In western Canada, small towns owe a lot to their Main Streets. By offering essential services and amenities for townsfolk and drawing in business from visitors, Main Street businesses are at the heart of any prairie town’s hustle and bustle. In their own way, they are the heroes of your hometown.
These hometown heroes come in all shapes and sizes and bring unique qualities to a town’s character. Many reflect the histories of the people who formed the communities, and most offer up a few universal characteristics – like a line of pick-ups parked outside the local diner. But whatever the state of your hometown, Main Street is undoubtedly contributing to your community’s character. And that’s important.
Of course, none of that’s possible without the people who animate the businesses, shop at the stores, and come together to do what makes small towns exceptional places to live. So, pat yourself on the back too! You are a key part of your hometown advantage.
Here are five reasons why Main Street businesses are your hometown’s heroes, why they’re worth fighting for, and how forming a co-op might help.
Each storefront tells a story
More than simply a pathway from point A to B, Main Streets reflect your town’s unique story. Whether that story is one of fishing, farming, mining, or something else, Main Streets show where your town came from and where it is going.
Often located in a community’s oldest and most historic buildings, Main Street businesses are responsible for maintaining important pieces of your town’s story. The old general store that now houses a coffee shop or the courthouse and jail that is now home to a library or a co-working space, for example.
In Rosthern, Saskatchewan, a group of community leaders formed a co-op and turned an old rail station into an arts centre that literally shares their story and attracts visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Main Street Proves You Have Style
Another great aspect of Main Street Businesses is how they advocate for how awesome your town is. With a little showing off, Main Street businesses help change the status of your town from “drive-by” to “drive-in. And it’s okay to show off what you got — that’s your Hometown Advantage after all.
Whether it’s the best bakery in the RM or the most eclectic vintage clothes store, proudly sharing your Main Street businesses can attract outsiders for a visit, and convince them that your town has something special to offer. Forming an investment co-op or destination marketing co-op might be the advantage your town needs to keep Main Street vital and attracting visitors, customers, and potential entrepreneurs.
Because Main Street businesses draw people to your town — and can give reasons to stay, too.
They can provide skills and training for young people
It’s no secret that young people are leaving rural Canada. But Main Street businesses can give the kids in your community both a reason to stay out of trouble — and a reason to stay in your town.
Post-secondary education is one of the biggest reasons why youth aged 15-19 are leaving rural Canada. And when youth do leave, only 25% of them will return in 10 years. So it’s important to give them incentives to stay in town — and Main Street businesses can do this in spades, by providing skills, training, and careers to young people.
A small but ambitious group in the town of Fraser Lake in interior BC has formed a co-op designed to do just that. Their goal is to provide skills training, maker-space, and market for youth and entrepreneurs in their community. Because growing your own entrepreneurs is a great way to keep Main Street vital and thriving.
Main Street businesses can also offer opportunities for entrepreneurship through reanimating an old building with new ideas or reimagining an existing business for the future – having creative young people or attracting young entrepreneurs to reimagine these spaces is critical. Forming a co-working space co-op or providing mentorship opportunities can help support and attract young entrepreneurs.
They are success stories for prospective entrepreneurs and investors
Every town needs to attract investors, and Main Street businesses are a great place to start. A successful Main Street – full of thriving businesses – is sure to signal to investors that your community is a good place to do business.
More than that, Main Street businesses can help entrepreneurs (especially young entrepreneurs) see that your town is a vibrant place that is full of opportunities. Because Mainstreet businesses, together, become something greater than their individual parts — and this should be a sense of pride.
So share it with the world. In today’s connected world, we are all publishers and storytellers. Take a few minutes every day to share a story about what makes your home awesome, and get others to do the same. Soon, not only will you do a better job of promoting your town, everyone in town will feel even more pride about where they live and why they choose to stay.
Main Street businesses believe in your town
A far walk from Bay Street, your Main Street businesses are the heroes of your hometown because they believe in your community. And this can’t be understated.
The businesses in your town care about your community a whole lot. It takes time, energy, and no small amount of risk to maintain a business — let alone one in rural Canada. But for Main Street businesses, all of this is worth it because they care about their home — your home —and put in the work to see it thrive.
Want to get more ideas about how to find and promote your hometown advantage? Check out our Hometown Advantage video series at HometownAdvantage.ca