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Download Main Street News PDF - 2009/01

2009 Dozen Distinctive Destinations Features Three Main Street Communities

Each year since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has selected 12 vacation destinations that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes, and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization. This year, three out of the 12 destinations are our very own Main Street communities: Athens, Georgia; Lititz, Pennsylvania; and Franklin, Tennessee.

If you recall, Franklin is a 1995 Great American Main Street Award winner, and remains to this day a model Main Street community. A small town that is often described as "100 years" and a few miles south of Nashville, Franklin is packed with history, including Civil War battlefields, exciting upscale boutiques, and a host of antebellum mansions. The town square comes alive every summer with live music concerts that feature headliners such as Buckwheat Zydeco; and a full calendar of special events makes this downtown a great place to live and visit. 

Athens may be best known as a vibrant college town and the home of such bands as R.E.M., but its streets are lined with establishments that serve up nouveau southern cuisine as well as pizza and stores that sell vintage vinyl records along with locally made jewelry and pottery. The nightlife here shows its Main Street peers that historic downtowns can be 24-7 places that offer something for everyone.

Lancaster County may be known as Amish Country, but Lititz has put itself on the map for being a charmingly quaint town with its own distinctive character. Covered bridges, taverns, and old stone mills take a visitor back in time to a place where many buildings from 300 years ago still stand. The weekly farmer's market, Lovin' Lititz, and other annual events give visitors a big selection of things to do in this small town.

"We are proud that these towns are adding to an ever-growing list of Main Street communities that have been recognized as part of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations," says Doug Loescher director of the National Trust Main Street Center. "Each district features the vibrant community center, protected architecture, local heritage, unique local businesses, and exciting events and attractions that make Main Street communities natural tourism destinations."

The other destinations featured this year are: Santa Barbara, California; Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan; Virginia City, Nevada; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Buffalo, New York; Bristol, Rhode Island; Hot Springs, South Dakota; Fort Worth, Texas; and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Web Watch: Free Preservation Resource Guide

Preservationists and historic homeowners can request a free electronic copy of "Preservation Resources on the Web," a comprehensive resource guide of online resources for historic and cultural resource preservation. Although this document emphasizes resources available for individuals in Portland and the State of Oregon, many national resources are included. Give Preservation Directory your e-mail address so you can get your copy by contacting them at or 503-223-4939.

Survey Shows Independents Outperforming Chains During Downturn

In an extremely challenging economic climate, independent retailers are outperforming many chains, a national survey has found. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance surveyed 1,142 independent retailers in a wide range categories (books, toys, clothing, etc.) and found that 2008 holiday sales at independent stores declined an average of 5 percent from the same time period in 2007.

That compares favorably to most competing chains, including Barnes & Noble (- 7.7 percent), Best Buy (-6.5 percent), Borders (-14 percent), JC Penney (-8.1 percent), Macy's (-7.5 percent), The Gap (-14 percent), and Williams-Sonoma (-24.2 percent). What's more, in January, the Commerce Department reported that December retail sales overall were down a record 9.8 percent over December 2007.

Of special note, the survey also found that local retailers in cities with organizations that have permanent "buy independent/local" campaigns reported much stronger holiday sales than those in cities lacking such efforts. The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) reports that more than 100 such groups have formed across the country in recent years. Independent retailers in these cities still saw a decrease in sales compared to last year, but the drop was 3.2 percent – far less than the 5.6 percent decline reported in cities without permanent "buy local" organizations.

"Even as household budgets shrink, many people are choosing to direct more of their spending to local businesses," says Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "This could be a key factor in getting the economy back on track.  Study after study has concluded that locally owned businesses deliver more jobs and significantly greater economic benefits to their communities than chains do."

An identical survey last year also found that independent businesses in cities with "buy local" campaigns reported much stronger sales than those in communities without such an initiative. Ninety-five percent of the retailers surveyed said the fact that their business is locally owned matters to their customers – up from 82 percent in last year's survey.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance conducted the survey in partnership with several independent business organizations, including the American Booksellers Association, AMIBA, American Specialty Toy Retailers Association, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, Independent Music Store Owners coalition, and National Bicycle Dealers Association.