On some of the local blogs, there has been much discussion lately about getting more business to the downtown area. I think that’s probably a common issue that many small towns are facing. In our situation, Evansville is 17 miles from Janesville and 20 miles from Madison. That makes it very easy to make a quick trip to “the city” to do shopping. Add on top of that, the fact that for the three years that I’ve lived here, there have been major construction projects downtown, and you have the recipe for a “dying downtown”.
I’m not going to get into the political debate on whether TIF money should be spent on renovating the buildings. That is a touchy subject and it has a tendency to get out of hand. I will say that I think part of the reason new businesses are being built on the east side of town has something to do with the fact that they are new buildings. No one wants to attempt to live out their dream of owning a business while dealing with someone else’s problems. Downtown is filled with some very old buildings. With old buildings comes problems that need to be dealt with.
One thing that struck me as odd was how few businesses were online. In this day and age, anyone can get a webstie. I’m not saying that the yarn shop should have a content rich website with an online shopping system, just the basics. We have a Chamber of Commerce has a website and some of the businesses have links to their company sites. To be honest, very few have links to LOCAL sites. Sure, the clinics have links to the main medical system websites, the insurance companies to their parent company.
Only one restaurant is linked to, although I know one of the others has a website. Rock’N Rollz is a great sub shop, I’m glad to see they have a web presence. At the same time, the designer in me wants to slap whoever thought it was a good idea to have a flashy site and then put black text on a dark maroon background. The point is, they HAVE a website, and if I’m in the mood for a sub, I can see what their hours are and what they have to offer before walking up there and without a toddler trying to get me off the phone. The Night Owl also has a website, including hours and a menu. It’s nothing elaborate, but it gives me the information I need to know.
Now, if I want to order pizza, I have to hope and pray I can find the menu or I will turn into my least favorite type of customer. I hate the customer who calls, asks what the special is, and then sits on the phone while everyone else tries to come to an agreement on what to order. Having a simple site with hours, specials, and a menu would help.
I know it wouldn’t solve all of the problems, but I have to think that it would alleviate some of them. In a small town, you have to make it convenient for potential customers to shop at your business. If you don’t, they’ll hop on Highway 14 and head south to Janesville or north to Madison.