Main Street moves toward a united front
June 1, 2010
It’s no secret members of the Historic Main Street Business Alliance (HMBA) struggle to agree on key issues.
There are many divisions among the 200-plus members: upper versus lower Main, the interests of merchants versus owners, those that benefit from parades and fairs (like T-shirt shops and pizza purveyors) versus those that don’t (like art galleries and $50-plate restaurants) to name a few.
Measures taken since March, however, are moving the membership toward being able to stand united on key issues to benefit the district, says HMBA president Mary Black.
For starters, the alliance would like to change how the area is referenced. Some members are on Swede Alley or Park Avenue so they’d like people to call it "Historic Park City."
Black said it wouldn’t be appropriate as a representative of the alliance to comment on the rivalry developing between Main Street and Kimball Junction districts. But Riverhorse restaurateur Jerry Gilomen didn’t have a problem putting the issue into words.
"The season before last shows we need to band together and be stronger. That’s definitely what Redstone is doing. It’s a very cohesive group out there. They’re working to build an identity for themselves and as a destination location. Seeing what they’ve accomplished, merchants on Main are saying the same thing," he explained.
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The alliance has worked for years to come together on more issues, but there hasn’t always been good participation from a critical mass of members. That’s because during the peak years it was possible to succeed on one’s own, Gilomen said. Now people are willing to make sacrifices and band together because they realize they need that to bring more people to the street.
With all the differences between the membership, that’s one thing they all have in common, Black said: the need for foot traffic.
Different kinds of events may bring different kinds of customers to the street, but as long as people are coming it’s a good thing, she added. That has helped unite the membership behind hosting festivals like the Park Silly Sunday Market and special events like Savor The Summit, she said.
What has helped most of all is bringing Allison Butz on staff, Black added.
Owner of Hilda boutique for 22 years, Black said she’s seen many efforts at unification, but the former City Hall staffer is making strides.
"She’s an unbelievable asset to our organization and it’s hard for me to describe how excited we are to have her," she said.
Butz is skilled at generating the kind of communication among members necessary to get together on key issues, Black said.
Once people are sold on the importance of it, the next step has been getting members to stand behind decisions made by the majority. That’s going to make it possible for the alliance to lobby politically for things they need.
A "vision committee" headed by Andy Beerman from the Treasure Mountain Inn was established to define what those are.
Kevin Valaika, owner of Shabu, serves on that committee and he said one major issue is parking.
The purpose of paid parking on Main Street is to prevent employees and tenants from squeezing out visitors. It is not to punish tourists for staying too long, he argued.
"No one wants to get a parking ticket on vacation," he said.
The city has used the meters to generate revenue. That’s not their purpose; they are there to move cars and make it easier to find a stall, he said.
The city should give visitors a 15-minute grace period. If enforcement sees the owner coming while writing the ticket, they should tear up the ticket, Valaika said.
O’Shucks and Ahh Sushi owner Bruce Corrigan said he hasn’t been active in the alliance, but fully endorses that point.
"The parking issue infuriates me," he said. "In my opinion they’ve been pit bulls. If you want people on Main Street, make it possible to park here."
After 16 years on Main Street, Corrigan said he’d appreciate the merchants having more of a voice.
The alliance may have developed a reputation in the past of being good at complaining (as with the parking policy), but it’s also getting better at taking action, Black said.
"It’s a process," she explained. "Merchants want to be involved, but communication in the past was lacking When people are more informed, they’re more apt to get involved."
Gilomen said nothing has yet come to fruition, but he agreed things are heading in the right direction.
Every spring the merchants assess how things are going and what they’d like to see happen in summer and then the following winter season. What happens this summer will reveal whether progress is truly being made, he said.
The services of public relations expert Christa Graff were contracted earlier this month to help promote the Fourth of July parade, Savor The Summit and other key events, Black said.
"We now have a coordinated effort to get the message across that we’re an unbelievable asset to the community, state and region. Not a lot of places that exist in this country that are like Park City’s Main Street," she said.
View HMBA is now "Historic Park City" in a larger map