Georgetown Main Street Stepping Up Spring Revitalization Efforts

With spring setting in — and signs that the pandemic is easing — Georgetown Main Street is stepping up its local business recovery and revitalization efforts.

Founded as a nonprofit in 2017 and funded by the District Department of Small and Local Business Development, Georgetown Main Street’s mission is to boost commercial vibrancy and assist local enterprises along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, from Whitehaven Parkway to K Street, and the adjacent area.

Affiliated with the national Main Street America program, Georgetown Main Street’s activities include public space improvements, small business retention and recruitment, neighborhood investment, marketing and promotion, community engagement, historic preservation and advocacy. In addition, the organization sponsors events in the corridor.

According to Executive Director Rachel Shank, Georgetown Main Street also provides “one-on-one support for all business needs, including permitting, funding application assistance, marketing and promotion.”

Having recently moved its headquarters to 1000 Potomac St. NW, along the C&O Canal, the organization now shares work spaces with the Georgetown Business Improvement District.

“GMS is grateful to share office space with the BID,” Shank said. “We work collaboratively on all projects that positively affect Georgetown small businesses. In the future, we look forward to further clarifying how we can best work together to serve the community. I am particularly grateful to be able to walk down the hall and speak with my BID colleagues about any number of issues or opportunities facing businesses.”

At its recent annual meeting, Georgetown Main Street welcomed seven new board members and celebrated a year of expanding programs. In fiscal year 2020, the organization helped businesses acquire over $150,000 in grants, spotlighted 53 small businesses online and provided 77 small businesses with emergency grants. Nearly 70 Small Biz Updates were posted. Other accomplishments: helping to gain permitting for two parklets north of R Street, hosting several webinars to assist businesses during the pandemic and providing 475 hours of technical assistance — including grant writing support, technical support and business planning.

This year, Georgetown Main Street will be enlarging its grants program, funded by the Department of Small and Local Business Development, awarding 20 business grants of $3,000 for a total of $60,000. Local businesses can apply for necessary interior and exterior improvement projects, business development, technical assistance and equipment purchases.

The purpose of the program, said Shank, “is to help businesses respond to the pandemic and transition into recovery.” As an example, she cited a grant last year that facilitated the purchase and installation of a trash compactor at Martin’s Tavern.

With the goal of driving traffic to Georgetown restaurants impacted by the pandemic, Georgetown Main Street plans to continue to collaborate with the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the BID to promote Takeout Tuesdays. “As one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, our local restaurants need the support of the local community,” Shank said.

After a winter hiatus, the organization will relaunch Georgetown Second Saturdays, during which local businesses offer online, in-store and outdoor promotions. More public art installations will be initiated to attract pedestrians to shop along Wisconsin Avenue. And Georgetown Main Street’s partnership with the Rose Park Market, where, last year, a pop-up featuring local brick-and-mortar businesses was piloted, will resume. “It was a great success in that it introduced the community to small businesses, provided a safe and comfortable space for shoppers and was completely free for small businesses,” Shank said.

Shank is pleased to see signs of economic renewal in Georgetown. While the pandemic recession shuttered 11 small business storefronts last year, eight new enterprises opened or will open along the corridor between October of 2020 and this September.

Optimistic about Georgetown’s future as it emerges from the pandemic, Shank hopes more volunteers join to help the Wisconsin Avenue corridor thrive. Since Georgetown Main Street is largely a volunteer-driven organization, “we are looking for community members who have time and special skills,” she said. “We are also preparing for brighter days ahead when we can host more community events. I believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

“I am incredibly hopeful that, in the next six months, we’ll see a renaissance of Georgetown,” Shank added. “With the Georgetown BID’s sidewalk widening, the introduction of the canal boat on the C&O Canal, and — fingers crossed — herd immunity, Georgetown will emerge as the regional travel destination once again.”

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