It takes all kinds by Annette Tait

There’s an old joke about “Our town’s so small we don’t have a town drunk – everyone has to take turns.” If you get past the “town drunk” part, there’s a ring of truth to the statement – it takes everyone to get the job done.

 The first step was a three-part survey where participants chose the personality traits they most identified with to determine which of the four Real Colors was their strongest.

The first step was a three-part survey where participants chose the personality traits they most identified with to determine which of the four Real Colors was their strongest.

Not too long ago we were at one of those solo events for rural women – Ladies Ag Night -- which started out as an evening of fun and learning for the ladies but has branched out to include the gents as well. We had some fun, enjoyed an up-and-coming comedian who shared her typical, but hilariously told, experiences as a city girl learning farm life, and learned a bit about the personality side of Real Colors.

No, this wasn’t one of those “what not to wear” color profiles. It was the 10-minute – okay, more like about 45-minute – tour through a system that helps people identify their strongest personality leanings, understand how people who fall under the other colors see life, and how to best work together. It’s a lot of fun, and some of the groups’ list items and moderator’s comments had us rolling – not laughing at each other, but with each other in agreement.

In a nutshell, everyone self-selected behaviors, values, and beliefs they connected most strongly with. There were several phases that used different methods, so as to reach a more accurate result than could be achieved using a one-size-fits-all model.

 Group discussion and list-making for each of the four Real Colors led to self-reporting of personality traits and further discussion by all present.

Group discussion and list-making for each of the four Real Colors led to self-reporting of personality traits and further discussion by all present.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve done this, and our results weren’t surprising. What was really interesting, though, were some of the side conversations. “I never would have pegged you for an orange!” “Wow – I always thought I’d be more of a green.” “Do you see how many blues there are?” “Gold? I sure didn’t see THAT coming!”

Don’t be misled – there were broad ranges in the final numbers. Some people’s primary color was far and away their strongest, with the other three trailing far behind. Others were in a much closer numerical grouping, and there were plenty between the two extremes.

The best part was the side discussions of how people saw themselves when the color they selected suggested different skill sets than they expected. We talked among ourselves about how analytical traits combined with empathy, how leadership traits combined with flexibility, and how great people skills and valuing relationships helped offset competitiveness and the affinity for structure.

 NDSU Extension Agent Vanessa Hoines leads discussion on how the different Real Color personalities act and interact.

NDSU Extension Agent Vanessa Hoines leads discussion on how the different Real Color personalities act and interact.

Think about it. Logical, scientific, research-oriented (green category) people are great to have on a committee looking at revamping the park or making improvements to the school. They’ll get the details and the numbers straight. But adding other traits to the mix will make the committee even better. Bringing a few golds into the group will add greater organization, conservatism and positivity – traits that help move the project forward, while also playing devil’s advocate when needed. A blue or two will help keep everyone working together by using their insight and caring to help consider the needs of those who use the park or the school, while also helping to keep peace when disagreements arise. And let’s not forget the orange category – these folks are great trouble-shooters who like to keep the working environment positive. Need to raise money for the project? Orange traits like persuasiveness and optimism shine at recruiting volunteers and fundraising.

As you can see, all of the traits have value, and all of the personality “colors” bring something to the table -- some off-setting others to create a better whole. And -- no matter the size or scope of the project -- who doesn’t want the best possible outcome?

Cafés serve up more than food by Annette Tait

 Katy Kassian checks out the local flavor at The Lodge Coffee Shop in Citrus Heights, Calif.

Katy Kassian checks out the local flavor at The Lodge Coffee Shop in Citrus Heights, Calif.

We love seeking out little cafés when we travel. You know the kind – where locals meet for breakfast, grab a meal with family, or hang out with the coffee crew. Where we get more than a meal -- we get a sense of the place we’re visiting, and the people who live there.

We’re always surprised when people say they want to “see new places and try new things,” but still insist on stopping at the first major chain restaurant they see near an exit. By barely leaving the highway, they miss opportunities to get a feel for the community, and maybe find a few of its hidden treasures before getting back on the road. 

 The old-timey sign brings diners into Kim’s Country Kitchen in Lincoln, Calif. Good food and friendly service keep them coming back.

The old-timey sign brings diners into Kim’s Country Kitchen in Lincoln, Calif. Good food and friendly service keep them coming back.

That’s why we stop at the places locals gather. Where, by simply smiling at someone or saying “hello,” we can start a conversation that often spreads to include everyone in the room.

In just a few minutes, we find out what’s going on in and around town, learn snippets of local history, and get directions to more than the usual sights – like some of those little gems the locals take for granted. We can find out who’s who, how the crops are, and hear about the guy who restored a muscle car or tractor, all in a good-natured stream of back-and-forth chatter between patrons and employees alike. We get a sense of place.

We also get that not everyone’s willing to start talking to people they don’t know. And that’s OK. But think about it. You’re already talking with the waitress – or gas station clerk, or whoever -- anyway. Why not get the scoop on fun stuff to do while you’re at it?

All it takes is a quick question: “What’s going on around here today?”

 The local flair of Kim’s Country Kitchen gives diners plenty to talk about.

The local flair of Kim’s Country Kitchen gives diners plenty to talk about.

“Not sure,” they might say, turning to a guy nearby. “Hey, Bob! These folks are looking for something to do – any suggestions?”

BOOM! Conversation started.

It’s the same when we move into a new community -- one of the first things we do is look for somewhere to eat. Somewhere we feel comfortable and the food is good. Somewhere we’re assured of a welcome and camaraderie. A place we can meet our neighbors and become a part of the “family.” Our own personal “Cheers,” even if everybody doesn’t know our names. Yet.

And we’re not alone – there are plenty of folks just like us. Are you ready?

When folks you don’t know walk through the door, remember the value of strangers – a value that may go beyond the price of their meal or their fuel. While some are vacationers, others are looking to relocate or may be traveling through on business. And, unless they say so, you don’t know who’s just passing through, and who might be considering moving in and boosting the local economy.

 A catchy bit of country humor posted near the till of a rural café

A catchy bit of country humor posted near the till of a rural café

No matter the reason, they chose to stop and meet you. Your town. Your corner. Your place. They, too, want to feel that sense of community.

It’s a universal feeling. It’s found in small cafés, major chains, corner bistros, and the coffee groups at gas station C-stores. In cities large and small, and everything in between.

We – employees and locals alike – need to be welcoming and friendly. After all, every last one of us represents our local cafés, businesses, and the places we live. Who cares if the unsuspecting visitor sat in your regular spot? Return the smile with one of your own, and say “hey – how’s it going?”

Don’t be the reason they leave forever. Be the reason they come back to visit, or maybe even to stay.

What if you were ‘The One’? by Annette Tait

One is a tiny number, right? Like when we hear fire claimed “only one” structure in our county last year, or that “just one” person had to be extricated from a car wreck. In those terms, things don’t sound all that bad.

 The aftermath of this structure fire could have been much worse if it hadn’t been for local volunteer firefighters. (Photo courtesy of Faulkner’s Greenhouse/the Dagley family)

The aftermath of this structure fire could have been much worse if it hadn’t been for local volunteer firefighters. (Photo courtesy of Faulkner’s Greenhouse/the Dagley family)

But what if it was YOUR structure that burned to the ground, or YOUR loved one who was trapped in a vehicle?

Recently, a local family was “the one.” They woke to discover their greenhouse – which contributes a significant part of their livelihood – was on fire. If that wasn’t enough, the building also housed an equipment shed and working mechanic shop, including welding gases, and there were fuel tanks along an outside wall.

Our local volunteer fire department turned out in force, working from a safe distance to protect a calving barn and three homes that are on the property. The welding gases and fuel tanks made it too dangerous to get anywhere near the burning building.

Even though the greenhouse was a total loss, a family member told us, “If the firefighters hadn’t been there, it all would have burned.” They could have lost everything.

Emergency services aren’t something we should take for granted, but we do. When we call 911, we expect whoever is needed to show up and take care of our problem.

But what if they didn’t? What if the firefighters HADN’T been there to protect what was left of this family’s operation, not to mention their homes?

Last year, rural firefighters from across North America came together to talk about how hard it is to keep their doors open. In “larger” rural communities, those with 5,000-9,999 people, almost 45 percent of fire departments are all volunteer. That percentage goes up to 74 percent in communities with 2,500-4,999 people, and in tiny counties like ours, with populations less than 2,500, nearly 93 percent of fire departments rely fully on volunteers.

Just because there are fewer people in rural communities doesn’t mean there are fewer fires. When people are more spread out, the proportion actually rises. In big cities, where there are a million or more people, there are only 3.1 fires per 1,000 people, with a national average of 4.5. Which means something has to bring that national average up.

That something is those of us who live rural: there are 10.8 – yes, more than double the national average -- fires per 1,000 people in communities that have fewer than 2,500 people. Is that an eye-opener, or what?

The next question is, how are we going to keep the doors open at our rural fire departments, to make sure there’s a crew there to answer the call? Rural fire volunteers are aging – 42 percent have been with their departments for more than 10 years, and many a lot longer than that. And fewer people are stepping up to fill their shoes.

We get it. It’s hard to work full time, raise a family, take care of a house and yard, and try to get in some downtime when we can.

But if we don’t – if YOU don’t – who will?

Put away the “why nots” and consider the reasons “why to.” Volunteer fire departments need all kinds of volunteers – they need firefighters, drivers, and people to haul water, direct traffic over the radio, feed crews on fire lines, and help with all the details that keep the department running. And most departments provide all the needed training and equipment.

How healthy is your local volunteer fire department? What do they need? And how will you say “yes”?

 

Data courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org.

Everything but a Starbucks! by Annette Tait

We love coffee as much as the next guy, but having a Starbucks – or any other nationally recognized franchise -- doesn’t put a town on the map. Some of the best places we know of aren’t much more than wide spots on two-lane roads.

 The two-story Regan Community Center offers an event venue complete with a full gym and commercial kitchen.

The two-story Regan Community Center offers an event venue complete with a full gym and commercial kitchen.

Take Regan, N.D., (pop. 44, plus or minus). Most people driving through this little town miss its many treasures, even though they’re “hidden in plain sight.”

We have to admit that, on first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to see. But a closer look shows a historic main street, one of the last remaining 2-room stone jails in the state, an event center, a commercial-grade kitchen, manufacturing, and an American Legion Post.

See over there? That’s the old county shop, now the home of JI Fabrication & Welding. JI has two full-time employees, manufactures continuous fence, cattle panels, windbreaks and more, and offers a full array of welding services.

And the historic main street? It could easily be a movie set. The Stonewall has a long and interesting history, from its start as Regan State Bank to becoming a watering hole in the 1970s, with folks coming from all over to wet their whistles. Ask the “old timers”-- they have stories!

The little all-rock building used to belong to Bell Telephone, better known as “Ma Bell.” Any of y’all old enough to remember Ma Bell? We sure do. Back then it was a pretty big deal to go to in to the store and order – yes, order, not buy-and-take-home -- a brand-new telephone.

 Manufacturing can be found even in towns as small as Regan, N.D., population 44 plus or minus, which is home to JI Fabrication and Welding.

Manufacturing can be found even in towns as small as Regan, N.D., population 44 plus or minus, which is home to JI Fabrication and Welding.

Regan even has an event center that can be rented for dances, reunions, and other special occasions. The cost is nominal, and it has an upstairs and also a full gym. A full-scale commercial kitchen is available for use, as well as the “new” (grade) school – that gives folks not just one, but two facilities to choose from.

There’s plenty to do for the little ones, too. There’s a fabulous playground and park for the kiddies, with “old school” toys, and a picnic shelter, to boot.

And last but not least, Regan boasts one of the few stone jails left in the state. You can walk right in and sit in a cell and take your picture -- a little taste of history complete with tourism and photo opportunities.

 Marvin Gillig has served Regan, N.D., as its mayor for more than 30 years.

Marvin Gillig has served Regan, N.D., as its mayor for more than 30 years.

Bonus: Regan has high-speed internet AND a rural water system, too! And, a coffee pot that is always on. It may not be Starbucks, but the company can’t be beat. It’s part of small-town life – no matter who you drop in on, there’ll always be an offer of coffee and conversation.

There’s no denying that Regan may look like a ghost town –by most standards, it practically is – but it still has possibilities.

That’s what we see when we drive through Regan: the possibilities. We see a place for young families and retirees alike to enjoy a quality of life you just don’t find in the suburbs. We see possibilities for a bakery and/or other business endeavors using the commercial kitchen. We see “big city” executives using the event center for day-long retreats, in a setting you just can’t duplicate elsewhere. We see creative space for artists and photographers and … well, you get the picture.

Take a look around your own rural town. And slow down and take a closer look when you pass by that “wide spot in the road” as you drive through.

Peel back the layers. There’s so much more to be found than initially meets the eye.

How many of ‘The 8s’ do you have? by Annette Tait

It’s officially tourist season -- time to put on our “ready for company” faces and get ready for visitors!

 The historic Aladdin Tipple, showcased by the geography of the area (see how we worked that in?), is one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

The historic Aladdin Tipple, showcased by the geography of the area (see how we worked that in?), is one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

Every rural community has at least eight things that, with a little bit of creativity, can tempt travelers to stop and spend some time – and some money – in your town. You may not have all eight, but we’re willing to bet you’ve got most of them: art/culture (think annual celebrations and the like), cuisine (we mostly just call it food), geography, architecture, commerce (shopping!), people, customs, and history.

We wish we came up with “The 8s” ourselves, but we have to give credit to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, which says, “Everything fits into one of these categories. Every town has a story to tell about each one.”

Take Aladdin, Wyo. -- one of our favorite towns on the cut-across from Belle Fourche, S.D., to Sundance, Wyo. It’s also a popular stop for travelers on the way to Devils Tower, Wyo., and Sturgis, S.D. This micro-sized community – around 15 residents -- packs a punch with everything from local foods to cowboys and cattle to history and more.

Let’s take a look at Aladdin’s “eight.”

Geography. Nestled into the hills just to the east of the Bear Lodge Mountains, plateaus and oak and pine covered coulees and draws dominate a landscape punctuated with rolling meadows. Bonus -- there are an average of 226 sunny days a year!

Arts/culture. Brand new this year is the inaugural Aladdin Music and Food Festival June 16. If you’re passing through, drop in at the Aladdin Mercantile for local paintings, jewelry, notecards, photography and more. 

 Katy showing off three of “The 8s” in one -- art, history, and commerce – at the Aladdin Mercantile, Aladdin, Wyo.

Katy showing off three of “The 8s” in one -- art, history, and commerce – at the Aladdin Mercantile, Aladdin, Wyo.

Architecture. The Mercantile was built in 1896 and is a prime example of early stores. It’s been in continuous operation for more than 100 years! Just a hop and a skip to the east of town is the Aladdin Tipple, another prime example of early engineering and one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

Cuisine. Don’t let the petite size of Cindy B’s Café fool you -- portions are generous, the food is tasty, and the prices are great. Or head to the Mercantile for sandwiches, snacks and an assortment of “old-timey” sodas. You can even belly up to the bitty bar tucked into the corner to sample local whiskeys and wine. Can you say “pour me a Chris Ledoux, please?”

Customs. Aladdin is in the heart of cowboy country, where rural values abound. A man’s -- or woman’s -- word is bond and a handshake means something. Men will always treat women like ladies, and friendliness is the order of the day.

 The Aladdin Mercantile is also an example of local architecture -- false fronts were a common practice when it was built in the late 1800s

The Aladdin Mercantile is also an example of local architecture -- false fronts were a common practice when it was built in the late 1800s

History. Founded in the late 1880s on logging and coal production, coal mined in Aladdin was shipped by rail to smelters in Lead and Deadwood, and Colonel Custer stopped by in 1874 during his Black Hills expedition. 

People. Folks in Aladdin are a hearty bunch, deeply committed to the land, their faith, community, and country –- always friendly and ready to help in a pinch. Want to know how the West really was? Ask a local – many are descendants of the original settlers.

Commerce. Just like during the days of the Old West, the Mercantile has just about anything you could want — you name it, you’ll probably find it. Sit a spell on the porch to write out that postcard you bought, then mail it from the little post office tucked inside.

See? If tiny little Aladdin can show off its “eight,” so can your town. Get creative, put on your “company face,” and invite the world in for a visit!

 

5 reasons to attend the Rural X Summit & other conferences like it by Annette Tait

With this year’s RuralX Summit right around the corner — mark your calendars forJune 27 & 28 in Mitchell, S.D. — it's time to think about how being present can change your community. What can you learn? Who can you meet?  What inspiration can you get?

The RuralX Summit is organized by Dakota Resources in South Dakota, and brings rural champions and community leaders together across several states for learning and networking. The last two years, champions from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa were in attendance.

2018 RuralX logo.jpg

So, besides the regular reasons — like networking and national speakers — here are 5 reasons to attend:

Rural success stories. Hear first-hand from other communities what they are doing, how it’s working and how they learned to be idea friendly. When we talk to others struggling with the same small-town problems, we discover new ideas and ways of achieving our goals and dreams for our communities.

Visibility. Just because you or community may be “way out there” doesn’t mean you have to subscribe the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.”  Being seen and telling your stories keeps you in people’s minds. This is an ideal way to showcase your assets and build new outlets. You may doing a whiz-bang job with your digital marketing, but nothing beats the connections you can make in person.

Community Connections. By “community,” we mean small towns in general.  Rural and small towns have a unique way of forming their own “communities” outside of their own city’s boundaries -- many are connected over vast distances through commerce and family ties. Attending events strengthens those ties, makes us stronger, more resilient and better able to weather whatever storms come our way. It’s true: “Where people gather, community happens.”

 Rural development advocate Hugh Webber, OTA (weareota.com), and Washburn, N.D., Economic Development Director Tana Larsen visit during the 2017 RuralX Summit.

Rural development advocate Hugh Webber, OTA (weareota.com), and Washburn, N.D., Economic Development Director Tana Larsen visit during the 2017 RuralX Summit.

The energy of like-minded people. Small town leaders and advocates often feel they are going it alone. The energy of being in a room full of people — people willing to take time away to be there, too — is undeniable. They, too, attend conferences, seminars, and networking sessions to better themselves and their communities, and also to support each other. When you are at these events and conferences, you realize that you are not alone in wanting to make a difference, and that your vision really is within reach.

New ideas.  A hundred people can all hear the same expert, and each one will take away a little something different. By being present at these events, we talk to each other, learn, and expand our creative process. The speakers are fabulous, and bring relevant, affordable, doable ideas. We become excited again about what we love about our communities and what we want to accomplish.

BONUS: Have fun! For many of us, attending a conference is equal to a vacation — visiting a new town, a new state and/or new anything is exciting! Take some time to explore and enjoy before or after the days’ events.

We can it hear it now… all the reasons why not to go. “We can’t afford it.” “Aren’t we too small?” “We don’t have a Chamber/Job Development Association.”

 On-the-spot block prints were one 2017 RuralX Summit example of a pop-up business just made for rural areas and events. 

On-the-spot block prints were one 2017 RuralX Summit example of a pop-up business just made for rural areas and events. 

How can you not afford to go? Ask local banks, businesses or community groups to help with costs — your participation is in their best interest, too. You will bring back valuable knowledge on creative housing options, marketing your hometown, public spaces, filling empty buildings, pop-up-shops, funding sources and more. These are important to the community as whole!

Or get together with neighboring cities or counties. Several small towns or counties can easily band together and send a representative who can then report back to everyone involved.

Or do you think your town is too small? There is No. Such. Thing. Every single community has something of value. Events like Rural X can help you discover hidden assets and how to leverage them.

It doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t have a Chamber of Commerce or a Visitors Bureau. What truly matters is that you care.

A little update by Annette Tait

Hello!

26114151_1310650649041154_4140778247724019467_n.jpg

I know we've been quiet for a while. Much longer than I thought! 

It has been a year of change.  

For starters: I will be dividing my time between North Dakota and Colorado. An incredible opportunity for my husband fell out of the sky and into our laps, but it means he must be there for a minimum of three years. So, we will still have crops in North Dakota and a little house in Colorado. These last few months have been filled with packing the house, downsizing the farm to just crops (a huge task!) and looking for another property in Colorado, while getting the crops in back in North Dakota. (Whew!) 

18199319_1101664213273133_5076712966576889508_n.jpg

Annette has had some changes in her life, too — her hubby recently retired, allowing them more time to do some things they've always wanted to, AND their daughter graduated college. (Plus, this gives her more time to edit my wandering thoughts!)

We have been and will continue to be columnists for AgWeek and will also begin some columns for a Colorado publication.  Which is GREAT! There are so many communities and small town/small business topics that we are excited to cover.  As always, helping others — and promoting all things rural — is our PASSION!

So there you have it. Only six months into 2018 and plenty of changes!

And I promise — we will now be updating this blog regularly.

-Katy-

 

People, Places and Cafes. by Annette Tait

Sitting in a little café in California this week I was reminded why I enjoy them so much.

The Lodge-  Citrus Heights, CA

When traveling I try to 'go where the locals go'. 

Why? So many reasons, but the first among them is the sense of community I get.   

We are always baffled by the amount of travelers that profess to want to 'experience' something or someplace new, but insist on stopping at the first major chain restaurant they see on an exit. 

By not getting off the highway, so-to-speak, we miss the opportunity to get a good sense of people and place.  

When we move into new communities, one of the first things we do is look for somewhere to eat. We're looking for someplace that we feel comfortable and the food is good. Some place where we are sure of a welcome and camaraderie. A place where we can visit with our neighbors and make newcomers feel a part of the 'family'

Food is the #1 common denominator we share. 

When traveling, I often find that popping into the local café and simply asking a question of one person, starts an entire discussion.  I can easily find out about local history, great off the beaten path things to see or do- along with all the regular local ones, upcoming events, who has the best ice-cream/shopping/entertainment/whatever. All this information and more is generally delivered in a jovial, good natured back and forth between patrons and employees alike.  I get a sense of place.

Me to waitress: What's to do today that's interesting?                                                          Waitress:  I dunno- hey BOB! (hollers at guy 5 booths away)  What's going on out at the XYZ today??? 

And BOOM! A discussion about who's who and what's what. 

18699899_10206853064123490_2245371165772179008_n.jpg

We all have those places we return to time after time. They can be in a small town or in a big city. It may the coffee table at the gas station.

So the next time you're on vacation, a road trip to grandmas house or just traveling for business- get off the highway, and go where the locals go. 

~Katy~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything but a Starbucks by Annette Tait

Regan, ND is a little town on the prairie. 44 people and 40 miles to the 'city'. 

When you drive through Regan, it's easy to think there is nothing there. No businesses and no people.  But there IS something there. In fact- lots of somethings. 

Regan is loaded with hidden treasures in plain sight.

Meet Marvin Gillig- He has been Mayor of Regan for over 30 years! That's a long time in public service. From snow removal to mowing to volunteer fire, this man does it all. 

Regan has a Historic Main Street. It could easily be right out of a movie set!  The old StoneWall Bar began life as the First State bank of Regan. It was pretty lively as a bar and folks came from miles around. Ask some old timers about it- they have stories! (some they or may not want repeated) 

Regan has an Event Center for rent. There is an upstairs, downstairs and full gym for your use as well as a commercial kitchen.  Great for parties, weddings, executive retreats and more. *Bonus! There is also a 'smaller' venue too. - generally known as the "new grade school" 

There is a fabulous park with a great old school playground and outdoor picnic shelters for your enjoyment.

The little rock building on N.E side Main Street used to be Ma Bell . Remember when it was BIG deal to go to the phone store and order a new telephone? I do! 

Regan has manufacturing. J & I Fabrication & Welding makes cattle panels, continuous fencing and more, as well as repair work. J & I also has several FULL TIME employees.

There are photo opportunities at the Old Jail. This jail is one of the last remaining stone jails in North Dakota. Fun fact: At the time it was built it also housed the fire engine.  Drop in and get your photo in one of the cells. There's even a Geo-tag for it! 

Photo opps, History and Tourism all in one

Regan has homes and lots just waiting for you to bring your family or start a business. 

The Regan Farmers Union Elevator was once one the most profitable in the state. And there is an active American Legion and a resident artist. 

Not bad for a tiny town!

~When I drive through Regan, I do not see "nothing". I see POSSIBITY on every corner.  I see someone using the kitchen for a bakery, I picture city weary executives using the event center for a day retreat, I see photo opps for car clubs and architecture buffs. I see young families and retirees looking for a slower pace. I picture so much!

So the next time you drive through a small town, take a look around. there is always more than meets the eye. Peel back the layers and see what is hidden in plain sight. 

As for coffee... It definitely isn't a Starbucks, but you can assured of a welcome at any door you knock on and coffee and conversation. 

~Katy~

 

5 ways to boost post holiday sales by Annette Tait

181479a0716acbb248525204c05dca0e--park-city-utah-shop-fronts.jpg

   It's the middle January and we are hearing a lot of grumbling about how sales have dropped off. In many cases to nearly nothing. This isn't an unusual phenomenon- It happens every year.  

Here are 5 ways to boost revenue post holiday well into the new year. 

Celebrate! Don't wait for a traditional holiday like Valentine's Day or Christmas to have special sales or decorate. Start your own holiday. Tell everybody! "Hey.. we're celebrating National one cent day" (April 1) ...or Jell-O day(July12) or National Dance Day (July29)  promote it on social media.  Have fun with it! ~ Can't think of a day? Check out the National Day Calendar for days, weeks and moths to celebrate. 

Utilize email lists/customer records-  If you have email lists, addresses or phone numbers for your customers, start using them.  Your list can be as simple as a sign up sheet at the register, or using something like MailChimp to capture addresses. Some ideas are *mail out cards or postcards thanking them for their business. Include a percentage off coupon for future use. *Call them up and let them know you have something new and exciting *Invite them to a pre-season showing of what is coming out.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Events- Host a special event.  What kind of shop do you have? What can you do?  Perhaps a demonstration of new products, or a sip-and-shop.  How-to classes on staining wood or 10 ways to wear a scarf. How about an informational mini-class on natural supplements or oils.                                                                              Get creative! 

Co-Promotions- Collaborating with other businesses is an effective, affordable way to get more bang for your buck.  Do you make pottery? Co-promote with a local florist to use your pottery in arrangements. A stationary store could co-promote with a calligraphy artist to offer custom invitations. A café can co promote with a video rental (Dinner & a movie) or theater.                                                                                   Again- be creative! 

Re-arrange the furniture- Simply moving the furniture or freshening up the paint or creating new displays makes it look and feel as though you've done something more. It's exciting and new and drives sales.  Don't forget your entryways! 

~Katy~

 

   

 

 

Small Towns and 'Shop Local' DO matter by Annette Tait

                    Yes, Virginia- Small towns and 'Shop Local' DO matter.

23843437_10207884025176872_4529444650856385120_n.jpg

Yesterday I was part of  "Hometown Holiday Happenings" in a nearby town-the first in decades. This event was combined with a Shop Small/ Shop Local campaign. It was my pleasure to volunteer my time and have some input on fun ideas. 

    While we were waiting for the lighted parade to start, a couple ladies were talking about how this town initiated a Shop Small campaign for that Saturday- One lady, a long time resident, said "Small towns shouldn't even participate in  Shop Small Saturday. It's  a waste of everybody's time and effort"

                           (This is where I may have gotten a little animated!) 

WHAT???? How can it be a waste of time and effort???? 

After spending many years championing small and rural communities, creatively  brain-storming with them to discover all they do have, and working with small businesses, I get a little excited about the subject.... But ~let's get back on track~

The nice lady honestly felt that most people did nearly all their holiday shopping, big purchases and specialty shopping in the big city 40 miles up the road.  So what did it matter??

Well- it does matter! Small towns and the businesses with-in depend on locals shopping there. Small businesses give more of their time and money to local causes and events than any major corporation ever will. ( local businesses donate an average of 10+% to local causes vs the 2% of major companies- it just looks like more because the initial number is so high, but when compared to their incomes, it is nothing compared to what small businesses give)  Think about what would happen if those local businesses you count on to be supporters of ball teams, food banks and 4-H suddenly quit giving. 

 McClusky, ND  Rexall   pop 375

McClusky, ND  Rexall   pop 375

Events like Small Business Saturday, Shop Local, Hometown Pride, 50/3 and so on, help keep local businesses in the forefront.  When we don't shop our local stores, they in turn have less revenue and will need to raise prices on what they do sell to make ends meet. They will also have to lay off employees if they have them, and that too means less money flowing in town. Those employees get paid and spend part of their hard earned in town- at the cafe, the market, the gas station, hardware store, movie theater, etc. When those folks that were let go have to leave town for work, they will spend their money in the town they found work in. NOT in your town. 

Did you have any idea how many small business owners will work extra hours themselves 'for free' to make sure there is enough money to pay their one employee?? 

When we don't support our local stores, they close.  Empty buildings are harder to sell/rent. Empty buildings lead to lower property values and a depressed Main Street, which screams very loudly

                               "DON'T DO BUSINESS HERE! NO ONE WILL SUPPORT YOU"

If small businesses didn't participate in events that highlighted them, would you remember they are there? Do you know-I mean really know, what all your town has for retail and service based businesses? Do you ask around for who has what and where before you head 'to the city'? 

Don't get me wrong, there's no law against shopping outside of your own town. I know that very few, if any, communities will every single thing you want. But try to remember all your dollars provide for when they're spent locally. Read a more about that here: Stop & Shop Local

Think about it- Life changes on a dime ( we know!)- what IF you suddenly couldn't just jump in your car and go 'to town'? Would that change how you feel about what you do have? 

 Harvey ND  pop 1700

Harvey ND  pop 1700

Shopping local may mean your own town, your own neighborhood if you live the city - I grew up in a  city where every neighborhood had it's own shops as well as the big malls further out- or own circle of towns. It may mean that when you are traveling you choose the local Rexall on Main Street for sunscreen over the BigBox up on the highway. 

Small businesses and small towns should participate in events that champion them. Not only is it a chance to showcase all they do have, and maybe attract some new business to boot, it also builds community- people are out and about. Talking. To each other.

When people talk, community happens.

So yes Virginia, Small towns and Shop Local DO matter.

-Kate-

 

 

Walkability and Small Towns by Annette Tait

peeps walking.jpg

One of the 'new'  buzzwords is "Walkability". 

What does that mean exactly? Basically it means the ease of getting around on foot, or how pedestrian friendly is your town.  There is a nifty site you can use to determine your own towns score-  Walkscore   The scoring is 0-100. 

Remember back when - when folks walked to the market? Or to the pool? Or the DQ?? That was 'walkable'   Entire neighborhoods and towns were designed so families could walk from one end to the other. We have gotten away from that as a norm, but it's making a comeback! 

I just used Walkscore to determine the walk-ability of the five closest towns to us. (we're within 25 miles of all)  The results were 39, 21, 0,  27, 38 and 0. Those are all on the low end. 

I was thinking about this today when we were discussing our mythological retirement. (Do ranchers really retire?)  I now understand why so many retirees want to head South- Walk-able neighborhoods and ease of use. 

Two of our nearby towns are, in my opinion, more walk-able than their scores suggest. However, I know that isn't the norm in rural communities. For many, the reality is that the folks who live there need to be mobile- meaning they need to drive or get rides for everyday tasks like groceries or going to the doctor. 

Which leads to more questions.... Are these communities using walk-ability as a means of attracting new families or retirees? Are they using it to retain the people they have? Are they creatively promoting their walk-ability? 

I know several are. Yes, it's still many miles 'to town', but Washburn, ND is doing a good job promoting how quickly you can walk downtown from anywhere, or right to the river.  

WHY is walk-ability important? Walk-ability has many facets. Everything from health benefits to retention.  Having good walk-ability can mean that retiring 'outlyers' or city folk may want to move to your small town. That translates into more dollar tax dollars, tourism dollars, retail dollars and so on.

Good walk-ability is also healthful. We've become so health conscious as a nation and environmentally friendly - a walk-able town is a very marketable asset.  It is also great for recreation opportunities like nature walks, photo strolls, coffee shop walk...walk to the pop-up dog park.  The ideas are endless really. 

Walk-ability is a good marketing tool for retaining or finding  residents and attracting new employees or businesses. 

While many small towns do not have the amenities of the city, I do know we can raise our 'walk-able score'- Cheaply, easily and nearly free- We can start by highlighting fun or interesting  walking places like an architecture or garden walk, or start talking about how quickly we can walk (or bike) to the local pool/gym/baseball diamonds. We can showcase how easily people walk downtown (or up town) for fun events. Just by thinking creatively and TALKING about it... better yet- people could share their ideas on social media. 

porch.jpg

The best perk of Walk-ability? It builds community. We tend to stop and chat, or at the very least smile and wave as we hurry on our way.  When people talk- community happens. 

So, how walk-able is YOUR community? 

Take a stroll around your neighborhood or town and get inspired!

~Kate~ 

5 #ShopSmall tips for you by Annette Tait

ArgyleBlueBorderFrame.png

    The holidays and Shop Small Saturday are  right around the corner. SMS has been an amazing boost for many small businesses thanks to American Express.  (You can sign up for free customize-able marketing materials)   

   But "Shop Small" doesn't have to be a one day event. You can encourage people to visit your store or your community any and every day of the year.

These  five simple tips will get you on your way.

1)  Give locals and special customers a 'sneak peak' -  By having a sneak peak of new items, specialty goods, extra services- what ever it is, you build excitement and a feeling of exclusivity  for upcoming releases or events. 

2) Co-promote with other businesses or vendors.  Nearly any business can find a creative way to co-promote with another business.  For example- a local hotel could partner with a salon or spa to offer discounted services during their customers stay.  Co-pro's are an especially effective and affordable marketing for small towns. (Read more about Co-Pros)

3) Plan creative post holiday displays and events. Black Friday through Christmas does not have to be the only time you go all out. Celebrate anything you want. Need inspiration? The National Day Calendar has multiple "National Days" every single day of the year.  Creative displays help plant seeds subliminally- Most people remember what they see.  

4) Coupons! Put a coupon good for X or YZ in each bag good for a later date to encourage repeat shopping. It doesn't need to be anything extravagant- Everybody likes to save a little cash, and this gives them a reason to come back.

5)Have pre-wrapped gifts mixed into your display.  Make gift giving easy. Have some pre-wrapped items already to go mixed into your displays. It's value added because your customer does not need to go through the hassle of wrapping it themselves. Ideal for last second shopping or holidays like Valentines, Mothers Day, Christmas, Fathers Day etc.

-Katy-

 

The rise and fall of rural communities: Just one of many reasons how and why by Annette Tait

The rise and fall of rural communities: Just one of many reasons how and why 

A good friend recently forwarded this article to Katy: “The secret to keeping some rural businesses alive”  by Chris Farrell (Forbes)  with the note, ‘It sounds like you!’

After reading it, we decided it does sound much like things we talk about.  And we have a few more thoughts add on keeping small/rural businesses alive.

Picture this: Somebody wants to purchase Bob the Builder’s business. That somebody has ideas. New ideas. Fresh ideas. Ideas to bring in more sales consistently. Ideas that build on the existing business.

 Wouldn't it be a pity for this vibrant main street to deteriorate because the community was resistant to change?

Wouldn't it be a pity for this vibrant main street to deteriorate because the community was resistant to change?

Now for the zinger (which, sad to say, we’ve witnessed first-hand more than once): The good town folks get wind of this and start vociferously voicing their opinions on said -- gasp! -- changes. Everything from “You CAN’T change thaaaaaat XYZ….” “It’s ALWAYS been like XYZ,” and “It will NEVER workif you change XYZ.”

How do “they” KNOW? Are they experts? Or are they simply resistant to change, because they’re comfortable with what they have?

By saying making these negative comments, they imply -- whether they mean to or not -- that they won’t support the new business. Not monetarily, and not in spirit.

That is daunting to say the least.

This scene has been played out many times in small and rural communities, as well as in big cities, usually with the same result. The buyer who was so excited to have a business in YOUR town backs out and takes their dreams somewhere else. If they don’t take them somewhere else, they simply give up.

Either way the community loses. 

The reality is that, especially in a small town, when that one buyer who came forward decides against the venture, odds are good that building -- which could have continued as a viable business and contributor to the community -- will instead become an empty shell.

The longer it stands empty, the greater likelihood the building will fall into disrepair, discouraging other potential buyers. Plus, other folks who may have considered starting or buying a business see the town won’t support change, and they decide to look elsewhere as well.

And poor Bob the Builder gets unconsciously guilted into delaying well-deserved retirement

 So maybe your town doesn't need a zebra tamer. But would you have believed it could be done if you hadn't seen it first?

So maybe your town doesn't need a zebra tamer. But would you have believed it could be done if you hadn't seen it first?

 

But what if those changes had been embraced? What a completely different ending the story has.  Now, not only does Bob the Builder get to retire, but he is happy knowing his legacy is still alive.  The townfolks are excited to still have tools, and even have opportunities for hands-on “how to” sessions, a wider selection, and/or even a new line of hobby or other equipment and supplies.

Or maybe Bob’s building gets completely transformed into a new type of business the community never even knew it wanted until it was open? Maybe Bob’s becomes Zane the Zebra Tamer and offers all sorts of fun and fanciful items or activities. It could even bring people in from outside the area, and boost the economy.

By embracing change in our rural communities, we foster entrepreneurial spirit, grow the tax base, set an example for others, and attract new families. That’s just a partial list of positive things!

But most important of all, we build community.