B y Jamie Norton

Main Street in Granville isn’t the bustling business hub it was 20 or 30 – or even 10 – years ago. There are more buildings with locked doors and realtor signs than “Open” flags and welcome signs.

As businesses over the past several years have closed up shop without replacements, the once-vibrant staple of the Granville community has sunk further into the depths of sadness, and it really hit home when Scottie’s shut down in October after more than 80 years in business.

But now, instead of looking into the past and reflecting on what Main Street used to be, it’s time to put your thinking caps on with eyes on the future and consider what it could be.

That’s what the Granville Chamber of Commerce and the Pember Library would like everyone to do. They’re asking everyone in the community – and those from outside the community with an outsider’s perspective – to try to come up with ideas to bring to an open discussion at the Pember on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m.

“As a person who grew up here, I can remember back in the 60s how vibrant it was,” said town supervisor Matt Hicks. “Nobody likes to see it the way it is now. There’s been brainstorming and stuff over the years but it’s a real difficult, intricate problem.”

And it’s one that doesn’t affect just Granville.

It’s evident throughout the country that the presence of larger corporations can have a negative impact on independently owned, local businesses.

“I don’t think Granville’s immune to the situation,” Hicks said. “If you look at other Main Streets in other villages and towns, the commercial business has gravitated away from Main Street to more of a commercial district.”

“It is a result of a challenging economic climate,” said Pember board president Mary King, who will host the discussion on Monday, the first in a series of talks about the fate of Main Street. King stressed this is a brainstorming session, so all suggestions and ideas are welcome.

“We are going into this with a completely open mind,” King said. “What are people’s vision of what will make all those empty buildings more feasible? There are people who live in Granville who have lived in other places; what have they seen? What ideas do they have?”

King said it’s important to get a broad range of perspectives.

“Whether local or transient, young or old, it is a topic for everyone’s concern,” she said. “We’ve even reached out to the school; what is their vision? What would make that a place people would want to grow up and live in? It’s just a wide-open slate at this point – everybody just come and bring your ideas to the table, no matter how out there or how wild it may be financially.”

The purpose of this session is to generate ideas; the feasibility of making those ideas a reality will be discussed at future sessions.

Rebecca Dittmeier of Country Horizon Realty, the company tasked with finding suitors for many of the empty spots on Main Street, agrees that more needs to be done to rejuvenate downtown Granville.

“I think there’s things in the works that can be improved and are improving,” she said. “(We’re) trying to find some things that’ll be beneficial to people in Granville, maybe some things that haven’t been available before.”

Dittmeier is already part of a group that is working behind the scenes on ideas, so she can see where King and the Pember are coming from.

“There are people that are looking at things and coming up with some new, fresh ideas about what people in Granville will support,” she said.

But, Dittmeier added, people need to be open to change.

“Sometimes when new ideas come up, they don’t necessarily support them, and that doesn’t help anyone,” she said.

Both feel that going the small-business route, rather than flooding the neighborhood with national chains, is the way to go.

“They bring something different to our town,” King said of the big box retailers like Big Lots, Price Chopper, McDonald’s and other businesses on the other side of town. “Those store owners don’t care individually about Granville. Look at Poultney (Vt.) versus Granville – they don’t have chains. They come together as a business community. We don’t have that, and right now our Chamber struggles with that because the box stores don’t want to belong to a chamber – they don’t care. In Poultney, all their (local) businesses are strong.”

Dittmeier knows it can be difficult for a ‘ma and pa’ store to compete with retailers like that, which is why she feels the chamber needs to work to promote the small business owner, not scare it away.

“Some of the buildings need work, and the tax burden becomes an issue for small business,” she said. “I think they could make an incentive to kind of recreate Main Street.”
Then, she said, people would need to go out and patronize these local businesses.

“Not everyone can open a store, but people can go out and support those stores,” she said.

So bring your ideas to one of those local businesses – the Pember – on Monday at 7 p.m., and enjoy a free refreshment.

“Come and if you don’t think you want to be a participant in the conversation, at least listen to what those ideas are and think about them,” King said. “You just never know who that person is who’s going to have a great idea. There’s no idea too great or too small.”

The Pember Library is located at 33 W. Main St.

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