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City offers marketing tips, grants to Somerville business owners

Posted by Alix Roy  February 24, 2010 10:04 AM

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For some small business owners, compiling merchandise orders and employee schedules is more familiar than arranging fresh and engaging window displays. For those entrepreneurs, Christine Moynihan of GraberMarketing is here to help.

On Thursday, Moynihan will kick off the city's second Best Retail Practices program with a visual presentation outlining tips for effective store and restaurant design, window and merchandise displays, signage and cost-effective marketing. Moynihan co-founded the program in 2002 and has assisted over 200 urban retailers in Cambridge, Lowell, Lawrence and Nashua, NH, according to the GraberMarketing website.
 
In addition to receiving professional advice, participating businesses will have a chance to apply for phases two and three of the program, which include a free, in-store consultation with improvement recommendation reports, and grants of up to $2,000 for 12 selected businesses to help implement those improvements, the city announced.

The 12 finalists will be chosen based on location, need and potential for growth, said Economic Development Specialist David Guzman. Participants will be asked to submit an application for the later phases, which will be used to determine their qualification.

As of Tuesday, 20 businesses had signed up for Thursday's workshop, which is a prerequisite for phases two and three, Guzman said. Participants who attended last year's program and were not selected for further assistance will be automatically reentered this year, he said.
 
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the program, which attracted 50 participants in its debut last September, is a tremendous opportunity for local businesses struggling to attract customers during the recession.
 
“Especially in this economic climate, it’s important that we support our business base,” he wrote in a press release announcing the program. “Programs like Best Retail Practices not only assist those businesses, but help increase our tax base as well as preserve the character and unique assets of our community.”

Carrie Dancy of East Somerville Main Streets said feedback she received from businesses in the East Somerville area after last year's workshop were "overwhelmingly positive."

Casey's, one of 12 grant recipients, has altered the table layout in its Broadway restaurant and changed the height of the bar so that patrons can dine there, Dancy said. Although the changes may sound basic, many owners and managers are too busy running their businesses to step back and evaluate them, she said. 

"To hear an outside voice is helpful," Dancy said. "Some of these things the owners already know."       

Thursday's workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at Somerville City Hall. To register contact Guzman at (617) 625-6600 ext. 2546.

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