Over the last couple of years, I have really become enamored with the folks at Marietta Main Street. The group not only promotes great things happening downtown, but they also MAKE great things happen downtown. I wanted to include Marietta Main Street in my Marketing in the MOV series because they certainly are experts at using storytelling to promote Marietta not just to tourists but also to locals. Cristie Thomas was good enough to take some time out of her very busy schedule to play some Q&A with me last week.
How did Marietta Main Street get started? What is YOUR story?
Marietta Main Street’s story is full of passion, focus, and community building. About 10 years ago, a group of downtown business owners came together to discuss ways to improve our commercial district and increase revenue. In 2006, the Marietta Area Merchants Association, a group of business owners working together to collectively promote shopping downtown, joined efforts with the Friends of Front Street, a group committed to beautifying Front Street, to formalize their effort into an organization called ReSTORE Marietta.
ReSTORE Marietta was formed with the full support of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, the Marietta-Washington County CVB, and overwhelming support of our downtown. ReSTORE Marietta began as efforts driven by volunteers only until about five years in when the first part-time Director was hired. In 2013, ReSTORE Marietta’s application to Heritage Ohio to become an accredited Main Street Community, in accordance to Main Street America, was approved and Marietta Main Street was born.
Today, Marietta Main Street is run by a full-time Executive Director and a dozen members of our Board of Directors with the support of about 30 volunteers. Our mission is to preserve, enhance, and promote downtown Marietta and we do so alongside about 23 other Main Street organizations in the state of Ohio and over 1k organizations across the U.S.. Our focuses on downtown beautification, historic preservation, economic development, and community building set us apart as a unique 501c3 organization.
How do you use the long story of Marietta — its unique history–to drive interest for tourists today?
Marietta Main Street has a very strong partnership with the Marietta-Washington County CVB, who dedicates their efforts to promoting Marietta as a destination for tourists to visit and enjoy. We focus on creating a downtown experience that is memorable and desired, and the CVB focuses on showing off what makes our town unique.
That being said, downtown Marietta is positioned truly as one of the most desired destinations for travelers today. The blog post “Ten Reasons to Visit Downtown Marietta” that will further satisfy this answer.
How has social media impacted efforts to promote a small town like Marietta?
Social media has been vastly important for us to promote and engage both locals and tourists alike, all focused on supporting our favorite downtown. Social media is the perfect conduit to focus on positive story telling through beautiful snapshots of what makes our community so special. By generating a sense of pride and an affection for downtown Marietta, we are seeing increased levels of engagement with Main Street and our events. We are not a “dead” town – we are vibrant, full of people who care about our place, and able to provide a unique experience that caters to multiple interests. By utilizing social media – primarily IG, FB, and MailChimp – we connect with an audience of followers who also love Marietta.
Our organization also connects quite often with fellow Main Street communities – sharing in our successes and connecting to our ideas (and vice versa). It’s an incredible asset to our mission for us to connect with thriving Main Street communities across Ohio and the U.S.
What do you think is your most effective tactic in enticing people to visit? Why does it work?
Honestly, it’s easy to sell Marietta. We’ve got all the assets of any “greater” community that people may be looking for, if not more so. I believe that adding the positive storytelling has made the difference. Marietta’s history is full of examples of how our community has persevered, be it fires or floods or the decline in the economy, and we have risen time and again. It matters that even in times of struggle, we are able to connect to the positive emotions people experience when thinking about Marietta. Sure, it may be a simple photo of one of our hanging flower baskets or a shot of a downtown streetscape, but those photos connect to emotions that people have for other people, for this place, and for their home. We want people to be so proud that Marietta is their home that they just can’t help but shout it from the mountaintops. We want families to be raised here, businesses to succeed here, and out-of-towners to move here. We want to preserve Marietta’s story and provide opportunities for new stories to be created, all on the foundation that people love this place we call Marietta. At Marietta Main Street, we hope to be a part of the community that facilitates the connection.
Be sure to “like” Marietta Main Street on Facebook. They always are sharing great events and/or great information!