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.”