Discover Downtown La Grange

Watson is hired to direct the
La Grange Main Street program

She previously served in a similar position in Eminence

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing writer

(March 2007) - “I’m really passionate about historic preservation,” said Jennifer Watson, the newly hired Discover Downtown La Grange director. “Even the smallest house is important.”

Jennifer Watson

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

Jennifer Watson plans
to use her experience
to help La Grange, Ky., merchants enhance
their business.

Watson, 53, in January replaced Keli Quinn, who at the time held the dual position of Oldham County Tourism Director. The tourism department is regrouping and will no longer be combined with the Discover Downtown La Grange director position, officials said.
“If you don’t preserve and protect your architecture, you lose some of the self knowledge of where you came from,” said Watson.
She was chosen over other applicants mainly because of her extensive experience relating to events she will coordinate as the Discover Downtown La Grange director.
This, combined with the “fact that she loves La Grange,” helped Watson win over Discover Downtown La Grange board members, said past Discover Downtown La Grange chairperson Karen Eldridge.
Watson’s position will entail overseeing and coordinating events, aiding local merchants who are responsible for retail economic development and helping residents preserve buildings. She will serve as “a source of information for everyone,” said Eldridge.
Discover Downtown La Grange is a member of Kentucky’s Main Street program, and Watson plans to apply for funding and certification from Kentucky Renaissance on Main.
Before taking her current position, Watson held a similar Main Street Manager position with Eminence (Ky.) Tomorrow for nearly two years. Due to heated elections and a new administration that was not as supportive of Main Street programming as it had been in the past, Watson said it was time to look for another job.
Although she no longer works in Henry County, she is still involved in a Henry County Leadership Class, which she called a great learning experience. She believes it is a good idea to include surrounding counties, such as Henry County, in events and advertising for activities centered in La Grange.
Being a Main Street Manager requires that you have a lot of different kinds of experience, said Watson. Her background as a code enforcer in Dayton, Ohio, encouraged her to become more interested in historic districts.
Watson was responsible for preparing the Wright Brothers centennial celebration in an area not aggressively pursuing growth in the surrounding commercial strip. She assisted the Main Street program for that district.
Watson will also rely on her 20 years of experience in theater in the area of marketing and event planning to promote and strengthen such events as the Oldham County Farmer’s Market. She will be responsible for improving Light Up La Grange.
Originally from north of Dayton, Watson attended college there before traveling to San Francisco, Seattle and New Mexico in search of work. Watson also has construction knowledge that she will couple with facade work requirements for the Main Street Program.
Watson said she hopes to promote Main Street’s varied offerings, including antique and handmade furniture, home decorating tips, cooking lessons, good music, book signings and children’s activities. Assisting her in planning this special weekend was Scott Ferguson, owner of Shady Palms.
Scott Ferguson, owner of the new outdoor furniture store, Shady Palms, is an active member of the Main Street organization. “My long-term vision for La Grange is to see more anchor stores supporting this annual event,” said Ferguson.
With more offerings and events, he believes people should want to drive, lodge and dine in La Grange. He would like to compare La Grange in the future to Brown County, Ind., or Asheville, N.C.
Watson, meanwhile, plans to use more signage written in Spanish to widen interest in downtown businesses. She would like to institute an antique show and a Spring Fling celebration the day before Mother’s Day.
While still in the transition period, Watson is using space at Karen’s Book Barn & Java Stop as an office. A more permanent space is being sought in a new Visitor’s Center that will be ready in a few months in a building often referred to as the Little Blue House.
“The mayor (Elsie Carter) has offered space in the Little Blue House for a Tourism Office,” said Eldridge. Watson will be able to move in there as well.

• For more information about Discover Downtown La Grange, call Jennifer Watson at (502) 269-0126 or visit: www.DiscoverDowntownLagrange.com.

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