Now that 2020 is coming to an end, we wanted to share some of the projects and accomplishments we’re most proud of from the past year. This was all made possible through the generous support of our donors and sponsors — if you’re a fan of what we’ve done this year and want to see more in 2021, consider becoming a Friend of Downtown!
National Accreditation Achieved! We achieved meeting the high standards set forth by the National Main Street Center and will continue to enjoy our designated Main Street America status. This is based on 2019 performance.
1. We’re funneling resources into downtown
- Bricks & Clicks – Our $45,000 business assistance program provided grants & one-on-one expert guidance so businesses could modify their spaces (“bricks”) for public health & open or improve online stores (“clicks”) in order to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. BONUS – This summer, the Virginia Economic Developers recognized this program with a statewide award! We are grateful for support from the Truist Foundation and Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization.
- We helped raise and distribute over $106,000 in grants to area businesses through Harrisonburg Rockingham Small Business Taskforce. We are thrilled that about half of the grant winners were located downtown. A huge thank you to F&M Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Atlantic Union Bank, and individual donors who helped fund the grant program. Also, HDR was selected for a highly competitive Small Business Relief Grant from the Virginia Main Street program, which helped us earmark $15,000 for downtown businesses.
- We conducted two customer surveys to inform businesses of consumer patterns to help them pivot operations and respond to evolving preferences.
- We emailed businesses sometimes multiple times a week since March notifying them of grant opportunities, federal assistance programs & resources, which they say has been invaluable in keeping them informed, connected, and able to find help they didn’t know was out there. They know we have their back & are here to help.
2. We’re sharing businesses’ stories and amplifying their voices
- When a competitive national grant opportunity opened up to Main Street communities, we spent hours writing over a dozen heartfelt letters of support. Only 67 HartBeat of Main Street grants were awarded throughout the U.S. — AND THREE DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES WERE SELECTED!
- We’ve highlighted the personal stories of our creative and warm community of business owners through our Friendly Faces of the Friendly City blog series by i love my burg author Katie Mitchell. These heartfelt stories of the humans behind our favorite downtown businesses drew us closer as a community even with COVID-19 keeping us apart. And, we also have been running a social media spotlight series to showcase businesses and owner stories to reintroduce them to the community and highlight what they offer to promote supporting local.
- During our #EverydayHVA shop local safely campaign, we encouraged fans of downtown to continue supporting their favorite businesses by submitting receipts and writing positive online reviews for a chance to win $25 gift cards to downtown businesses. Special thanks to Larson Wealth Management and Generate Impact for sponsoring $1000 in gift cards from downtown businesses.
- We developed & promoted a webpage that highlights downtown’s black- and brown-owned businesses and developed the framework for a new program designed to channel more resources to the area’s diverse entrepreneurs with the hopes that this list grows longer each year.
- We’re planning a holiday campaign featuring a shop local postcard mailing, social media campaign, our annual holiday shopping guide insert in the DNR, the annual Cookie Tour, gift card giveaways, and so much more.
3. We’re creating community in new ways
- When the pandemic hit, we quickly curated information online so you could track which businesses are open, closed, operating with modifications & updated it everyday.
- We hosted Bingo is Life GOES BIG, a free community event with Harrisonburg’s beloved Chris and Mike Howdyshell. The brothers entertained a packed Court Square Theater and gave away over 1,000 in prizes at this one-of-a-kind celebration of the creativity of the Friendly City. Bingo is Life GOES BIG was made possible by Ruby’s Arcade, Pale Fire Brewing, Massanutten WaterPark, Brothers Craft Brewing and iHeart Radio.
- Sofapalooza was a nine-part online concert series that brought you local music while raising money for musicians and business grants. Special thanks to individual donors, those who tipped the artists, and sponsors – Excel Heating & Cooling, Riner Rentals, Friendly City Food Co-op, Brad Cohen Homes, Digital Minerva, Nest Realty, Spotless Cleaning.
4. Veterans Day this year will be celebrated by coordinating the ringing of church bells throughout the city, placing flags downtown, and sharing stories of Veterans on social media on Nov. 11. We hope we can bring the parade back next year!
5. HDR & the Arts Council of the Valley are commissioning a new art installation by local artist Jeff Guinn. His sculpture represents the rolling mountains that surround us and how language flows between people and creates new understanding. Harrisonburg High School students are assisting him with imagery for stencils that will be used to paint the sculpture to represent the diverse and multicultural makeup of Harrisonburg residents. Special thanks to sponsors Excel Steel Works, Riner Rentals, and F&M Bank. Follow along on the sculpture’s Facebook page.
5. Seeing the immediate need for out-of-work food industry workers, we supported Pale Fire Brewing and Digital Minerva to launch Pale Fire Helps – a pop-up food pantry stocked with donations from Sysco Virginia.
6. In our on-going advocacy for the preservation of the Denton Building, we hosted a community presentation with Dr. Carole Nash to share lessons learned about impacts on downtown from past demolitions and update the community on what has transpired. Although Larkin Arts didn’t renew their lease, we are committed to helping them reopen downtown as well as to fight for this historic building and the housing and commercial space it provides.