Madison Main Street Program
is on solid footing
Board, volunteers work hard to
keep the downtown strong
(June 2015) – For 38 years, the Madison Main Street Program has existed to help support, strengthen and grow the downtown business community. Its success can be measured not only in its number of volunteers, donors and business sponsors, but in the number of programs, workshops and community events that help to attract people to come shop and eat downtown. These events include monthly summer free concerts at the Broadway Fountain, the monthly Fourth Friday evening events throughout the year, and many more.
Music in the Park
• June 12: The Rumors
• July 10: The Doctors Band
• Aug. 14: Slick River Rockets
• Sept. 11: The Louisville Crashers
All concerts are free and held from 7-9 p.m. at the Broadway Fountain in downtown Madison, Ind. Opening acts begin at 6 p.m. Food vendors open at 5 p.m. Bring lawn chairs.
Other annual Main Street
• Fourth Fridays held monthly with live music, artists, tastings, free trolley rides, extended store hours
• July 23-25: “Slice of Summer” Sidewalk Sale, free trolley rides, refreshments, extended store hours
• Nov. 13: Christmas Open House, 5-8 p.m., live music, refreshments, extended store hours
• Nov. 28: Small Business Saturday
8 December: Men’s Night Out, 5-8 p.m. (Date TBA)
• Information: Visit www.MadisonMainStreet.com
2015 Board Members
Sandy Palmer (president), Valecia Crisafulli (vice president), Julie Truax (secretary), Rhonda Sauley (treasurer), Larry Newhouse, Terri Waller, Allyson Sullivan, Deb Fine, Nathan Montoya, Wanda Gross
What started as one of three pilot programs nationally has since found its way into the fabric of Madison’s business community, nurturing and promoting the local economy while focusing attention on preserving the historic architecture of Madison’s downtown buildings and facades.
“The Main Street Program is a volunteer-driven organization, which can be a challenge. But with our fundraising and sponsorships, we are striving to become self-sustaining,” said Whitney Wyatt, 28, a Louisville native who has served as the director of Madison Main Street Program since May 2012.
“I’ve seen increased attendance downtown in terms of how many residents visit during our Fourth Friday events. It kind of depends on the weather. I’ve also seen an increase in the number of businesses getting involved with Main Street. Several business owners have become active again with our organization.”
Wyatt and her husband, Brian, moved to Madison in 2012 when he took a new job there. The couple also wanted to live in a small town. They have since bought a house, and Whitney has become increasingly involved at many levels representing and serving Madison.
Upon taking the job, Wyatt was immediately thrust into the business and political fray of organizing local business leaders into an effective and viable force to support the downtown merchant community. But she had help from several experienced board members and Madison newcomer Valecia Crisafulli, 66, a Small Business Specialist with the National Main Street Center for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washing-ton, D.C. The Trust created the National Main Street Program in the late seventies to address the concerns of what then was considered threats to commercial architecture and economic viability in downtowns across America.
Crisafulli proved to be a valuable addition to Madison’s effort on these fronts, considering her vast knowledge and experience with the National Main Street Program. She has garnered more than 25 years experience with the Main Street Program. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., to take the national position that she held for 11 years, Crisafulli served as the statewide Main Street coordinator in her native Illinois. In fact, she founded the state’s Main Street program after having operated a retail business for many years in Lincoln, Ill. Illinois now boasts 50 Main Street Programs statewide.
Crisafulli and her husband, Larry, a retired dentist, two years ago moved to Madison, where they bought a home on Main Street and now also own a commercial building that they are restoring at 108 W. Main St., next to the Madison Coffee & Tea. They chose Madison after having visiting the area many times and becoming familiar with it while their youngest son attended nearby Hanover College in the late 1990s.
They had debated between a number of towns that had a strong focus on historic preservation and Main Street before finally choosing Madison.
Soon after relocating to Madison two years ago, Crisafulli joined the Main Street Program and now heads its Business Recruitment subcommittee, organized under the Economic Restructuring Committee. It is one of four primary committees created by the original structure of the National Main Street Program for its member groups. The other three committees are Design, Organization and Promotion. These four missions lie at the heart of the Main Street Program philosophy.
Photo by Emily Ward
Shoppers descend on Madison’s Main Street during the May 29 Fourth Friday event, which offers late stores hours, live music and refreshments each month.
“I think the Madison Main Street Program is doing very well, but there is always more work to do, “Crisafulli said. “We have lots of dedicated volunteers who are enthusiastic and there is a lot of excitement. We also have a strong board with good leadership. “There is a core of strong businesses and restaurants here that is rare to find in a town this size.”
Despite those accolades, Crisafulli says, “The downtown is a fragile eco system that needs constant nurturing. Your work is never done.”
She said it is the allure of unique and independently owned businesses that bring people to towns like Madison. “That’s what people come to see. Not just tourists but locals also support it.”
To help in that effort, her subcommittee has initiated an Ambassador Program that enlists certain residents to carrying promotional materials about Madison during their travels in hopes that future newcomers will choose Madison to live and open a business. “Everybody who lives here has a stake in the downtown. Even though you may not live downtown or have a business there, everybody’s a stakeholder,” she says.
Her subcommittee also has spent the past two years focusing on food and restaurants in hopes the downtown’s restaurant offerings can be expanded. “It’s a top priority,” she said. For instance, the lack of a full-service grocery store or brew pub has been identified, she said.
She says the live music events have been a big draw for people of all ages.
Photo by Emily Ward
The Slick River Rockets band perform during Madison Main Street Program’s Fourth Friday event May 29 at Gallery 115.
Crisafulli’s experience, together with Wyatt’s youthful enthusiasm, along with the dedication and work by other board members and volunteers, have helped bring new people and businesses into the organization.
“Whitney is doing an outstanding job. Her work ethic and dedication to this town is great, considering she is a newcomer from a large city like Louisville, and for her to come in and adopt Madison as her home has been great,” said long-time board member Larry Newhouse, 71.
Wyatt is the third director since Newhouse became involved. He also called Crisafulli’s addition “a blessing. She’s a wonderful person to work with. She’s a take charge person who can rally the troops. All of us share a common goal to keep the downtown strong.”
Newhouse and his wife, Pam, first visited Madison in 2001 when Pam attended a Civil War history conference at Clifty Falls State Park. The Ann Arbor, Mich., couple “immediately fell in love with the town and decided it had everything they wanted to retire in,” he said.
That same year, the couple bought a house in Madison and used it as a summer vacation home for several years until finally moving there full-time in 2009. A retired fine arts professor, Newhouse soon joined the Main Street Program board, on which he has served now since 2010.
“When I join an organization, I want it to be active and have people who actually go out and do the work and not just go to meetings, and this one does that,” Newhouse said. “I’ve seen the organization’s growth and lots of volunteers join the board. They make things happen, not only among the merchants in the downtown but throughout the whole community.”
For instance, Newhouse said the 2011 merging of the Madison Business and Professional Association Main Street into the Main Street Program helped strengthen the organization by consolidating efforts by both groups. “It obviously brought more people in the organization, although many merchants had previously been active in both,” Newhouse said. “I think their main goal had been to conduct sidewalk sales, but the Main Street Program reaches out to do more than that. We had many similar goals, so it made sense to come together.”
Julie Truax, who operates The Attic & Coffee Mill Café with her mother, Judy George, had been an active member of the MBPA for years but last year served as president of the Main Street Program. Fellow MBPA president Rhonda Sauley of Fine Threads and Little People Boutique now serves as the Main Street Program treasurer, while longtime MPBA member Wanda Gross of Wanda’s Gifts serves on the Main Street board. These examples illustrate the cohesion that has occurred since the two groups merged.
Deb Fine and her husband, Michael, have owned and operated Coca Safari Chocolates on Main Street in Madison for nearly 10 years. The Indianapolis couple also bought Hertz Shoes in February 2014 and now employ 10 people to operate both businesses. Fine said she had always been a contributing member of the Main Street Program and began volunteering two years ago. But she only became really involved this year when she joined the board in January. She also sits on Crisafulli’s Business Recruitment subcommittee. So she is now getting a first-hand look at the level of planning and activities of the organization and how it impacts the downtown merchant community, she said.
“Enthusiasm is really growing, but I think we could use more merchants getting involved,” Fine said. “Whitney does a fantastic job coordinating everything. She and Valecia attend lots of conferences and bring back information for all of the board members. That’s a plus to have Madison represented there. Madison is very well known nationally for its Main Street Program.”
Fine says her business has especially benefitted from the monthly Fourth Friday events, and she tries to come up with a new theme each time. “It gives business owners a great chance to be creative to try and attract people into your store,” she said. “If a shop is not normally open late, it is an opportunity to get new people in.”
The Alley Project
In addition to organized summer concerts, Fourth Fridays and seasonal sales events, the Madison Main Street Program last fall obtained a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs and the Indiana Tourism Office to create a pedestrian art space in an alley just off Main Street beside Off Broadway Tap Room. The “Alley Project” is unique in that it will provide a space to display artwork, seating and an easy pedestrian passage between Main Street and a lighted parking lot on Second Street, Wyatt said.
Vectren Energy recently donated $10,000 toward the $50,000 matching portion, while the remaining $40,000 was received from the city of Madison, the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, and the Main Street Program. Engineering plans created by Gresham Smith & Partners in Louisville have been finalized and will soon be released, Wyatt said.
“We hope to resurface the area with something besides asphalt and provide seating and eventually have some type of art installation there,” Wyatt said. “There will be lighting and a gateway at the entrance to Main Street. Later, we hope to fundraise to obtain money for the artwork. We want it to highlight the arts.”
A newly upgraded website also is in the works with the help of summer intern Deb Parcell of Goshen, Ind. She will spend June and July in Madison as part of the M.A.I.N. internship program sponsored by the city of Madison. She is a “non-traditional” intern: a married mother of five with a bachelor’s degree in architectural design as well as additional coursework in historic preservation.
Parcell also will work on a project with Historic Madison Inc. According to HMI’s Rhonda Deeg, Parcell has been asked to develop a “paint-up, fix-up” program for the two host organizations to execute over the next year or two. She has also been asked to work on displays to fill unused windows in vacant commercial buildings downtown. She starts June 1.
Meantime, Crisafulli’s subcommittee is working on a Second Story Tour of downtown buildings to take place Oct. 3. The goal is to showcase some of the unused spaces in the upper floors of commercial buildings in hopes that they may become useful, particularly as residential spaces but also as office or commercial spaces.
“So many building owners don’t use their second story space, and this could be an opportunity to explore some possibilities to utilize them,” Fine said. For instance, Fine and her husband stay in an apartment above their chocolate shop but plan to renovate the third floor into a master bedroom to expand their living area.
How it all started
The Madison Main Street Program began in 1977 as one of three pilot programs nationally that was created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program was designed to address concerns about the continuing threats to traditional commercial architecture in economically declining downtowns across America. The three-year demonstration project was designed to study the reasons so many downtown were dying, identify the factors affecting downtown’s health and develop a comprehensive revitalization strategy to save historic commercial buildings.
In a regional competition among 70 towns ranging in size from 5,000 to 38,000 people, Madison was selected, along with Galesburg, Ill., and Hot Springs, S.D. The National Trust assisted the three communities by providing an analysis of each downtown’s assets and needs. These architectural and community profiles, conducted by consultants under the direction of the National Trust, served as the basis for design improvements and economic revitalization strategies that would make it feasible to rehabilitate and reuse historic downtown buildings. With a grant from the manufacturing firm Bird & Son, the National Trust hired a full-time Main Street program manager for each community. The program manager’s role was to serve as an advocate for the downtown; coordinate project activities; and convince merchants, property owners, and city officials to spend funds that would create long-term benefits. In effect, the three program managers served as catalysts for change.
The demonstration program laid the groundwork for the Main Street approach to downtown revitalization. What became clear over the three years was the need for a strong public-private partnership, a dedicated community-based organization, a full-time local program manager, a commitment to good design, quality promotional programs, and a coordinated, incremental process.
In Madison, the National Trust partnered with Historic Madison Inc., and HMI Director Tom Moriarty took on responsibilities as the first Main Street Project Manager. Upon expiration of the three-year pilot program, Madison Main Street Program did not exist as an official organized entity from 1980-93, but several volunteers, including Cornerstone Society, continued to work to support the downtown commercial district, according to Kim Nyberg. She was hired in 1993 by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce to build a new program under the auspices of the chamber. Nyberg had worked for the Tennessee Main Street Program prior to coming to Madison.
Madison’s program obtained its own 501c3 nonprofit status in 1995 and ever since has operated on its own with a paid director. Nyberg continued working as its executive director until 2000. Nyberg said she is proud of the current leadership and enthusiasm she sees within the program today. “The Madison Main Street Program and its volunteers continue to build a strong following for our downtown. The vitality and cool vibe of this place puts Madison’s Main Street up against any in the country.”
Today, the Madison Main Street Program boasts 60 donation members (individuals and businesses), along with several business sponsors for its events and a handful of “major donors” in Morgan Foods, Arvin Sango Inc., Midwest Tube, Craig Toyota, Koehler Tire and River Valley Financial Bank. The City of Madison annually provides the biggest financial boost, this year providing $31,000 to support the program.
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