Ribbons mean Woodstock a real winner
by Juanita Hughes
columnist
October 03, 2012 12:48 AM | 858 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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On a trip to Colorado last fall, we happened into a welcome center in a small town. On the wall was a shadow-box type display of items related to the opening of a business in the town decades ago.

The giant, fake pair of scissors that cut the ribbon at the grand opening was a prominent part of the display, along with the “cut” ribbon itself, some photographs, and a newspaper clipping or two.

I felt a kind of kinship with those entrepreneurs of a bygone era. Although I’ve never started or owned a business, I have watched in Woodstock as merchants have come and gone.

Most won’t have a memento like a ribbon with scissors, but some may have an old business license and perhaps a one-liner from an old Woodstock Star from the 1960s.

Some have weathered the storms and have upheld the commitment to their customer base, much like the persistent tortoise whose perseverance paid off.

Those merchants set examples for newcomers. As far as can be determined, there are only two old businesses that are still owned by the families of the founders … Morgan Hardware and Edwards Tire Sales.

One business, Woodstock Funeral Home, is older, but has had different owners.

Not too many years ago, businesses like Woodstock Gas, Woodstock Jewelry and Keenum’s Pharmacy were thriving landmarks in the town’s business district.

These were hometown, home-grown establishments, often family businesses that continued through second and third generations.

Pre-dating all of these, the JH Johnston Company, established in 1888, was the forerunner of other businesses spawned by the original company including the Bank of Woodstock.

The winds of change have brought new hope, new ideas, and a different kind of merchandise for a new kind of customer.

These changes called for a new kind of promotion as well. Since the creation of the Main Street program in 2010, there has been a marked increase in ribbon cuttings, ceremonies that signify a new business or a refreshing approach to an old business, or an anniversary of a store opening, or, more often than not, the business’s membership in the Main Street Woodstock program.

This program was the answer to the Downtown Development Authority’s dream of a way to combat the recession. With a plethora of diverse committees, all aspects of a thriving, attractive, busy downtown are addressed, including the preservation of the city’s history and culture.

You can see the results all around town. There is a design committee whose members work to beautify downtown through seasonal planting projects.

The merchants work with Main Street to stage the Friday Night Live series, a monthly themed promotion. Main Street Morning Buzz, a monthly assembly of Main Street members, keeps everybody informed about what’s happening.

The Main Street website and daily messages from the offices of the DDA assure high attendance at any and every event connected with downtown.

With the influx of new businesses, there is always a ribbon cutting in the offing. And with the diversity of the businesses, each event is different.

Consider some of these: a dance studio, beauty salon, jeweler, dress shop, cigar shop, sewing notions, yarn shop, (and that is not Dean’s Store, where yarns are told, not sold), shoe store, restaurants, consignment shops … everything from hot yoga to frozen yogurt.

Main Street also cuts ribbons to open such venues as art exhibits, the pedestrian bridge at the Rope Mill, signage at the Rope Mill, historic anniversary events, a local author’s first book presentation, and the opening of a developer’s sales office.

Main Street’s presence is also in evidence at check presentations for merchants who have received façade grants through the DDA.

These gatherings usually receive media coverage, as do the ribbon cuttings, and with speeches and refreshments, afford a great marketing opportunity.

The symbolism of slicing the ribbon to grant entrance to a new business or to introduce a new book or work of art or historic artifact, or to commemorate anniversaries of the founding or opening of a shop, is not lost on Woodstock’s citizens.

Apparently, “We’ve got no trouble, right here in Ribbon City!”

The outlook is great. The storefronts are full. The arts are alive and well. The wheels of progress are turning, including traffic changes for the better.

Like that other city, we probably don’t need a pool hall. That’s Trouble, with a capitol T. But I’ll be glad to hold the scissors whenever we open a toy store or a stationery shop.

It’s about time to order more ribbon!

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.

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