Earlier this month, JRC hosted a workshop for business owners and stakeholders in the community. The workshop featured Jaime Izurieta, who is known as “The Storefront Guy.”
Urban Core director Frank Besse described Izurieta as an out-of-town professional with extensive experience in the business community who has a “passion” for downtown storefronts and main street businesses.
The JRC’s workshop included a presentation by Izurieta, a discussion with local business leaders and a tour through the downtown region. Besse said the workshop presented an opportunity for local businesses to learn about “best practices,” different ideas for storefront locations, how JRC, the Department of Development and other organizations can support the downtown area and how the community can work together to “create a sense of identity and improve the walkability and connectivity of downtown Jamestown.
As part of the workshop, Izurieta challenged business and community leaders to consider a “sense of identity” and discover the things that make Jamestown unique. He encouraged business leaders to develop a “sense of pride” in the community.
“The big thing was to kind of educate and inspire downtown business owners to think a little differently about their storefronts and their roles,” Besse said.
Following the workshop, JRC has already seen business owners display an interest in making improvements to their storefronts. While Besse said specific details regarding potential business improvements cannot yet be disclosed, he believes the workshop achieved the goal of motivating businesses to consider positive changes.
“I think we’ve had some really great conversations already with folks that are looking to do things to improve,” he said. “A few different things are being discussed, but what we’re seeing is people taking the material from the workshop and talking with their staff, talking with their business partners, talking with their landlords about ideas that they can implement.”
While many business owners were inspired to consider implementing new techniques or improvements for their businesses, Besse said other business owners found affirmation in Izuieta’s presentation. He acknowledged the amount of time, care and detail that goes into a successful storefront is a major commitment.
“It gave them a little confidence that they are on the right track, that they are doing things that are meaningful,” Besse said. “It was good to hear from them that they feel like they’re on the right track.”
Moving forward, JRC hopes to implement some grant funding opportunities for the businesses that attended the storefront mastery workshop to help the businesses achieve their improvement goals. In the meantime, Besse said local businesses are already working with design professionals, construction contractors and other potential partners to take the next steps to improve the downtown region.
“One of one of the things that we know is that if everyone can kind of do their part to make things more beautiful and more inviting, that’s going to make downtown have a little more buzz and energy and promote those businesses, so people know about them.”
By working together to improve the “aesthetic level” of downtown Jamestown, Besse believes local residents will be encouraged to walk more and visit local stores more regularly. He stressed the importance of each business and organization making a concerted effort to improve storefront locations to create a “compound” effect that could benefit the whole community and make Jamestown “a better place.”
While the workshop and the storefront mastery program was meant to inspire and facilitate improvement for local businesses, Besse said the program also serves as a reminder of the importance of the JRC’s work in the downtown region.
“It’s helping educate and empower business owners to see where they play that role, but then also, when those business owners are looking to take on additional steps to do a better job with their storefront, that puts pressure indirectly and directly on the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, on the city, to make sure that we’re holding up our end of the bargain,” he said.