News

In Elizabethtown: It's ‘Operation Storefront’

By Drew Weidman
‘Operation Storefront’


Hohenwarter in downtown E-town 
Photo: Drew Weidman. Hohenwarter in downtown E-town Photo: Drew Weidman. making a Walkable Downtown

In an era of online shopping, big box stores and the need to have something sooner rather than later, the idea of having a “walkable” downtown is arguably a thing of the past.

Some towns, however, like Lititz, have defied the odds and transformed its community into one that has packed storefronts and is teeming with tourists.

In Elizabethtown, newly hired Elizabethtown Area Chamber of Commerce director Heather Hohenwarter said transforming E-town into a Lititz isn’t done overnight, but she thinks it’s on the right track.

“Everyone wants their business to succeed, but if you don’t have people coming in the door, you fail,” Hohenwarter said.

It’s an age old question, but an important one: How do you get people in the door?

Hohenwarter, who is in her second month of her new position, said the formula can often be elusive, but she hopes the chamber will help its businesses find it.

“I have a very aggressive plan,” Hohenwater said. “I used to drive through town before I got this job and constantly think, ‘There goes another business and there goes another business.’”

Hohenwarter said getting businesses to succeed consists of two things - education and empowerment.

“It’s not just ‘here’s what you should do.’ It’s ‘here’s what you should do, here’s why and here’s how we’re going to help you with it,’” Hohenwarter said.

Hohenwarter, who has a public relations and marketing background, was hired Sept. 1 by the chamber and since then it’s been a whirlwind of ideas and launching initiatives.

The first order of business, Hohenwarter said, was to move the chamber office out of the Amtrak station on South Wilson Avenue and into its current location adjacent to Folklore Coffee & Company on the square.

Hohenwarter said the move was essential to increase visibility and accessibility to what she hopes will be the central hub for the community.

She said she hopes the new location will not just serve as the chamber office, but as a quasi visitor’s center for people coming to E-town who want to know what’s happening and where to visit.

But Hohenwarter is quick to point out that the chamber isn’t just for the community that makes up Elizabethtown Borough, but represents surrounding municipalities that make up the Elizabethtown Area School District in Conoy, Mount Joy and West Donegal townships.

“We have to all work together to promote and tie into each other’s businesses,” Hohenwarter said. “The idea is to make this area seamless.”

Before a community is teeming with tourists and visitors you need to fill storefronts, something E-town’s had a little trouble doing over the past few years.

Hohenwarter said she hopes an initiative to enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of storefronts in the downtown area will bring the people and subsequently bring in the businesses.

“It’s called Operation Storefront. Imagine every window in town is full of something. It’s still for rent, but a business like Masonic rents a space in the storefront where they put a bushel of apples or leaves,” Hohenwarter explains. “Businesses that aren’t in town can have a space, so that when you drive through downtown, even if a store isn’t rented, it’s not looking empty.”

Another one of Hohenwarter’s ideas is to provide a startup kit for new businesses that includes a tip sheet and pairing that new business with a mentor.

“As an example, if a smoothie shop opened in town, we could connect them with Folklore,” she said.

Hohenwarter admits there is so much to do that it can often be overwhelming, but she realizes that a walkable community isn’t going to get built in one day.

“I have so many ideas, now it just all has to work,” she said.

For more information and to join the Elizabethtown Area of Commerce, go to www.elizabethtowncoc.com.


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