Main Street Mercantile

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Every year, the Oklahoma Main Street Center asks a local community to host a workshop training that Main Street managers are required to attend. Last November, Perry hosted a brand new training called Main Street Mercantile.

Read the other articles in this series about Oklahoma Main Streets:
Oklahoma City
Stockyards City
Plaza District
Artists Alley

Local Main Street staff and volunteers spend a lot of their time assisting businesses, but many of them don't have any experience running shops. This interactive training sought to change that.

The multi-day workshop began with educational sessions on business controls, merchandising, window displays, entrepreneurship, marketing, and hosting a grand opening. All participants were asked to bring merchandise from their communities. An empty storefront in downtown Perry was turned into an impromptu shop where the Main Streeters could practice their new business skills. Participants worked together to set up displays and a cashier counter and go through all the necessary steps to open a new retail spot.

A chamber of commerce ribbon-cutting kicked off the third morning, when the store, Main Street Mercantile, was opened to the public for four hours, during which it grossed $2,400 in sales. The training gave participants a better feel for the challenges retailers face and gave them experience in building a business from the ground up.

All the Oklahoma Main Street Center staff had a role to play. Architect Ron Frantz led a tour of the square in Perry and gave a history of retail storefront design. Jim Watters, the small business management consultant, demystified the pricing of merchandise and showed participants how to set up a bookkeeping system. Tracey Cox, the interior designer, and her Arkansas counterpart, Susan Shaddox, taught the managers how to tell a story with merchandise displays and how to build an attractive window display. Alice Johnson and Lindsey Galloway, promotion consultants, discussed the strategy behind naming a business, creating an ad campaign, building a website, and planning a grand opening.

The group posted signs in the windows and created a Facebook page just for Main Street Mercantile to build the buzz. Staci Bolay, executive director of Main Street Perry, says the "store" was a big hit. "People came into the shop and said, 'oh, so this is what Main Street means.' They could ask us questions and learn more about revitalization."

Main Street Perry also offered some comic relief for the hardworking Mercantile Main Street participants. A jail-themed reception was held at the courthouse. Volunteers dressed up in black-and-white jail suits and held a mock trial. Oklahoma Main Street Center Director Linda Barnett was "arrested." Her mug-shot pictures were taken, and she was brought up on charges for crimes such as abuse of power (because of the mandatory Main Street trainings).

"Our mayor, city officials, local merchants, and others in the community were there," says Bolay. "It was a great awareness tool because our 'charges' were based on all the things Main Street does for the community. Because the city was involved, they had the opportunity to learn what we do."

Main Street Perry arranged for a tour of the historic jail and hosted a lecture with Charles Hanger, the Oklahoma state trooper who arrested Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, on the interstate near Perry. McVeigh was held in the Perry jail.

Perry Main Street produced a DVD of the Main Street Mercantile training as well as the mock trial and lecture. It was shown on local television programs, and local newspapers covered the training and trial. The video explains what Main Street does and was produced to increase awareness about the program. The program will sell it for $15. Visit for more information.

The Power of Main Street

National Main Streets Conference: Oklahoma City, May 2-5, 2010.

There is only one gathering each year that brings together people who understand exactly what kind of work you do… the kinds of opportunities specifically available to a community like yours… the types of challenges you face and the creative ways to overcome them. It's the National Main Streets Conference.

For three days, you'll experience a whirlwind of great ideas, inspiring speakers, innovative solutions, and thought leaders who are involved in historic preservation-based economic development. Other conferences may explore community revitalization, but only our conference frames it within the structure of the proven Main Street Four-Point Approach® and shows you how to achieve your goals using volunteer teams.

We are pleased this year to showcase the successes and stories of Main Street communities throughout Oklahoma. This article showcases our host city and its revitalization story. Case studies from communities throughout Oklahoma highlight what's been happening in recent years around this great state to get you amped about joining us in Oklahoma City for our upcoming conference.

Free Main Street 101 Training from National Experts!

There's no free lunch anymore, but there is free Main Street 101 training by National Trust Main Street Center (NTMSC) staff. New directors, board members, and volunteers are invited to participate in our day-long, free training on the basics of the Main Street approach on Sunday, May 2, at the 2010 National Main Streets Conference. You don't have to be registered for the conference, but we bet the valuable education and the enthusiastic atmosphere will make you want to stay. If you are a Main Street executive director from a town near Oklahoma City with board members and volunteers who plan to experience the conference vicariously through you, encourage them to come for the day and attend the free Main Street 101 sessions. NTMSC staff will cover each point of the Main Street Approach and share inspiring examples so you'll know how things should be done.  Main Street 101 Training (free): Sunday, May 2, 8:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m.