Signs of Frustration

Newly installed tourism sign directing motorists to the Berryville Grille. Photo credit Mike Dowling

Berryville Main Street continues to struggle in a flat-line economy and one downtown business owner has decided to take matters into his own hands. Brian McClemens, owner of the Berryville Grille and The House of Light, has contracted with Virginia Logos to have two tourism signs installed on Route 7 directing motorists to his establishments on Main Street. Frustrated by the inability of the Town of Berryville and Berryville Main Street to champion the effort to have a larger tourism sign installed at the busy intersection of Route 7 and 340, McClemens navigated the process on his own and paid to have signs installed. “I think the signs are a great idea and the effort was really not going anywhere with the the Town or Main Street, so I decided to do it myself.”

The small blue signs have already started to appear at other points along Route 7 touting the likes of Watermelon Park and Mackintosh Fruit Farm. These Tourist Oriented Directional Signs (TODS) are a pre-approved approach to adding signage into the VDOT right of way to make motorists aware of services and attractions. The service is  provided for VDOT by Virginia Logos. McClemens notes, “They are great to deal with. They are very professional and responsive and it was a very simple process.”

Despite the refined work flow the state contractor has developed, the effort to have the signs installed by the Town bogged down.  The signage was a topic of discussion at the Town Council nearly 18 months ago as a way to bring traffic into the downtown area, but that effort has languished and failed to provide any help for a Main Street business community that is currently experiencing another contraction with the closing of Makenzie’s Country Kitchen and the Berryville Pharmacy. In addition, another business, Social Graces has moved out of their downtown space and relocated outside of the town.

During discussions about the signage several organizations balked at the price, but McClemens was comfortable with the price and value proposition saying, “The two signs I contracted for cost me $950 dollars a year and it is billed monthly. There was also an additional one-time set up fee of $250. But, look at all the traffic on Route 7 that will see those signs, it’s a bargain when you compare it with other forms of promotion.”

McClemens also expressed frustration with Berryville Main Street, an organization whose mission is to promote downtown business and tourism. That organization receives $25,000 per year from the Town of Berryville, but has been unwilling to participate in the signage program. “I spoke to them several times about getting the signs on Route 7 and there was not a lot of interest because they said they didn’t have money in their budget for it.”

With warm weather already in the forecast many people are beginning to look for day trip destinations and McClemens hopes to capitalize on some of those travelers who venture over the mountain. “Foot traffic is my biggest challenge as a business owner in downtown Berryville. Without people in the downtown area, businesses can’t survive. We have been blessed and our businesses have been successful, but I want to see the whole town be a successful environment for businesses and residents alike.”

Comments

  1. My 2 Cents says:

    Way to go Brian. I hope this brings more traffic your way.

    Where does that 25,000 go is my question????

    • Right Winger says:

      They use it to expense meals and catering for their “events”. DBI was worthless when I dealt with them in the past. Guess they still are.

  2. great idea, don’t know what took so long 🙂 Berryville is the only place to stop between Round Hill and Winchester….why haven’t more businesses posted signs to attract travelers?

  3. Berryville Main Street as an organization is broken beyond repair. What do they use their funding for? And what about the money from leasing a space that they get for free? Are their books subject to FOIA?

    Let’s see what they get and what they do with it and the residents can decide if it is a worthwhile investment of their hard earned tax dollars.

  4. greenhouse supporter says:

    Way to go Brian!! Love the Berryville Grille and also did my Christmas shopping at The House of Light.

  5. Naked Truth says:

    “Thanks to all for all the support !! We Love Berryville and want to see all of us buisness do well !!”

    Then why all of the negative comments about other business in town?

  6. Berryville Main Street needs to get some people involved who actually live in Berryville and operate businesses here. Take a look at the current list of board members in their latest newsletter (because their website is not up to date). It’s very telling. Successful businesses in this town want nothing to do with them yet the Town just hands them money with no oversight or accountability for a return on their investment.

    It ‘s time to disband it and start a real economic development group comprised of business professionals who know something about marketing in this century.

    • Looks like lots of local people to me – this is their current board listed on their website

      President – Will Dellinger – Cabinet & Appliance Center – 540-955-4001
      Vice President – Peggy White – Tastee Freeze Franchaise – 540-955-9009
      Treasurer – Rick Jacobs – Padgett Business Service – 540-955-1992
      Rick Sponseller – Sponseller’s Florist – 540-955-3227
      Jesse Russell -Economic Development Coordinator Clarke County – 540-955-5131
      Lockett Van Voorhis – Long Branch Historic House and Farm Curator- 540-837-2327
      Alice Irvan – airvan Consulting, PRC, APR – President – 540-532-9500
      David Lillard – The Observer Newspaper – Editor – 304-876-2860
      Jerry Johnson -Attorney at Law, PLC – 540-955-5600
      Christy Dunkle – Assistant Town Planner Berryville – 540-955-1099

  7. clarke conservative says:

    Perfect example of Bureaucracy vs Private Enterprise.

    Gotta love that Berryville Grille !!!

  8. The signs are working! Saw it on the way home and decided to have dinner there. Glad you took matters into your own hands.

  9. Brian McClemens says:
    • Mr Mister says:

      There is nothing wrong with paying for your own advertising!! You as a conservative should know not to rely on anyone but yourself. Not too long ago, businesses would advertise by having barns painted with logos and using billboards. Why should now be any different? I don’t think you did anything extraordinary; you paid for you own signs. . I don’t disagree that the Downtown Berryville could use a major overhaul. There are not enough open storefronts on Main street. And the parking and the store’s hours are big issues.

  10. Brian McClemens says:

    Just to clarify….

    I never ask The Town of Berryville or Main Street to pay for my sign.. The Back ground on this is that I was a member of Berryville Main Street for two years and I served on the economic development team last year with Main Street.. I was also was sent by them to a two day seminar put on by National Main Street to learn how to promote Our Town. One of the things I learned was that a main street group should put up Highway signage for “The Main Street District” . After learning that from National Main Street and Virginia Main Street I had be asking Our Main Street To spent $1000 of the 25K the town gives them to put a sign up for “Our Town” and “Our Main Street” .. I suggested they they put a sign up saying .. “downtown main street shopping” or “Historical Main Street Buisnees District” something, anything to let people driving by know that we have things to offer in “Berryville”.. The Biggest Problem with this group is that Main Street needs to find a new “Manger” because the one they pay now has no clue on how to promote our town.

    And as a conservative I would not nor do I want the goverment paying for anything for me.. Thanks..

    • Brian — We had been interested in the signs as well a year or so back, but didn’t follow through. Would it make it any cheaper for you if we put a sign lower down on your two, or would you rather we work on getting a separate sign? Either way okay with us, and your persistance is to be applauded.

      -Archie and Bonnie at the bookshop

      • Brian McClemens says:

        Archie & Bonnie,

        No it would still cost us and you the same . $950.00 per year plus a $200.00 Application fee..
        I will stop by and give you and Bonnie the info and contacts..

        Great to be neighbors to your store on Main Street..

  11. You’re right about him paying for it, the businesses would have been required to do that in any scenario.

    The problem is that there is a broken not-for-profit receiving our tax dollars that is supposed to be helping downtown businesses and they spend their time review wayfinding signage that looks like something out of the Jetson’s. Who decides what is a worthwhile and productive way to encourage economic development? Accountability is king. Show us what is being done. There are a lot of professionals in the Clarke County Community that could speak more wisdom into the strategy than the people who are currently tasked with it.

    Is it the upcoming downtown junk sale? Ask the businesses downtown and they will tell you it does nothing for them because it doesn’t attract the right kind of consumers.

    Is it the Firehouse Gallery? Please…it’s a very nice store but to pin your hopes and our tax dollars on that as some sort of salvation for the downtown district is delusional.

    So what is it that they are doing, and why is it not subject to scrutiny and discussion?

    • Because I Care says:

      In my opinion, no study or commission is going to be able to revive an old-fashioned downtown business environment like the one we have in downtown Berryville. Has anyone found any location with a similar downtown that is thriving? Some time ago, consumers changed their shopping preferences to large stores that have a little bit of everything. We have to face facts. Revitalization of Main Street Berryville into a Creekside Station type environment would cost way too much money. The best bet would be to allow sensible retail growth on the outskirts of the town and county and charge a resonable tax to these businesses, then use some of the tax money generated to fund a downtown renovation and also promote a growth of smaller specialty shops on Main Street if most residents are in favor of such a project.

  12. Well done Brian! I salute you!

    In an over zealous effort to preserve quaintness the Town and Berryville Main Street stifle the very ones they are supposed to be encouraging.

    Thanks for taking the matter on your self.

  13. Castleman TC says:

    The sign looks great Brian. I like the idea of a sign saying Historical Main Street Buisness District.

  14. An enlightened citizen says:

    Points to ponder:
    *There are actually over 40 businesses right on Main Street alone
    *Berryville Main Street’s history and purposes are clearly written on a bookmark available at the Firehouse Gallery. I invite all interested to stop by and see what this wonderful organization does for our town.
    *A year ago, Berryville Main Street began an iniative to bring appropriate signage to our community at NO cost to the Town. Virginia Main Street supplied the architecture firm that prepared not one, but several designs for consideration. Open meetings were held and community input was sought. It would have been wonderful to have had input from everyone who has commented here. Votes were received and a design was overwhelmingly approved by the Architecture Review Board, mambers of Berryville Main Street, and the community who attended and participated.The Town Council just voted to approve this design in February 2012 and in the near future we will see these signs begin to appear around town.
    *Berryville Main Street is always working behind the scenes to promote businesses, fill empty spaces, and strive for the betterment of our community. Just because we don’t see results instantly doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made.
    Thanks for reading.

    • On a bookmark at the Firehouse Gallery? Good gracious.

      Go to the Berryville Main Street webiste and click on the Fire House Gallery and you get the following page: 404 (Page Not Found) Error. The latest events on the “Join Us” link are from DECEMBER

      It has been longer than one year for the street sign initiative. With the money Main Street has, signs could have been selected, paid for, and installed in a few short months- tops.

      How were people invited to the selection meetings? On a bookmark in the Firehouse Gallery?

      Is the budget available for review anywhere?

      Not a question of “heart” and a desire to benefit the town. So much more could be accomplished and I don’t understand why it is not.

    • OK, I can’t let this one go by…

      @Points to ponder

      The issue is not about working hard, it’s about working smart and the problem is none of the people working on the board (or the Town Council) have the business acumen to market something like Berryville. They have no idea where to begin so they go with the same old garbage. So let’s look at your points, and please try to remember, this is not a popularity contest. It’s about doing the best job possible, so if the people tasked to do it can’t it doesn’t mean they’re bad people, it just means it needs to be approached like a business that is accountable, not a social club.

      So let’s look at your comments one by one:
      *There are actually over 40 businesses right on Main Street alone

      Interesting number but there are not forty businesses in the two blocks where the Main Street organization focuses it’s efforts and that area has 3 less businesses this month and still has half a dozen empty storefronts…

      *Berryville Main Street’s history and purposes are clearly written on a bookmark available at the Firehouse Gallery. I invite all interested to stop by and see what this wonderful organization does for our town.

      OK this is a perfect example. I believe the “bookmark” you are referring to is actually one of the rackcards that Berryville Main Street produced. I saw these in the coffee shop and was shocked. They are poorly designed, barely legible and forever stuck in an old print approach. Where is a modern tourism website? Do you believe people who want to visit can some how get their hands on a rackcard before they visit? It’s a terrible idea and a perfect example of how a vision-less organization stumbles down the road without any fresh ideas, all the while relying on money provided by taxpayers who want to see results.

      *A year ago, Berryville Main Street began an iniative to bring appropriate signage to our community at NO cost to the Town. Virginia Main Street supplied the architecture firm that prepared not one, but several designs for consideration. Open meetings were held and community input was sought. It would have been wonderful to have had input from everyone who has commented here. Votes were received and a design was overwhelmingly approved by the Architecture Review Board, mambers of Berryville Main Street, and the community who attended and participated.The Town Council just voted to approve this design in February 2012 and in the near future we will see these signs begin to appear around town.

      This is yet another example of failure to develop a plan and act on it. First of all no one heard about your “meetings open to the public” so the organization gets an F for being able to even promote themselves let alone any other business. Second, did you read the much lauded wayfinding signage report you pin so much on? The second sentence in the package says of a wayfinding signage effort:

      “It is also a part of a larger marketing system that moves visitors ‘from website to on-site’ starting with a community’s tourism website and concludes when the visitor reaches the destination.”

      So instead of starting with a tourism website BMS decides to start with signs. So what we have, yet again, is a half baked approach that doesn’t even pay attention to the advice of the experts working on behalf of the town, but instead the organization launches off on their own approach guided by people who are ill equipped to do so.

      *Berryville Main Street is always working behind the scenes to promote businesses, fill empty spaces, and strive for the betterment of our community. Just because we don’t see results instantly doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made.

      Perhaps this is your biggest problem, come out of the dark and work where people can see you, or are you afraid of the scrutiny…

  15. StoneBroke says:

    Points to Ponder! Of those 40 businesses, how many actually provide a meaningful product for the citizens of Berryville? [redacted]

  16. Depends on your defination of “meaningful product”.

  17. Brian McClemens says:

    If any other one else would like info on getting Signage on Route 7 please click this link.

    http://www.virginialogos.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=23

    Patrick is our local contact and his phone #804-754-0970

    Hope this helps..

    • Isn’t anybody concerned about the proliferation of signs and their blight on our lovely town and county? Do businesses need signs? Yes. Can we have too many? Yes.

  18. New Berryville Business opening soon "The Family Trust" says:

    The original historic Clarke County Bank building located at 18 North Church St was recently purchased and is currently being renovated. My understanding is it will soon be a family owned and operated numismatics (US coin, gold, silver, paper money dealer) which I am certain will bring new business to the town.

    Business name: “The Family Trust”

  19. Brian McClemens says:

    Watch for & Coming soon..

    http://www.berryvilletourism.com

  20. Brian McClemens says:

    The House Of light and Cafe’, Facebook Pages have been redesigned to help you brand your page, highlight what matters, and manage everything in one place.

    Your Page will automatically get the new design on March 30th, but don’t wait that long! Your current Page was viewed 97,111 times last week.

    Now that is how you do it !!!

  21. The FACTS.. NOt just Talk says:

    [redacted]

    Points to ponder:
    *A year ago, Berryville Main Street began an iniative to bring appropriate signage to our community at NO cost to the Town.

    IT WONT BE MAIN STREET PAYING FOR THEM !!!
    I think we have a right to see those BOOKS !!! Where’s the MONEY ???