Hallmark Cards for 10 years,
Schallert now has his own consulting company and travels the country
holding seminars and workshops to help small-town America merchants
hold their own in competitive or seasonal environments.
Regardless of the situation, Schallert preaches one simple message:
That it is up to each individual business owner to determine his fate
by making the business desirable for customers to visit and return.
He calls his formula destination marketing. Quite simply,
if people are willing to drive from out of town or even down
the hill in Madison just to shop your store, then youve
got a destination business.
Schallert states his own definition of a retail destination this way:
A business so compellingly unique that consumers willingly go
out of their way, passing other competitive stores, to seek their preferred
service or shopping choice.
Schallert conducted a one-day workshop last year in Terre Haute, Ind.,
and another in Osgood, Ind, in April. Nancy Gruner, the recently appointed
Madison Main Street Program board president and owner of Whimsy, attended
the Terre Haute session with Strickland, Main Street Program board member
Dana Riddle and former member Brad Miller. Both are on the Calendar
Committee, along with Dattilo, Williams, Bob Maile, owner of Madison
Table and Light, Wanda Gross of Wandas Gifts, and Bob Ems.
Dattilo, Williams and the chambers Laura Hodges were among a group
of Madison people who attended the Osgood session, sponsored by the
Maile has invited Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive
director Linda Lytle to attend a Schallert workshop in Greenville, Ohio,
on Oct. 13. She has accepted the invitation and plans to attend with
While we know we are not dependent upon the tourism office for
our livelihood, its important that we have a good working relationship
with them, said Williams, a first-time business owner who took
over the antique mall in January.
Schallerts video was played one evening this summer at Madison
City Hall for a group of local merchants. The event was organized by
the chamber. He will be in New Albany, Ind., on Sept. 1.
call to action
by Don Ward
and Deana Williams
of the Madison Main Street Antique Mall.
Dattilo, meanwhile, has taken her passion for Schallert
one step further by registering to attend his two-day Destination Marketing
BootCamp in Orlando in late September. Im not waiting,
she said. Im doing it now.
She is especially interested in what he has to say about store hours,
an often sore subject among Madison merchants. Schallert cites statistics
showing that 70 percent of retail purchases in American are done after
5 p.m. and on weekends. If youre not open during those hours,
youre catering to the unemployed, Dattilo says. Study
your locals and see what they want. Schallert says that if you have
something they want, theyll find a way to get there.
The Schallert Group Inc.s BootCamp bills itself as designed for
retail business owners who want to accelerate their learning curve,
receive in-depth instruction, strategies and specific tactics on how
to become a dominant destination business that can pull consumers past
Schallert himself exudes excitement and motivation when discussing his
program. Madison is fortunate because it has so much going for
it already, but my boot camp teaches people how to differentiate themselves
in a community, no matter where they are located, said Schallert
by telephone from his Orlando office.
Once they begin to employ these new marketing principles, collectively,
it becomes like a grassroots effort in economic development.
Schallert said too many small-town business owners wait passively for
other local organizations, city or county officials to do something
for them, or for customers to discover their shops. He advises
them not to wait. In many cases, they are not as proactive as
they should be. You cant sit on your lunch that way. Im
trying to create a situation with every business owner where they become
their own tourism engine.
does the Madison Main Street Program do?
Madison Main Street Program is a team of residents, merchants,
property owners and other interested citizens who believe that
Madison, Ind., is a special place in which to live, work and play.
The group is part of a network of more than 1,200 communities
across the country united for a common goal: To revitalize and
promote Americans historic downtowns in order to maintain
them as economically vibrant parts of their communities.
The Madison program follows the National Main Street Centers
Four Point Approach:
1. The Organization Committee gives the downtown commercial district
ongoing attention and care by working cooperatively with other
organizations on community development projects.
2. The Promotion Committee fosters a positive image for downtown
and creates a spirit of celebration.
3. The Design Committee encourages downtown improvements to maintain
an attractive environment.
4. The Economic Restructuring Committee works to strengthen existing
businesses and identifies downtown market opportunities.
On Oct. 28-30, the Indiana Main Street Program will
hold its annual Cornelius OBrien Conference on Historic
Preservation in Madison. Sessions will take place at various locations
around town featuring presentations by local, state and national
experts on historic preservation, archaeology and Main Street
issues. For information, call the local office at (812) 265-3270.
Source: Madison Main Street Program.
coming and going
The Downtowner, January 2003
Moms Music, March 2003
Madison Table and Light, April 2003
The Princess and the Pea (jewelry), July 2003
House O Hits, August 2004 (moved from previous location
Cocoa Safari Chocolates (candies), August 2003
Scrap n Sniff (scrapbooking, candles), December 2003
Hillside Inn Restaurant, May 2004
The Front Porch (coffee, pastries and gifts), May 2004
Lovely Creations (gifts), July 2004
River Valley Bar-B-Q Pit Stop, August 2004
Maternity Boutique, August 2004
Bella Vista (formerly Montpelier Inn), August 2004
Chicagos Pizza (scheduled to open in fall 2004)
New café at the former Lodge Building (fall 2004)
in the past year:
Zannis Gift Shop, June 2004
Artsy Decor, July 2004
Thistles, July 2004
Oras Gift Shop, July 2004
Madison Mini Mart, July 2004
Montpelier Inn Restaurant, July 2004
Weidmans Country Store, August 2004
Cover to Cover Bookstore (announced it will close or
sell in December 2004)
To learn more, call (352) 383-9579 or visit: www.jonschallert.com
Back to September 2004