Berryville Small Business Incubator Concept Advances

Berryville Main Street (BMS) wants to help grow small businesses in the downtown area by developing an incubator to help them get started. The not for profit organization is part of a nationwide initiative created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to encourage growth and revitalization of small towns across the United States. Last year the organization undertook a major adaptive reuse project that transformed the town’s former fire house into a new retail destination, The Fire House Gallery and Shop. The proposed small business incubator would occupy two suites on the second floor of that building, which is owned by the Town of Berryville. At last night’s council meeting the idea was presented for consideration.

The operational concept would provide space to start-ups for a short period of time allowing them to get established after which they would move to a permanent location and vacate the space. It is hoped that the rental of these spaces would also provide some income for BMS. While the details as to the duration of use for each start-up and the types of businesses that would be best suited have not been finalized, the Town Council reviewed the idea and discussed the concept.

Councilman Allen Kitselman told other council members that the idea was addressed at the Community Improvement Committee meeting and had its endorsement. Councilman David Tollet commented that it was important to retain control of the build out of the space because it remains a town property.

Town Manager Keith Dalton said, “The lease would require some minor modifications. When we developed the initial lease it was just for the first floor. The current lease would have to be amended to address use of the second floor, use of the entire parking lot, rent, utility split, and other items.”

After discussing the matter the council unanimously supported the idea. The next step in the process entails a public hearing on the matter, which has been scheduled for the next Town Council meeting on March 8th.


  1. So, put a start-up business on the second floor of a building on Main Street? What about handicapped access? You’re dooming a business before it even has a chance with limited access like that!

  2. Start-ups need exposure. Why not use the many empty first floor storefronts you see while driving through main street? It seems to me anything on a second floor will be passed by, at least within the first several months of operation.

    Another though: The success of a business in a small town also depends on how well this new business will fill a needed good or service to the community. What we really NEED right now is a alternate grocery source and a convenient drug store. A decent clothing and/or shoe store would be nice too. Nothing suitable for a little niche business on Main Street.

  3. I don’t think they are talking about just retail businesses here. Most of the time in an incubator scenario it is office spaces they rent out. There is one just recently started in Culpeper on Davis Street. Over the last several years, they have done amazing things with their main street projects there. A once dying area now thrives with a large amount of “browsers” coming in on weekends. My brother and stepbrother have both been very active. They started small and it just started working for everyone. Great idea, Berryville Main Street!!!

    • Interested bysitter says:

      Hmmm…office space. There already are several lawyers, an architectural firm, a financial advisor, an optometrist, 2 barbershops, a carpet store, a propane store, the aforesaid pharmacy & a florist, a music store, and many restaurants. I’m sure I’m missing some, but…truly…what other “professionals” aside from a CPA could locate there?

      The thing about Culpeper is that, while they were incubated there…eventually they moved to a different space (either “downtown” or out in an outlying area) for better customer access. Our beloved downtown does not offer that, and has not offered that for 20 years. There’s been no real effort on the part of the town to enhance parking: spaces are limited or far-flung; lighting is spotty; inclement weather cuts down on foot traffic; etc.

      It’s a good idea, but I just don’t know if it’s viable with our realities downtown.

  4. I mostly agree with Bubba D.

    I think we need a movie theater & Japanese restaurant to meet my needs! LOL. I think, though, that we have plenty of groceries with the Food Lion, both dollar stores, and all the mini-marts. We have plenty of restaurants. The Hospice, True Value, and Radio Shack are great. Though I’m not a big fan of the used book store (most are overpriced for being Used quality) and would rather have a Borders-type store, if I was in a pickle, there is somewhere to get a book in town.

    Overall, we need to fill those empty storefronts, be open 7 days a week from 8-5, and see how the consumers respond.

    • Clemato take your business plan to a Lender,find your location, go thru the permit & license process hire employees and open your business. Good Luck

      • Fly on the wall says:

        Yeah…cuz it’s just that simple. Riiight…

        • Another View says:

          OK, So I am assuming this space would be made available to a start-up business at a “fair” lease price. What will happen when the business is established and they find out they cannot afford the rent prices here in town? I just don’t see it happening here because business lease prices are sky high!
          Then you have the expense and effort to make address changes, telephone hook-up, cable, license fee’s, Telephone book changes, advertising, online domain name changes, business cards, suppliers, etc.
          Not sure why this “space” would make it easier for a start-up business

    • Boomer & Buddy says:

      We is preferring to call the owner’s overpriced books “vintage”.

      We also thinks the used book store has lots of good books and some mostly friendly customers, but sorry is that we gots no pickles here. Ack!

      -The kitties

  5. concerned says:

    Maybe what we need before we make a lot of comments is a description of how business incubators work in present times. The people who take advantage of opportunities like this are usually not accountants, lawyers, etc. They are tech companies, internet based companies, etc, where the person has a sensible business idea just not all of the needed skills to start a small business. By taking advantage of low rates for many of their business services for several years, they are able to save the business capital to afford what they need when they go out on their own. As for the people who participated in the incubator in Culpeper moving out of town, this can not be since they just opened.

    There are also fantastic grant opportunities out there for these, which could cover much of the renovation costs, etc. Again, good decision to try this out Main Street Berryville!!!

    What is a business incubation?

    Business incubation is a dynamic process of business enterprise development. Incubators nurture young firms, helping them to survive and grow during the startup period when they are most vulnerable. Incubators provide hands-on management assistance, access to financing and orchestrated exposure to critical business or technical support services. They also offer entrepreneurial firms shared office services, access to equipment, flexible leases and expandable space — all under one roof.

    An incubation program’s main goal is to produce successful graduates — businesses that are financially viable and freestanding when they leave the incubator usually in two to three years. According to the Impact of Incubator Investments Study, 1997, 87% of incubator graduates are still in business.

    Why do so many small businesses fail and how can an incubator help?
    According to the SBA, 50% of small businesses fail in the first three to five years. Studies show that the top two reasons for failure are management inexperience and insufficient capital. Other reasons small businesses fail include:

    * Inadequate planning
    * Lack of market knowledge
    * Failure to seek the advice of a professional
    * Lack of financial planning and review
    * Owners concentrating on tactical instead of strategic issues

    Business incubators work with entrepreneurs to abate risk, to solve problems faster, to shorten the learning curve, and to improve their likelihood of success. And it works! According to a Dept. of Commerce study, 87% of all small businesses who had been through a business incubator were still in business after 5 years!

    • Interested bysitter says:

      Is the former town office building equipped properly with auxilliary power, given Berryville’s notoriously temperamental power grid? Also, are the upper floors ADA compliant as far as access, etc.?

  6. Been Here A Long Time says:

    My comment to Clemato was not to be nasty. As a former self employed business owner for 28 years I know how hard it is to start up and run a small business.

  7. Heck, even if you wanted to start a new business good luck to you. If the good ole boys don’t want what you are selling then you won’t even get a shot…. How about closing the [redacted] Tastee Freez, along with a few others that never do any business anyhow and bring in a Burger King or McDonalds???? Here we go, watch all the Loudoun County people bash this, ie. lets keep our small town quaint and full of clock repair shops…… LOL! I guess the residents of Berryville will keep pouring all of their money into Winchester since all the old [redacted] here, want nothing!!!!!! Next thing you know, they will lobby to close the ABC Store!

    This place is the laughing stock of Virginia!

  8. Allan "Bugs" McWilliams says:

    Wow, glad to hear you like Berryville so much.

    • Interested bysitter says:

      Instead of being curt and dismissive, how about listening to those of us who are in town a lot…and would spend more money there if the town officials would actually listen.

      It’s nice to want to “incubate” businesses, but without a reliable high-speed network in town and the county, what tech startup can really get going? Without some other, larger, stores to draw folks in, smaller niche stores in the vacant storefronts (i.e. ones that don’t need as much loading dock area or that need fewer parking spaces to survive) can do fine. That is what you find in downtown “Old Town” Fredericksburg or Warrenton. With all of the commuter traffic that goes by the town DAILY, it’s sad that the town hasn’t done more to get those folks to swing off the bypass and drop some coin in “Battletown.”