By Owner/Publisher Thomas Palmer, 1808Delaware

In honor of Main Street Delaware’s 25th Anniversary, we are presenting a three part look at the organization’s past, present, and future.

Monday and today we shared/are sharing posts about the arrival of the Ohio Main Street Program in Delaware. Monday’s post can be read here. Then on Friday, we’ll take a look at an exciting future for downtown Delaware that was announced this past week.

The story of Main Street’s arrival in Delaware – or, for that matter, its arrival in Central Ohio – took place after months of communication with representatives of Downtown Delaware, Inc. and Celebrate Delaware.

I reasoned, not without a bit of hope on my part, that having an outside entity come to town to talk about downtown revitalization would be what was needed to break through the communications barrier between the two downtown groups.

Before coming to Delaware in 1998, I had served as co-founder and first Board President of Main Street Galion, Inc.. That spring, Galion had become one of Ohio’s three original official Main Street communities, with Chagrin Falls and Salem. Galion had just been awarded our third major downtown grant and we were committed to working through the Main Street four point approach.

This meant, of course, that we had a good working relationship with Downtown Ohio, Inc. (later to become Heritage Ohio), and I knew the then-Executive Director well, Kevin Kuchenbecker. Sitting in my office in the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce building, I picked up the phone and called Kevin.

“Kevin,” I asked, “What would you think about coming to Delaware to do a presentation on the Main Street program?” I explained the local dynamic to him to let him know that the program could be a conduit for building bridges. I encouraged him to think of it as a way to introduce the program to central Ohio. He ran the idea by his board and agreed to come.

I then walked down to Delaware County Bank and Trust to present the idea to my Board President, Dave Bernon. Dave did a quick survey of Downtown Delaware Board members and then gave the visit a green light.

The visit of Downtown Ohio, Inc. took place on Wednesday, August 11, 1999, and consisted of a set of presentations at the Andrews House followed by a tour of downtown. The meeting included five City Council representatives, property owners, and merchants. 

The front page of the Delaware Gazette the next day had a picture of the tour with the headline, “Downtown groups will merge.” It began, “Downtown Delaware Inc. and Celebrate Delaware will merge into a new organization called Main Street Delaware on October 1. The decision was made by consensus of downtown business leaders and city officials at a daylong conference organized by DDI.”

Thanks to the hard work of many, my hunch had been right.

As the 25th anniversary nears of that August day, I am thrilled that Main Street Delaware continues to survive and thrive. I suspect that I will be taking a walk through downtown on that occasion, stopping for a meal and doing some shopping. If you see me, please say “hi” – I will be the guy with a smile on his face.

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