Georgetown Main Street Is Helping the Wisconsin Ave. Corridor Thrive
By November 11, 2020 0 522•
In this season of caring for others, a three-year-old Georgetown nonprofit, Georgetown Main Street, is revitalizing the local business environment. Founded in 2017 with the mission of assisting small enterprises along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, Georgetown Main Street has played an increasingly vital role in the community during the pandemic.
With newly elected leadership, the group is seeking not only to expand direct grants and services to businesses but to rejuvenate adjoining neighborhoods by “connecting communities” in the marketplace. Funded by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development, Georgetown Main Street focuses its activity on Wisconsin Avenue from Whitehaven Parkway to K Street and the adjacent area.
“I’ve always been a huge supporter of Georgetown and the local business community,” said new board chair Daphna Peled, owner of Pillar & Post at 1647 Wisconsin Ave. NW. “Being on the other side of it as a business owner really led me to want to become more involved.”
Georgetown Main Street has provided over $112,000 in grants to small businesses over the past three years. According to a testimonial from Dent Place Market, one such grant allowed the market to “cover some of the expenses, like repainting the interior and exterior. Our goal was to turn a rundown place into an inviting space for our neighbors to shop, and the grant was essential in helping us complete the project.”
Businesses are also assisted by “providing them resources on how to market, how to change their façade, whatever they might be interested in,” said Beth Cooper, newly elected vice chair. “We have a lot of different resource events we put on for them … to sustain in this economic climate, but also to beautify our Main Street.”
Public art installations are the group’s primary method of beautifying the corridor. After the Black Lives Matter protests, Georgetown Main Street sponsored the “Paint the Plywood” installations. “When there were a lot of boards on our businesses, we implemented a public art program and contracted with local artists to paint those boards to make them look more presentable and interesting,” Cooper said. The group is currently sponsoring the autumnal “Tree and Twig” installations along Wisconsin Avenue.
Brooke Pinto, Ward 2 representative on the District Council, has lauded the group’s efforts, saying: “The Georgetown Main Street has been instrumental in supporting businesses during this challenging time, whether it’s through grant funds, public art projects or other initiatives, and I look forward to continuing to partner on the District of Columbia’s efforts to revitalize our local economy and drive a strong post-pandemic recovery.”
Since the pandemic began, Georgetown Main Street has had a table at the Rose Park Farmers Market to promote local startups and businesses, but the group has moved away from organizing larger events, concentrating on supporting businesses via social media. “We’re just trying to be responsive and nimble … and to think outside the box,” said Peled.
In March, as the pandemic began, a newsletter was launched to spotlight a different small business or community organization in each issue, sharing both its challenges and creative responses. Peled credits Executive Director Rachel Shank with the success of this initiative and others. Calling Shank “fantastic,” Peled said, “She tries to get to reach out to every business. She’s grown our social media so much and is constantly coming up with new ideas.”
At the most recent ANC 2E meeting, Shank announced Georgetown Main Street’s “first official large-scale fundraiser.” In partnership with chef Jenn Crovato of 1310 Kitchen & Bar, the group will kick off a “Chicken Pot Pie-athon” in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Half the proceeds will go to Georgetown Main Street, with the event also helping to support Crovato’s restaurant, still closed due to the pandemic.
On Nov. 28 — the day after Black Friday — Georgetown Main Street will be working with Rose Park Farmers Market to do a “Take-Over for Small Business Saturday,” encouraging residents and visitors to shop small in Georgetown in support of local brick-and-mortar businesses.
An ambitious set of priorities resulted from the group’s 2021 strategic planning meeting, held shortly after Peled and Cooper took over the leadership. These include seeking to drive commerce farther up Wisconsin Avenue toward Book Hill, working more closely with Glover Park Main Street, helping to counteract crime and assisting with problems stemming from homelessness.
Believing the diversity of its board is also vital to connecting, the group recently put out a call to the community, inviting anyone — not just business people — to join the board, which will grow from 10 to 15 members. The board already includes representatives from Georgetown University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. A new “Community-Connects” campaign aims to foster dialogue among residents, neighborhood associations, community groups, schools and businesses.
“We all share the desire to have Georgetown be a thriving, wonderful place to live, to work, to shop and to eat,” said Peled, “so how can we best work to engage with the residents?” She emphasized that residents are encouraged to volunteer to serve on committees, to participate in “Shop Georgetown” days and to patronize spotlighted enterprises. “We’d love to really have residents remember what they love about Georgetown. And it’s important for us all to invest in the community and to work together to have it be a success.”