New Market working to rebrand town | Real Estate And Development | fredericknewspost.com
Although it’s been known as “the antique capital of Maryland,” New Market is working to make sure Frederick County knows the town offers more than just antiques.
In August, a marketing and branding study was conducted in New Market that surveyed a focus group as well as town residents that garnered more than 300 responses of what people want to see in town.
And the result was that residents want variety.
“The branding study confirmed a lot of what we already knew,” said New Market Mayor Winslow F. Burhans III. “People want different stuff. Antiques are great, but at the end of the day antiques are not necessarily what people are looking for.”
According to the study, people want businesses such as a farmers market, coffee bar, bakery, microbrewery and a wine lounge with music, to name just a few.
New Market lost a lot of antique shops in the 1990s due to shop owners dying, Burhans said. Those vacant shops could not be filled because, at the time, a town ordinance stated that only antique shops could open on Main Street.
“People wanted to come in and open up different types of businesses, more like downtown Frederick,” he said. “But we had zoning that prohibited that.”
The ordinance changed in the early 2000s to mirror an ordinance the town had in the early 1970s, which allowed businesses other than antique shops open on Main Street, he said.
Businesses started to blossom in town in the mid-2000s, but then the market crashed.
“We now feel like the tide is starting to turn from the downturn that we had in 2008,” he said. “We lost almost everything. When we changed the zoning it took a while for us to pick up momentum, and we had all of these new shops. And then the economy crashed and it wiped them all out, and we had to start all over again.”
But the tide is indeed starting to turn. Along with some staple antique shops still on Main Street, a number of businesses have opened up in recent months, including a new restaurant, a tea shop and a fitness studio that is slated to have its grand opening this weekend. Burhans said a coffee shop is also in the works.
Businesses are not the only ventures in demand, but town festivals and other events as well. In October the town organized a 5K Fighter Run to support breast cancer research and awareness. This year, the town’s events committee is working to launch a wine festival — an event that likely will attract residents and nonresidents alike.
“We’re in the organizing process of it now,” Steve Pippin, a member of the events committee, said of the festival. “We’re contacting wineries right now and thinking of the positioning of the vineyards, so we’re making headway.”
But according to the rebranding study, 45 percent of people said they haven’t attended a New Market event in the past. To fix that, Pippin said that the town and events committee need to better advertise those events as well as become more vocal about them on social media.
“The old story is that someone has to see something six times before it registers,” he said. “And I’m beginning to think that’s true.”
By adding a wine festival, Pippin said that New Market is keeping up with other towns that have festivals in place.
In the future, he added that he would like to see a mixture of more retail spaces, services and residents in New Market that’s pedestrian-friendly and active.
The first step town officials are making to reposition itself is upgrading the town’s sign on Interstate 70. The new logo on the sign will read “Come Make History With Us,” which reflects the town’s historic essence as well as what’s to come.
When asked if the town is trying to move away from being known as “the antique capital of Maryland,” Burhans said the answer reiterated the need for a mixture.
“We’re a federal period town and we’re in pretty pristine condition,” he said. “Main Street looks today like it did 100 years ago. We’re obviously not an antiques capital in the same way that we were 30 years ago, but that’s not to say that we don’t have really good antiques. We still have fabulous antique shops, we just don’t have as many. To promote the antique part of our business district we have to have these other things that go along with it.”
To start the rebrand, the town is upgrading its sign on I-70 and, with a grant program through Sustainable Maryland, is giving building owners the opportunity to fix their facades on Main Street.
Long-term goals include figuring out what will happen on the town’s borders in the next 10 to 20 years and how that will affect traffic through town.
“If we don’t get our parkway, traffic on Main Street is going to be three times more than it is today,” he said. “What’s that mean for the historic district if you have an obnoxious amount of traffic and you can’t get here?”
What ties into that is making the town more walkable, which is what town residents said they wanted in the survey. There’s economic growth and development around New Market, and Burhans argued that the town has to grow as well to be sustainable for the next 200 years.
When asked to envision a perfect Main Street for the town, he explained a time in the mid-2000s before the Great Recession.
“You had a lot of businesses,” he said. “You had a lot of young people, we had a lot of things in common and there was a really good vibe in town. And, of course, when the economy crashed, that all went away.”
He added there was a lot of camaraderie with everyone working together for the town all while having a small-town feel.
And he wants that back.
Follow CJ Fairfield on Twitter: @FairfieldCj.
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