Tour accentuates potential in Rugby
A small crowd of business owners, potential business owners and curious community members toured downtown Rugby last Thursday evening, walking through commercial spaces for sale or rent, and putting their imaginations to work.
The October 11 event, billed “Tour the Possibilities,” was sponsored by the Rugby Job Development Authority. Participants were encouraged to register before the event, which began with an informal gathering in the building formerly occupied by Ellie Ann’s Design on Main Avenue.
After a brief introduction, the tour began. JDA Executive Director Jessica Brossart and Rugby Chamber of Commerce /Convention and Visitors’ Bureau Executive Director Darylanna Durkee divided participants into small groups, who began their tour with Monica Houim in the Ellie Ann’s building.
Students from Kevin Leier’s Community Building class at Rugby High School served as guides, walking with groups to each space.
Eight spaces were featured on the tour. Three of them were stand-alone buildings, and five were spaces for sale or rent in buildings that housed existing businesses. Each space had a host from a local real estate office or business to answer questions and provide information to participants.
Featured were the Ellie Ann’s building; space in the Joy Dental building; the former Buck’s Sporting Goods building; the former Overtime building; the Schaan Crop Insurance building; space in the I Design building; a building next to Schaan Oil, and the building formerly occupied by the Sons of Norway.
As each group toured the properties, hosts encouraged them to think of possibilities for the vacant space, and write their ideas on poster boards they provided.
The tour ended at the Sons of Norway building. Hosts brought the poster boards from their properties, and a lively discussion began.
Brossart read lists of ideas from each poster board, and suggestions ranged from office space, to restaurant space, to a retail beef outlet. Attendees chuckled when Brossart read a suggestion that the Overtime building be used for an “old time restaurant – ’80s style.”
“Kids,” some of the audience members laughed.
Some participants suggested using spaces as “business incubators,” places where fledgling small businesses could receive support before moving on to larger settings.
Participants also discussed programs to help small businesses. Daunne Heilman, owner of I Design, mentioned a program once offered by the Souris Basin Planning Council. Heilman lamented that the program no longer exists.
Heilman described the program as “a match for advertising, whether it was for signage, or marketing, to promote an existing business, or a new and upcoming business. It was a matching fund that was provided by Souris Basin, and it’s no longer available, and it wasn’t utilized as much as it should have been. The only thing negative is it’s not there anymore.”
Heilman said there may be other projects currently available from the Souris Basin Planning Council, and she encouraged people to check them out.
Reflecting on the tour last week, Heilman noted, “as a business owner who wants to expand, I was ecstatic with the feedback that I got, and the ideas that people presented to me. I was thoroughly impressed that some of the ideas that I already had, some of my peers, fellow business owners and community members also thought were good ideas. So, it was reassuring as well as exciting to see other people foster ideas and the growth of our community. I needed that. I needed that happy spot where everyone’s excited.”
She continued, “And then, from the perspective of a spectator, I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t get to see those things very often. So, I’m happy to other possibilities within the community.”
Brossart also said she was happy with the tour, which attracted about 50 participants, rather than the 30 she was expecting.
“I think the key to our success was we had a tour guide in each building,” Brossart said. Then, Mr. Leier’s students guided people from building to building. People remained together and shared their ideas amongst their groups, wrote them down in each building, and we encouraged the students to make sure everyone was participating, and they did a great job.”
“The students also researched all of the downtown buildings, and got the history of some of them, too, and put that on poster boards (displayed in buildings). It was really helpful to see what businesses were there, and some timelines and things like that.”
“I was excited to see that and share that with people.”
Brossart said the buildings featured on the tour may be viewed at rugbyjda.com, or on the Rugby JDA’s Facebook page. For more information, email email@example.com.
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