Speed Dating for Store Owners

10 Jul

July 8, 2010 @ 406 Pelisser, 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Organizations in Attendance:

Spotvin, Milk Coffee Bar, Pizza Pizza, RBC, DWBIA, Windsoreats.com, Govital Internet, Board Walk Bikes & Ice Cream, Ra Design, Phog Lounge, The House, Visions of Canada, Bloom, Slice of Style, Capish? Bling Bling, Christian Science Reading Room, Downtown Cigar Shop, Durnkin’ Burrito, Windsor Pride, and Broken City Lab.

Event Description:

Speed Dating for Store Owners was developed as part of the Storefront Residency for Social Innovation. Department of Unusual Certainties has been working out 410 Pelissier for the last month on a project called Storefront Success Stories where they have been working with downtown business owners to create new connections, knowledge, and practices.

While the night was a networking opportunity for the organization representatives present with a focus on sharing successes and frustrations from operating in downtown Windsor. The evening was imagined as the start of a conversation rather than a final solution.

After 20 3-minute one-on-one meetings between each of the organization representatives, the event shifted towards a group discussion identifying common themes from the speed dating.

Identified themes included:

  1. Communication
  2. Tax relief to landlords with vacant storefronts
  3. Parking
  4. Perception of Safety Downtown
  5. Diversity in mix of businesses
  6. Absence of basic public facilities (i.e. washrooms and bike parking)

After identifying common issues raised during speed dating the discussion moved towards solutions. Time was spent identifying solutions that already exist that people were not aware of, as well as imagining new responses. An overarching theme was that downtown has an image problem. It was suggested that there are perceptions about downtown that conflict with the lifestyle choices of the average Windsorite, keeping people from coming downtown. This came up during the discussions around both parking and safety. Specifically for parking the fallacy in the common perception around lack of parking was shown.

There were both short and long term responses suggested. There seemed to be agreement that addressing larger ingrained perceptions about downtown will take longer term responses. The group did not address all of the concerns expressed. The night closed with asking if there was interest in this type of activity happening again. There was agreement that yes that would be useful. The meeting adjourned to allow for further networking/socializing around the refreshments provided by Emily Colombo (also in residency as part of the SRSI), and Drunkin’ Burrito.

The absence of tourists from Michigan was never mentioned; although, there was not a representative number of club, bar, or lounge owners present.

1. Communication

A general issue of awareness and connection within the larger downtown community was identified. What are the existing avenues for promotion of events and new businesses openings?

  • Welcome Package or Tool Kit for new businesses, or people thinking about opening a businesses downtown. A tool kit does exist but a DWBIA representative identified it needs to be updated. A question was posed whether it could be distributed to new business owners through the city licensing department.
  • DWBIA does not have current information for all existing businesses in its boundaries. A closer working relationship with the city licensing department was suggested. (i.e. The licensing department send a list of new businesses opening in the DWBIA boundaries to the DWBIA at regular intervals)
  • Install community posting polls in front of largest apartment buildings downtown. Pay for them through a sponsorship (i.e. Kijiji)
  • Reach out through traditional media with stories communicating a local focus sharing downtown people’s stories & passions

Tax relief to landlords with vacant properties

Landlords of vacant spaces receive a 65% reduction to their property taxes. It was felt that this is an incentive to landlords to leave their properties vacant rather than finding new tenants. It was observed that there are precedents of cities doing the opposite, where they offer landlords a percentage of relief to their property tax when they fill vacant spaces with businesses that create a certain number of jobs.

Municipal elections in Windsor are approaching on Oct. 25, 2010. Interest was expressed in making vacancies an election issue. It was observed that consistent decisions from city hall have had negative implications for the downtown (development choices that draw people away i.e. building the arena in the East end, as well as moving significant civic parades out of downtown, etc.).

  • Develop a questionnaire to be sent to each candidate running for city councillor in the downtown riding with the results published in a public forum (i.e. downtown blog)

Parking

A contentious issue that reaches to the core habits of Windsorites. Both an actual issue and one of perception. There is a plenitude of parking with more than two parking garages making most places in the city centre no more than a 5 minute walk. Although some individuals did share anecdotes about over zealous metre maids.

  • Change the story on parking, market the plenitude of parking available
  • Address larger attitudes around walking
    • Develop a walking tour that showcases downtown’s beauty and history
  • Downtown Parking Token Program – This program is popular with downtown businesses wishing to give their patrons a 50% saving on curbside parking.  Businesses can purchase up to four rolls of parking tokens each month, at a cost of $5.00 per roll (a $10 value)
  • Overlay a scale map of Devonshire mall and its parking lots onto the Downtown comparing walking distances

Thank you to: Broken City Lab, Tom Lucier, Emily Colombo, Drunkin’ Burrito, and Windsor Pride, and Laura Paolini.

Peter, an out-of-towner, who is interested in moving himself and his business to Windsor, got a parking ticket during the event...




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4 Responses to “Speed Dating for Store Owners”

  1. danger tea July 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    This is amazing. You guys have done alot of work….and no tables I see. Did the tape ball solve the table issue?

    • storefrontsuccess July 14, 2010 at 2:04 am #

      Thanks Danger!

      Yes, in the end, our tape ball did resolve the conflict around including tables or not.

  2. joeduffer July 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    It looks like this event was very successful with active participation and several useful recommendations coming from it. Were the recommendations summarized and handed over for follow-up? It would be a shame if not. Perhaps a follow on to the Tip Sheet…?

    • christopherpandolfi July 16, 2010 at 1:36 am #

      The information or recommendations are found within the Speed Dating Notes. They belong to the downtown!

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