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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Shop Small Flop

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the start of so many things and usually time flies fast between now and New Years. So it's easy to miss an event or date as your mind may be in a thousand places. Small Business Saturday in Norristown was one of those examples. Not many businesses participated and customers didn't fill the stores as expected. Here is my thought on Small Business Saturday and what we learned from this.

First, let's start off by saying Small Biz Saturday was a FLOP. I was honestly disappointed to see very few businesses in town promoting Small Business Saturday to attract new clientele. This day, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are the easiest days to promote your offers. Usually, the media covers all three days heavily which can help on the promotion side of things. The Small Business Administration also promotes this day heavy on social media, TV and billboard advertisements. 

So why not take advantage of this opportunity? Small Business Saturday is still new, however, it is not going anywhere anytime soon so we must capitalize on this, especially Main Street businesses. 

Small Business Saturday was not a complete loss to Norristown. Theatre Horizon definitely took advantage of this day through social media, email and mailers. They are the true winners in Norristown this season with an amazing performance of Black Nativity. Tickets are still available for the remaining performances. Don't forget, Norristown residents get in FREE! I also would like to recognize Norristown Diary for promoting Small Business Saturday weeks in advance and the day before. 

Let's start this process of promoting ourselves early. Small Business Saturday 2016 will be held on November 26, 2016. Mark your calendars now and plan to shop small. If you are a business in Norristown, consider having deals available for customers and/or promote your business heavy leading to the day. Word of mouth no longer works in the age of Social Media. Keep your pages fresh with new content regularly and advertise your promotions. It's a small investment to ensure longevity in a tough economy.

Shopping small should not only take place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We will revisit this topic in the future on local alternatives to neighboring big box stores. As Norristonians, we should always shop small and pick the local stores first to support our own economy. 

#GivingTuesday is this Tuesday across America. This is the day where you are encouraged to support your favorite charity or organization. The Norristown Project is participating in this by selling hoodies to raise money for future projects. The more hoodies purchased, the larger the projects we can host. Although many of our projects are led by volunteers, there is a significant cost behind-the-scenes with supplies, food, insurance and permits(future projects). By buying a hoodie, we are able to accept more volunteers per project, currently we are near capacity for our MLK Day because we can't support more than 60 volunteers at a time. With your support, we can. Buy a hoodie by heading to this site and encourage your friends to do so as well. Hoodies are available in all sizes and are only $30. Estimated delivery will be January 2nd, 2016, 2 weeks after the order is placed. 

So what is your opinion on Small Business Saturday? Did you get any good deals?
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What We Are Thankful For

Living in Norristown, there are many things to be thankful for. We are proud of the way the community has come together to support each other to advance our community further. I would like to like 3 of the many things the Norristown Project is thankful for:

1. Norristown Police Department

NPD has made great strides to connect with residents and reduce crime. Since 2013, major crime is down on average 30% per year. This is not by accident either. The proactive approach has played a huge part in this result. Nearly every event happening in the community today, you will see an officer or a representative from the department in attendance. Not because they have to, not to make sure nothing goes down, but because they have an interest in the community and being more involved. For that, we should all be thankful for that.

2. Schuylkill River Trail

Recently, the Schuylkill River Trail was named "Best Urban Trail in America" by USA Today. once again, this didn't happen by accident. Approximately 60,000 bikers pass through Norristown's trail head per week. On top of that, our trail is more accessible than most trails in America, our has the Norristown Transportation Center right on the trail with free parking after 5 and weekends. The SRT has access to Riverfront Park, Crawford Park, Downtown Main Street, Norristown Arts Hill and Lafayette Street. Our portion of the trail is one of the cleaner and wider portion of the trail. This is another thing we should be proud of.

3. Our Volunteers and Supporters

The most important thing the Norristown Project is thankful for is our volunteers. Since 2013, you have kept us going and motivated to continue to do more projects in the community. Our work is far from done, but with you, it makes the task at hand much more enjoyable. Coming in 2016, TNP has some major projects we would like to take on. Once we get the thumbs up on the projects, we will announce them here and on our Facebook. We also have a service project on MLK Day of Service which has already seen a great response. We are getting close to our capacity to this project, which is a good thing. You can read more and sign up here. As always, we are open to any suggestions from the community on areas that may need our attention. You can email and I will reach out to you.

We are also selling hoodies to support future projects in the community. Hoodies are $30 each and come in all sizes. Not only is it supporting us, but you will also let everyone know where you're from. The hoodies are on sale for a limited time and we are looking to sell at least 50 hoodies. 50 hoodies will support 3 larger cleanup projects in the community, so don't forget to show your support! We also welcome donations of any kind throughout the year. Purchase yours today!
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Friday, November 20, 2015

The (Sometimes) Forgotten Gateway

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much discussion on developing Main Street, Lafayette Street and Norristown Centre. Sometimes we need to start small and look at our other access points coming into town.

The Parkway Plaza on Stergiere Street is at the intersection coming into Norristown from West Norriton near the State Hospital. All of the storefronts are closed and the owner is looking for businesses to make Parkway their home. It was believed that rising cost of rent was linked to the groomer, florists and other businesses to leave after years. TNP can't confirm that claim so we will leave it marked as a "rumor."

The owner(s) of Parkway Plaza must do some serious thinking on what businesses will do best there to attract long-term clients, leases. First, we need to understand the traffic in the area. During the morning and afternoon rush hour, traffic piles up on both sides of the road, possibly due to the need of a widening project at that intersection. The rest of the day, traffic is pretty steady. If you are living in the area, this is the road you take to get to East Norriton, more specifically the hospital, NAHS, Trooper and more. A coffee shop, smoothie shack, FroYo bar, or any small shop along those lines can have success there.

The seasonal traffic also needs to be looked at when thinking of what would work best. From Spring to early Fall, the baseball fields, Elmwood Park and the Zoo all have increased traffic and use. After watching a game, the team or onlookers need a place to celebrate a win. A Rita's or pizza/zep shop can work.

Restaurants will be tough to have any success in the future at this location because there is (slow) development happening at the bar on the corner of Stergiere and Stanbridge. They also have a large deck for outdoor seating...if they market correct, they can hit a home run! There's my one pun for the day...

If the developer wants to take another route and not look for seasonal or niche businesses, they can also look commercial. There is a landscaping company behind the building already. Insurance agencies, title loans, marketing company offices can be great tenants who don't rely on traffic to bring them business. Also fitting into this category can be a print of bike shop.

Notice how I failed to mention chain or franchise stores?

Moving on...

Across the street, you will also see a portion of NorFab Corporation. They are arguably the most underrated business in Norristown. They are one of the largest flame retardant companies in the world, providing fire resistant technology to fire departments and businesses all over. They spoke to council a few months back to receive a support letter for a state grant to allow them to level this building and expand at their other offices less than a block away. The leadership team seemed interested in turning this into green space, which could add some beauty to that intersection. We will see if they are awarded the funds to move forward with the project, they are most likely waiting to hear back pending the State Budget Impasse.

What would you like to see happen to that area?
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making Norristown More Accessible (pt. 1)

Traffic in Norristown is increasing as businesses move in. Some look at this as a headache, others see it as an opportunity. The Norristown Project sees an opportunity to improve traffic conditions and our infrastructure. The answer is in our backyards.

Alleys can become a game changer for many reasons. When looking for a new home, people always think that the two things that sell a house are the kitchen and bathroom(s). This is true, but what if I told you a garage is also on that list? Being able to park in a garage where parking is limited is a selling point for some homes in town. There's just one problem for some...accessibility.

The picture above is my alley on the West End where I can easily access my garage. The street is wider, paved, and clean. Several alleys in Norristown are still unpaved with no lighting, narrow paths, and filled with debris. Alleys frequently used by trash trucks and residents on that block contribute to the debris. A solution can be a monthly street sweep by Public Works or community service...or a combination between the two. 

Another way we can make Norristown more accessible is by using the Schuylkill River Trail. TNP has said this over and over again, hoping businesses can take the hint. You need signage on the trails to let people know you're open. We no longer live in the era of "if you build it, they will come." USA Today named the SRT the best trail in America. 60,000 bikers pass between Valley Forge and Conshohocken each week. What town is in the middle of those two? I'll give you a hint, it's Norristown. 

Businesses must become more inviting to traffic from the trail. I won't bore you with an explanation, instead I will list what needs to happen:

  • Add bike racks in front of your business
  • Provide complementary bike lock rentals for customers
  • Designate a section for bikes inside your business or outdoor seating(if available)
The list goes on and the benefits are endless. Most importantly, businesses should have signs on their outdoor menu boards or storefronts saying "Bikers welcomed." Cost of a decent bike rack could run about $600 for 8-10 spaces. Depending on your business, you will pay for this investment in a month, the rest is profit. Bike locks are $30-50 for a good lock if you don't have the space outside your business. Most bikers don't travel with locks, so providing them as a service could go a long way to building loyal customers.

I will stop there for the day, but I encourage you to ask your favorite Main Street business to make the investment. Norristown Project has another announcement coming soon that we will share in a future post. We're determined to make this happen!

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Graffiti Removal 101

If you're reading this blog today, chances are you fell victim to graffiti on your property before. On mischief night, OIC's secondary door was vandalized by graffiti containing explicit words and someone's initials(or gang initials, still looking into it). Lucky for OIC, one of their programs focuses on clean ups and has experience with removing graffiti. I'll give you a hint, it's us! So today, we are going to share how we removed graffiti from a surface that we prefer not to paint over or use a power wash. 

First, you will need some items that you can find around the house and at Zummo's Hardware:

  • Goof Off Graffiti Removal ($6.95)
  • Gloves
  • Terry Towel
  • Scrubbing brush for tougher stains
  • bucket w/ hot water
  • 3:1 vinegar solution

The first step is to spray the surface. Read the label before using it on the surface. Try a small spot to make sure the spray doesn't damage the surface. Just like that spray paint can used to tag your property, it is important that you shake the can well. Let the Goof Off sit for about 2-3 minutes to break up the paint.

This next step is probably the most time-consuming and most difficult. Scrub the surface. Depending on how long the graffiti has been on your property, this may require some extra strength. Use the warm water to rinse cloth and wipe down the paint after it comes up. Repeat the first step, as needed. This usually will take about 30 minutes of hard labor so be patient if it doesn't come up on the first couple of tries. Goof Off works!

Just like that, the graffiti is gone! Our door is about 15 years old so it has some wear and tear as you can see...but 98% of the graffiti is no longer visible. If you get really close to the door, you can see some of the markings, however, if you get that close, the door may hit you (talking from experience)! The final step is to clean down the surface using the vinegar solution(safe for the environment) and Windex. We also mix some vinegar into the Windex to prevent streaks on the glass. 

There you have it, good as new! For more reasons than one, graffiti will happen at some point..the best way is to tackle it immediately. The moment you recognize graffiti on your property, remove it ASAP. It makes for an easier job and better results. Vandals are least likely to tag a property again if it is removed within 48 hours. So what do you think? Cheaper than new paint or power washing? Add your thoughts and tips in the comments!

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