Businesses speak at annual Main Street forum

March 21, 2019

The fourth annual Main Street Matters open forum was held Monday at the Towne Cinema to listen to downtown merchants and Watertown officials discuss the downtown area.

“It’s great to see so many people here tonight who care so much about downtown Watertown,” Melissa Lampe, Main Street Program executive director, said.

Lampe began the evening by giving information about the organization and the events that occurred in the city in 2018.

She also mentioned seven businesses that opened or expanded downtown as well as businesses that have closed such as the Chalet Restaurant and 2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor.

Lampe discussed new plans this year such as the facade grant partnership with the Watertown Redevelopment Authority, a project to paint utility boxes on Main Street, mural restoration led by Watertown Tourism and Anthony’s 511 being selected as a Main Street Makeover recipient.

Amber Smith, Main Street board president, listed this year’s events and volunteer opportunities. Some upcoming events include the Watertown Art Walk, the Fourth of July parade and Maxwell Street Days.

“I hope you participate in the events and if you have any questions you can always reach out to me or Melissa,” Smith said.

Mayor John David received a thank-you gift for his support to the Main Street Program during the forum.

Julie Jones of Far Horizons Imports spoke about her experience on being a small business owner on Main Street and how her store has adapted to the changing retail climate.

“In 1984, Far Horizons Imports came on the scene,” she said after giving the history of the building at 413 E. Main St. “It was intended that you’d come in and travel the world.”

She explained the scare of the arrival of Walmart to Watertown and the rise of Amazon.

“We all use (Amazon) and it’s a very useful tool but it does not replace the shopping and tactile experience of stepping into a store,” Jones said. “I’m not sure what the future will bring downtown but I think we’ll be OK.”

Lisa and Larry Falk, owners of Pidder Padder Paws, shared the long process of relocating to 209 E. Main St. from Summit Avenue and how they transformed the historic Schempf Building.

Lisa Falk showed pictures of before and after when her store was completed on the inside and outside of the building.

“It’ll be two years in August that we’ve been here,” she said. “We can’t believe it. It seems like a flicker. It’s gone by so fast, it’s amazing.

She said one drawback to moving to downtown is the lack of parking and they have lost some customers.

“That has been really hard for us and it scares me.”

Executive Director Kristen Fish of the Watertown Redevelopment Authority also spoke at the forum.